The Lawn Chair Kings have been a band for 20 years. That’s twice as long as The Beatles were together, 17½ years longer than the Sex Pistols and they’re catching up to The Ramones, who called it quits after 22. In that time, they’ve played every venue in town along with every KDUR Cover Night, and dropped five full-length records, all while creating a genre that’s part punk rock, part garage rock, part country rock and all catchy – a sound self-described as “Suburban Rock” or “Western Garage.”
Over the years, their live shows have had plenty of oddball mishaps; early shows were not without overserved revelry resulting in people falling onto the stage while knocking out whatever is in their way, be it equipment or other people. There were also the stage props, which included plastic pink flamingos, static-screened televisions and folding lawn chairs that eventually met their demise by overserved revelry. Montezuma County shows have included a little harmless knuckling as well, with the punching out of band member Dan Leek’s truck window, an incident where the police informed the bass player of the destruction mid-song.
As the years have rolled by, show behavior has mellowed while the music continues to be as quirky and rocking as ever. Their latest release, “Before It All,” has all of the Lawn Chair Kings’ trademarks, where subtle twang dances with click-clack punkabilly rhythms, and lyrical content addresses myriad issues, from broken hearts to bullfights and invasive water creatures. While still a very much DIY effort, it’s only the second time the band has left the confines of their own headquarters to record, saddling up to Scooters Place to make it happen. The first time was when they recorded their debut, in the same space where Scooters Place is, but back then it was Eagle Sound run by Doug Eagle.
“So in a sense, it’s like we’re kind of getting back to our roots,” said guitar player and vocalist Erik Nordstrom. “It’s a great Durango studio, but this time with Scooter at the helm.”
The band hasn’t been without its changes over the years. They’ve gone through a handful of drummers and second guitar players, while also existing as a trio, quartet and, for a brief moment, quintet. The current lineup includes founding members Nordstrom and bass player Leek; drummer, guitar and mandolin player Pat Dressen; and the newest member Justin Richert, who will play guitar, drums and lap steel.
This latest recording caught guitar player and banjo player Hap Purcell on his way out of the band, but not before laying down aggressive banjo to a number of tracks, standouts being “Food Fight At The Golden Corral” and “Hell Fish.”
“He’s quite a musician and added a lot of flavor to this album,” Leek said. “It was really fun to watch his banjo playing evolve into this really cool, rock banjo styling.”
But its not all rock banjo. A cut like “Saddle” digs into slacker-country, “New Clothes” has a new-wave vibe and “Runaway Truck” has a cowpunk shuffle; they’re a band that connects the dots between Buck Owens and Camper Van Beethoven.
Titling the album “Before It All” can coincidentally be applied to what life was like before March 2020. They don’t wear politics on their sleeve, but these days, and in this created climate heated from the top, politics are everywhere. Nordstrom, however, remains an optimist.
“It’s kind of interesting with the theme of the album too, there’s a post-apocalyptic tone. It might have been somewhat intentional,” he said. “I didn’t anticipate the pandemic, but I do think its sort of fitting, the theme ‘before it all.’ I don’t know that song I was feeling a little bit dark about everything, the country and where we were going, but I do think we’ll return to some better days.”
In 2021, The Lawn Chair Kings will also release a live album, recorded earlier in 2020 at The Sunflower Theatre in Cortez.
Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.