Black TarPoon: Interview With Rhythm Guitarist & Vocalist Jesse James
Corpus Christi’s Black TarPoon have been bringing us their rambunctious brand of country punk since circa 2014. As mentioned by yours truly in The Thad EP review and the video premiere for Ten Thousand Throats, they are a close-knit outfit with familial ties. Mercifully however this doesn’t mean they’re anything like The Osmonds, though Crazy Horses in their hands would undoubtedly make for a fun listen!
The Thad was my first exposure to Black TarPoon since when I’ve been hooked, and I can state with some confidence that their sound will resonate with fans of X, The Meat Puppets, Social Distortion and The Violent Femmes (the first two albums especially). It was a privilege therefore to be given the opportunity to learn a bit more about the band as per the questions below…
Hey Jesse, welcome to The Sleeping Shaman. I believe I’ve got my head around the familial band connections, but for the benefit of the uninitiated, please could you introduce yourselves.
Certainly. Black TarPoon consists of; my Brother-in-law Oatmeal Reed on bass and low-end vocals, my Pop Billy Mo on lead guitar and high-end vocals, my wife Tashia the Don on washboard, our family friends Chi Chi Picante on drums, Stin Davidson on fiddle, and myself, Jesse James TarPoon on lead vocals and rhythm guitar.
Oat and I started writing together in 2014 after Tashia bought us an acoustic bass…
When did Black TarPoon form and what was the inspiration behind the mostly acoustic approach?
Oat and I started writing together in 2014 after Tashia bought us an acoustic bass. I had a Jasmine acoustic guitar, and we had talked about doing something heavier, but with what we were writing and what instruments we had, this stripped-down version kinda grew on us.
Was there a reason for the re-recording of He Sleeps With the Fishes (originally on Creatures From The Black TarPoon) for The Thad EP?
We were still trying to find our sound when we first recorded The Creature From The Black TarPoon. Most of the songs on that EP have grown into something else, and we want to do them justice. The other three songs are actually going to be included on our upcoming album, Probable Caws.
We all have different tastes, but everyone in the band is a fan of certain punk bands, all stemming from what we grew up listening to…
Speaking of The Thad, what is the meaning of the title? Is this a Texan term that hasn’t quite made it over the Atlantic yet?
It has a couple of different meanings actually. There is a character from a show called Blue Mountain State. A super frat boy football player named Thad. That’s the nickname we gave Tashia when she gets really drunk. Well, this character reveals his name isn’t actually Thad. He had a lisp when he was a child, and when his parents left him at school, he told the other kids that he was ‘Thad.’ All the songs on that EP were written in a very depressed mindset. So, we named it The Thad EP, and put Tashia on the cover.
Jesse, I read in previous interviews that you were largely inspired by punk rock/hardcore, especially The Misfits. Is this passion shared by the rest of the band and/or what influences do they bring to the table?
We all have different tastes, but everyone in the band is a fan of certain punk bands, all stemming from what we grew up listening to. As far as lyrics go, I’m a big fan with Mike Ness, Glenn Danzig and Jesse Michaels’ work.
Being English, country music doesn’t largely resonate with me (with notable exceptions), however its obvious part of your sound is inspired by that genre. What are some of the artists that affect you the most and which you could recommend to a sceptic like myself?
Roger Miller, Billy Joe Schafer, Johnny Cash, Townes Van Zandt, John Prine, Ray Wylie Hubbard, all of these artists have something else to them and none of them sound alike really. And a more current resurgence of this kind of sound is upon us now with artists like Tyler Childers, Matt Heckler, Colter Wall, and the Lost Dog Street Band.
I love the Misfits and The Cure covers but I’m blown away by your interpretation of (one hit wonder) Rockwell’s Somebody’s Watching Me. What was the motivation behind covering it, was it purely for entertainment purposes or was there a deeper reason?
I was driving by myself listening to the radio one day and the song came on. I had never really paid attention to the lyrics. They’re really good, and kinda relatable in a weird way. If I can break a song down and simplify it to root chords, and structure the vocal patterns in my own way, we can make a decent cover. This was just one of the best examples of us getting lucky in that aspect.
I do believe we wouldn’t be nearly as accepted by the punk rock or metal communities without them laying the groundwork…
Country punk (or cowpunk) has had a long history with the likes of X, Rank and File, The Gun Club, Meat Puppets, Social Distortion, Nashville Pussy etc. Is this a lineage you feel a part of and what do you feel distinguishes Black TarPoon from say the aforementioned artists?
I feel we were definitely influenced by them a lot. Oat loves X, and I have a giant Social Distortion tattoo. I would love to be considered among these legendary acts, but I wouldn’t dare do it myself. I do believe we wouldn’t be nearly as accepted by the punk rock or metal communities without them laying the groundwork.
I had the pleasure of visiting Austin in 2019 for the Levitation Festival and was curious as to the venues you may have played in said city (from memory I recall Stubbs and Mohawk)? How does the scene there compare with that of Corpus Christi?
There are way too many venues there to even name honestly, but the two you mentioned are probably the most notable. We’ve played at a place called the Rattle Inn a few times, and a few other venues I can’t recall off the top of my head. But Austin is a super hub for music, and a lot bigger than Corpus. But in that, Corpus is a more tight knit music community. We all kinda know each other here. And our crowds are wildly underestimated by traveling acts. If you come through here enough to gather a following, we have very loyal fans. And things get kinda crazier here than expected for a city this size.
We’re getting to our roots more, and there’s definitely more variety in our sound than anything else we’ve done…
Ten Thousand Throats was premiered on The Sleeping Shaman and features noticeably dark lyrics as ‘Come admire, my blade’s enormous, I could slit 10,000 throats’, as well as a more introspective post-punk sound. Is this any indication of what we can expect on your upcoming sophomore album Probable Caws?
The new album is probably the best work we’ve ever done. We’re getting to our roots more, and there’s definitely more variety in our sound than anything else we’ve done. We collaborated with a lot of super talented musicians, song writers, and engineers. The results of which being a much bigger sound.
Covid situation permitting, are there any plans for a European Tour, more specifically the UK? (Hint, hint, Manchester is a pretty cool town for gigs…).
We don’t have any plans of going to Europe, currently. Though it is a dream of ours to do so one day. We’re currently in the process of relocating to Kansas City, Missouri. It’s hard to tour from South Texas. Unless you’re heading south to Mexico, it’s at least a 9 hour drive to even get out of the state from where we live now.
We actually have an animated web series about the band in the works. It’s based on our characters from the Gloom and Ten Thousand Throats videos…
In conclusion, I wish to thank you for taking the time to do this interview, is there anything you wish to plug? Any shoutouts, any killer upcoming bands you think warrant investigation by readers of the site?
We actually have an animated web series about the band in the works. It’s based on our characters from the Gloom and Ten Thousand Throats videos. We call it Greetings From Poonlandia. I know your audience is mostly into heavier, and generally more evil bands. I think they should definitely look into anything from the Goddamn Gallows and Black Eyed Vermilion. One of the newest bands in our genre that you should definitely look out for is Johnny Lawhorn and the Pentagram Stringband. They’re old timey sounding and as evil they come.
We appreciate you taking your time to conduct this interview with us, hopefully we’ll see you in Europe sooner than we think.
Band Links: Official | Facebook | Bandcamp | Twitter | Instagram
Interviewed by: Reza Mills