Catching up with Bootheel Contingent

Thursday, June 25, 2009
Bootheel Contingent members, from left, Mike Cokenour, Josh Monroe, Steve Clinton, Tim Morrison and Trey Presson pose for a photo Saturday in Sikeston, Mo. The band is releasing its first album. (Elizabeth Dodd)

Bootheel Contingent, which drummer Tim Morrison describes as a "rock band with a country hangover," is eagerly anticipating the release of it's first album, "Let's Get Right" due out before July.

"It's like waiting for Christmas," Morrison said, sitting at a crowded table eating dinner with fellow bandmates Saturday night before their gig at Club Moxy.

Southern rock roots run deep with the members of Bootheel Contingent and the band's album pays homage to that style of music. Combining acoustic and electric with a new spin on traditional Southern rock, the album features 11 original tracks and was recorded at Trumble Hill Studios in Van Buren, Mo.

SE Live sat down with Morrison and Bootheel Contingent members, Trey Presson (guitar/vocals), Josh Monroe (bass guitar/vocals) and Mike Cokenour (lead guitar), to talk about where they've been, where they're going and what to expect from their first album.

SE Live: Where did you guys come up with the name for the band?

Tim Morrison: Trey came up with it. It's a small group of independent soldiers that fought in the Civil War.

SEL: How long have you guys been playing as Bootheel Contingent?

Josh Monroe: I would say like seven or eight months.

Mike Cokenour: None of us ever thought we'd be playing together. I quit my job, wasn't working, and Steve's a good friend of mine and had been playing with them. So I said, 'what you guys need is a drummer.' That's really what they needed and I needed money, so I started just kind of showing up with my drums. I played the drums for about three months. We lost some members, and I moved from drums to guitar.

SEL: Do you prefer one over the other -- drums or guitar?

MC: Guitar. That's what I do.

SEL: When did you guys begin recording your album?

Trey Presson: It actually started as an acoustic album by myself. We started adding little by little. It started out I had all these songs I wanted to put on an album, and as we started adding more guys it became more of a full-band rather than a solo project. The songs evolved like night and day. It turned from a country jug band to a rock band.

SEL: You describe the CD on MySpace as an "original Southern rock album." How did you achieve that?

TP: It all depends on the instrumentation. You could play the same songs with a flat Fender sound and it's country. You add distortion and it's gonna be rock. It's all how it's arranged. Just like last night and tonight, it's gonna be two totally different shows. It's good to have two interchangeable players, too.

MC: Yeah. Some of the live shows it'll be both me and Steve [Clinton, who plays banjo, lead and slide guitar, dobro, mandolin]. But we have other commitments, like ... he's playing in Sikeston. We can play as a four-piece need-be, but I like when it's all of us. It adds that contrast from banjo to heavy metal guitar all at the same time. We're definitely a live band to see because every show is different.

SEL: What were some of the ups and downs of putting out the album?

MC: We re-recorded the songs we did acoustic and kind of just started from scratch.

JM: We've went from the studio and have kinda grown into a family.

SEL: You categorize yourselves as a country/southern rock/jam band on MySpace. Can you describe your sound?

TP: We do everything from Waylon [Jennings] to Pink Floyd, so it's hard to put your finger on exactly what it is. Our original stuff is more like country-rock but it's got that psychedelic twist to it. We segue and may play three or four songs in a row without stopping.

MC: We all come from different musical backgrounds.

TM: I come from church.

MC: He does. And we used to all play together in church.

TP: We try to mix it up with the songs we choose. We do some improvisation. We have a couple songs that we say, "after this, the key is E." Then we tell Timmy to hit a beat and we just go from there.

JM: Through improvising, though, we've found a lot of foundations for the songs.

TP: If we want to play a place that's jam band we can, a place that's Southern rock we can and if it's a country, we can do that, too. The trick is to have all those people come together. Just because you don't like one song doesn't mean you won't like the next. I guess we keep holding onto the jam band genre because it's our roots.

SEL: So what music do you guys connect over?

TP: A lot of different stuff. I'm more of the Texas-country type stuff. [Mike] introduces me to a lot of different stuff I don't listen to, like Meshuggah. That's definitely more harder-edge stuff. Just because I don't play it don't mean I don't like it. It's kind of funny. We'll be playing a song that's a country tune, and I'll be singing with a twang, and then a heavy guitar comes in for the solo. It all works out. Josh likes more blues, and he's into the jam stuff.

JM: I'm into J.J. Cale and Eric Clapton.

TP: J.J. Cale is something similar to what we sound like, only we're with a little harder edge.

SEL: Future plans?

TM: We're currently working on a second album. We have three or four songs already.

TP: We have lots of ideas. We've been so in our heads trying to get this one put out, but it's definitely already started. Bigwigs see that you're making albums and still working, that's what they're looking for. A lot of record companies won't even consider you until you've at least put out something.

MC: It's a constant work in progress. Me and Steve both have our own studios, so there's always something going on.

SEL: Anything else you would like to add?

TP: Mike is the baddest man on the planet.

MC: I second that.

TM: There is no group of guys that I would rather be playing with.

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