Selah, Washington is the kind of town where you wave at each person you pass. A small, agricultural town, unlike the fast-paced existence of neighboring Seattle. So it’s no surprise that out of a town such as Selah, would be born the nucleus of Cody Beebe and The Crooks, a hard-working, roots rock band. What exactly is roots rock? Good old-fashioned rock and roll with influences of country, blues, jazz, folk, and even some funk. The Crooks also refer to their music as “heartland rock”, because it’s “kind of that rock and roll with this influence of middle-class, blue-collar America,” says Beebe.
Cody Beebe (lead vocals, guitar) and Joe Catron ( hand percussion, vocals) were high school friends in Selah who eventually began pulling their musical talents together for some acoustic performances. According to Beebe, “We were offered a show that we knew that we wanted to put together a bigger band for so we got in touch with some people and put out some calls and Joe and I met some of the guys for the first time on stage that night.” One thing led to another and soon the band was on the road in their tour van, The Hozzington. In 2010, they released their debut album, Friends of the Old Mill and after some line-up changes and some ever-lengthening hair, the band refined their sound, releasing their second album, Out Here on May 7,2013. Beebe and Catron are joined by Brian Paxton on drums, Eric Miller on bass and Aaron Myers on piano.
The album was recorded to tape at London Bridge Studio in Seattle, with producer and engineer John Goodmanson who has worked with the likes of Death Cab for Cutie, Brandi Carlile, and Nada Surf. The studio itself is synonymous with the Seattle grunge sound Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, Soundgarden, and Candlebox have all recorded there. The title track was inspired by Aaron Myers’ grandmother, according to Beebe. “That song is pretty much about his grandma and her upbringing out at their family homestead in the middle of nowhere in the early 1900s and it’s just a song about their survival in the face of a lot of different things. She lost her father at a young age so it was all these girls farming and taking care of themselves in the middle of nowhere. So the song is about that struggle and that overcoming the odds.”
There has been quite a bit of buzz about the first single, Hold The Line, perhaps because the song and video hit on such a hot-button issue of the moment gun control. Within 2 days of its release, the video had more than 4,000 views and by the week of their album release, broke the 10,000 view mark thanks in part to a very loyal fan base who actively shared the video online. The video is the story of a man who works hard to take care of and protect his wife and two little girls. The family is threatened by someone who has broken into their home and the main character ends up shooting the intruder to protect his family. The band wrote the song together when, while they were in the studio, the Sandy Hook tragedy occurred. Says Beebe, “ We were all pretty affected by it so we tried to figure out how to put all of our thoughts into this song and wrote it during the time that we were in the studio but we really wanted the video to tell that just as well as the song did.”
With five members, it’s understandable that not every band mate has the same view on the issue of gun control, but all of them can agree that is an important topic to discuss and question to raise. According to Beebe-“ As a band we all have different interpretations of exactly how gun control should be laid out, if it should be laid out, how that all should work, but as a general theme, we all agree that you should be able to protect your family and you should be able to stand up for the ones that you love if someone is trying to harm them. How far you can take that, that’s something that we all kind of have varied opinions on.”
The band is at a place in their career that they feel comfortable with who they are and what they stand for and are not willing to merely write a back-burner type of song. “We wanted to raise that question with that song and that was the most important part. At the end of the song, it doesn’t say ‘Hey, this is my right, this is what I’m supposed to be able to do’, it says, IS this my right, you know? We wanted to further that conversation,” says Beebe.
Beebe and bass player Eric Miller have a production company based out of Seattle, Digital Vendetta and they shot the video in their hometown with actors Jules Beresford, Alyssa Hernandez, and Sophie and Evie Watson as the little girls. There are no performance shots in the video. In fact, you will only find one band member in the video. “ The most interesting part is that our percussionist, Joe Catron, plays the bad guy,” says Beebe, “ So it’s interesting- some people don’t notice it the first couple of times, and then other people notice it right away and are kind of struck by it I think, because Joe is as far from that character as you can get.”
Cody Beebe and The Crooks are not satisfied with making discussion-worthy music alone. They have recently partnered with Naches Heights Vineyard out of Central Washington. “We all like the wine culture and its helped support our career through different wineries and things so we’re actually putting out a wine with that winery.” Crooked Red will be released this June.
The band has also started their own annual music festival; Chinook Fest. In 2012, after returning from a tour, they discovered that their hometown fan base wanted to put on a huge party. “We started to think, ‘ Well, why don’t we just do it ourselves and put this party on for our fans and bring as many of the bands that we can that we’ve either traveled with or played with when we were on the road?’ A lot of those artists are good friends of ours but now that we’re all touring ,we never get to see them. So we brought them all to one place, to our home area and put on Chinook Fest and it was a huge success last year,” explains Beebe. “Everybody was talking about it, everybody left there with all these new connections and a lot of those bands have now played together in their own markets without us because it was such a good networking thing for all of them.”
Chinook Fest 2013 will take place September 13-15 at Jim Sprick Community Park in Naches, WA and will feature 32 acts, including Lee Oskar, Robert Jon and The Wreck, Blake Noble, Tim Snider, and of course, Cody Beebe and the Crooks. More information can be found at chinookfest.com
One might think that a band that has spent so much time together touring the nation in their tour van, might want to take a break from each other when they have some time off. Interestingly enough, The Crooks actually chose to work with each other after a break from touring in 2011. Explains Beebe, “ We’d just made two trips out to the east coast and back and then we made two runs to Texas. We’d been all over the place and came back to Seattle. Due to different living circumstances, we all moved back to Central Washington. During that downtime after the tour, we had the opportunity to work with a contractor on an addition to this place and so we went to work for him as a four person crew and it was really cool. There’s the band dynamic but then there’s also the dynamic of being able to build this structure together and work on something completely separate of the band. The teamwork part of the thing was really cool to see.” Apparently the band that builds together, stays together.
After two recent album release shows one in Washington and one in Los Angeles, the remainder of 2013 will find the band touring in support of Out Here, celebrating their wine release, and headlining at Chinook Fest. They will also be releasing a vinyl this summer and Cody and Eric will be heading to Australia to promote the record acoustically
And the video for Hold the Line will surely continue to be a topic of conversation wherever they go. Says Beebe,“We’re proud of the way it turned out and I think that even if people have a negative opinion at first, I think that it still asked a good question and there are going to be people that immediately assume that we feel one way or the other and then just push us to this certain side or whatever but we really hope that people look past that and see the bigger picture and the bigger question.”