Coming out of the same musical and cultural axis of Texas rockers Kings X, THE GALACTIC COWBOYS are now veterans of the secular scene. They spoke to Alex Figgis.
With an interest in all things spatial, the Galactic Cowboys have been riding the "stars for a number of years now; exploring deep and profound issues with a healthy dose of wit and humour and electric guitars that go for your throat. But the Cowboys are not just any other rock band to have emerged from Texas. In fact, their sound is as unique as the band members themselves. Monty Colvin, the multi-talented bassist, kindly took time out to explain all things Galactic.
United by their desire to be creative musically, the band are also committed Christians. "You know." Monty explained, "it really is part of who we are as people. It's always been a positive thing for us. We live it and it's gonna affect the music to a certain extent, but on the other hand we approach the music as art; and we're not using our beliefs as an agenda to go out and convert everybody necessarily. But if that happens then that's cool too."
Having grown up in Felix, Arizona, Monty's impressive bass playing - arguably the Cowboy's 'trade mark' alongside their rich vocal harmonies -started whilst studying in Springfield, Missouri. "I guess it comes kind of from a guitar background. I started on guitar and even played guitar for a while in my first band.
But, it seemed like everybody always needs a bass player and so I switched over and found it to be a lot of fun. I derived a lot of the sound and things I do on bass from guitar." It was whilst playing in college bands that Monty met Alan. "We just kind of ended up together and we've been together for about 10. 11 years now." said Monty. It was the spark that would eventually ignite the flame we now know as the Galactic Cowboys. "We grew out of another band called The Awful Truth." Monty explained, "which had a CD out on Metal Blade and when that band broke up Alan and I broke off and started Galactic Cowboys (in Houston). About six months after we started the band we got signed to Geffen and went on from there."
However, it was whilst Monty and Alan were still in The Awful Truth that the shadow of Galactic Cowboys began to appear. Dane Sonnier, the original guitarist for Galactic Cowboys, and Ben Huggins "were kind of fans." Monty explained. "They used to come and see us and hang out and we just became friends with 'em and so when we were needing people to play with as in Galactic, then they fit right in."
One of the earliest recordings of the Cowboys was on 'Faith. Hope And Love' by fellow Texan band Kings X. "I met them when I was in Springfield,' said Monty. "They weren't even called Kings X then. They were just half cover band, half original band called The Edge or Sneek Preview. They went through some different names but I just became really good friends with them. Man, it's probably been 15 years now that I met 'em and we've stayed really good friends over the years." Monty. Alan, Ben and Dane all appeared on 'Faith, Hope And Love' as the Wilde Silas Mass Choir. "We were already signed at that point. I don't know if our album was out or not. But we were recording in the same studio (as Kings X) and so they just invited us down one afternoon and we had some fun and sang on a couple of their songs." The two bands have remained friends ever since. In fact, you can expect to see contributions from the Cowboys on Ty's forthcoming solo project 'Moon Flower Lane'. Explained Monty, "We'll probably always do things together and just remain friends hopefully."
Nine years or so have passed since the genesis of the phenomenon known as Galactic Cowboys. Four albums, one EP, the inception of Wally Farkas on guitar and a change in record label from Geffen to Metal Blade, the Cowboys have progressed and developed into a force to be reckoned with. Last year's opus. 'The Horse That Bud Bought', saw the emergence of the band's very own recording studio. "We built it in a rehearsal hall." said Monty. "So it was just like going to practise everyday which was kinda cool for me because I tend to relax a lot more when I'm not in a studio with a clock running and extensive studio time and all that. It was kind of a nice change." The band called upon the talents of Brian Garcia - whose previous work includes production for Precious Death and sound engineering for Kings X - to co-produce the album. "He's been a friend a long time." commented Monty. "He was actually working at the studio for our first album and then he engineered on "Space In Your Face', so we thought it might be a different thing to have him come in and get some different ideas from him. You know, sometimes it created a creative tension because Alan and Brian didn't always see completely eye to eye on everything but that's not always a bad thing."
Monty's own opinion with regards to the new album provided a clue to the Cowboy's unique sound. "I thought there was some better writing. We try not to get too hung up on styles and everything. We try to make each album a fresh thing and not have it be exactly like the last one or just a rehash of what we've already done. We try new things and experiment on every album. So I think it's just kinda what you have to expect from us that it's gonna be something new."
Not only is Monty a singer/songwriter/musician of the highest calibre, but he's also a budding artist, providing much of the artwork for the past three recordings. When quizzed about 'The Horse That Bud Bought', Monty went on to explain that "the cover goes along with the title of the album. It comes from the song 'Oregon' which is just a story from my childhood of a situation that actually happened where my family moved to Oregon and some weird things unfolded." When asked about the creative process behind the songs, Monty said how "it comes along in different ways. I tend to write a little bit more completely...as far as lyrics and music and everything, but there are times when I just pitch it over to Ben and say, 'What have you got in the way of lyrics?', or Alan'll bring in ideas or Wally on this album brought in some different parts that we just arranged together. There's different ways that we do it and we never know which way it's gonna go, but we all have some ideas and we try to work together as best we can."
It remains a mystery why the Cowboys have not been given as high a profile by the mainstream industry as they so obviously deserve. Part of the reason lies within the lines of "Tomorrow", also included on last year's album. "I think when I wrote it," a thoughtful Monty pondered, "I was really fed up with the whole industry. It seems we've been held back and not allowed to really be known and people to really hear our stuff. I think a lot of it just boils down to politics of the music industry. It comes down to people being really hung up on musical styles and what's hip. You have to be very categorised and if you don't have an easy to read label then they don't know how to sell you. For these reasons it seems we've been prevented from really having a broader audience or maybe getting airplay that we should have been able to get."
Monty then went on to explain how Metal Blade "are cool about giving us creative freedom and that they just seem to like what we do as a band and getting it out there to the public." However, the Cowboys see themselves as a 'rock' and not 'a total metal' band. "I think in those ways," Monty reflected, "we still get stuck right in the metal section of record stores and people have maybe preconceived notions as to what we sound like just because we are on Metal Blade. But they have been really cool to us. We like the people who work at the label."
With regards to what one can expect from the Cowboys in the forthcoming months, in terms of new material, Monty said. "About all I can tell you is that we're planning on starting (the new album) probably in the next few weeks. We're gonna get together and just compare material and learning the new songs, working them up together. After that we'll start recording. It usually takes us two or three months to record everything and then there's always a few months there where the record company takes it and preps it and promotes it before they actually put it out. So I'm guessing it could be as early as summer, but a better guess would be next fall."
No matter what happens, unlike certain 'cowboys' in this world, you
can be sure that Monty, Alan, Doss and Wally will continue to
communicate life from an honest and faithful perspective, through
their well crafted art; an art that is born from hearts full of faith,
worked out in and through lives sold out to the Lord.