Maybe you’re singing a song of despair that might sound all but hopeless - but the thing is, your soul is still celebrating. The songs coming out of you – that’s your way of letting it go. That’s your way of celebrating… celebrating the release of that pain.” This was the first long sentence to come from the singer of Los Angeles’s Dead Pioneers – B - no sooner than 2 minutes after making my acquaintance. Dimly lit, red, hanging, lights and dark hardwood beams surround the two guitar/banjo players of Dead Pioneers (“B” and “H-mas” as they are known). Huddled together in the back room of a password only speakeasy bar in LA’s seedy, Koreatown dristict – the muffled sounds of Neil Young coming from the jukebox - these two look eerily like brothers.
At a quick glance they could easily pass as twins. Both rail thin with shoulder length dark hair, beards and mustaches, tight pants and cowboy boots – I wasn’t sure which was which when they strolled in 25 minutes late. The band’s singer (the slightly taller one) – B, tells me, “We come from completely different parts of the States but there’s a unifying chord. Maybe it’s that small town, woodworking thing we got or maybe it’s just the celebrating of making music together that keeps us on the same path.” H-mas spent his childhood deep in the forests of northern Wisconsin where he went to school with a total of 26 kids in all grades combined.
He grew up as a logger in a long line of the same with his uncle teaching him old timey, folk and bluegrass songs on banjo. “My uncle was a music snob before it was cool to be a music snob,” recalls H, as they snicker. B chimes in, “I grew up with that old time religion in my house – son of a preacher, one of ten kids himself, he did carpentry jobs to keep food on the table. My father was always building.
He never stopped working even long enough to take a breath but he was always whistlin’ a tune or singing something. It was wood, soul music, and the bible in my house.” So how these two, long-haired, counterparts that look equal parts Waylon and Willie (circa the outlaw years) ended up together in the silicone wasteland of Southern California, as far away from their backwoods upbringing as anyone could imagine, is something neither of them say much about. “I got paid to fly out here and make a delivery across the country. The thing is, when I arrived at the airport, my employer called and cancelled my drive.
So I just stayed here,” says H-mas as he takes a long drag from a short cigarette. “I still got paid, though!” They both laugh. B continues, “There’s a lot of devils in the City of Angels but we just make our rounds everyday trying to keep our souls intact without having to sell them. I guess that’s the custom in this town and in this business.” The two young men with old souls behind the bluesy, countrified, stompin’ music of Dead Pioneers have a camaraderie that doesn’t seem normal in this current era of “here today, gone tomorrow” pop music.
Numerous times they complete each other’s sentences but neither seem to bat an eyelash. One gets the sense this is not an act – but genuine brotherhood. I guess it’s only fitting for a band making music that is as palpable, real, tight-knit, and un-manipulated as Dead Pioneers. H says, “We came to this city of plastic to make a bang playing music with guts.
And maybe we’ll break a few hearts while we’re at it.” With their sure-fire, down-home swagger and rootsy hooks for miles, I’d say you can count on both. Read more on Last.fm. User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply..