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If you need a crash course on American rock-n-roll music, pick up or download a Scott H. Biram record. From a blues and country base, Biram, a 38-year-old Lockhart, Texas native and one of Austin's favorite stepsons, distills lo-fi lessons on everything from punk to bluegrass. He's a one-man band who sounds like your drunk, cussing, truck-driving daddy, warning you through his CB radio that he's going to open a can of whoop-ass when he gets home. The Weekly caught up with Biram by phone, as he prepared for his latest tour. He plays Sept. 8 at Detroit Bar in Costa Mesa.
Sometimes I'll hit some songs that are just straight-up blues or straight-up country. Then I have quite a few that are a cross section of the two, or it'll be a blues song with a metal tinge to it. I feel like you gotta feel it in your heart, in your stomach and your liver, and you just gotta have some attitude on there, whether it be a mean, aggressive attitude or a heartfelt attitude. That's something that a lot of people, like you're saying, they're just trying to sound exactly like Robert Johnson or trying to sound exactly like Son House or something like that.
I personally have to put something of myself on there, otherwise it's just like a novelty, museum thing. And I personally think that when you overdo the emulation, a lot of times it comes out sounding like the super whiteboy blues, and I can't stand that kinda shit. I feel like there's not a enough soul in it. What the blues is all about is soul and having the spirit and all that, and if it's not there, it's just going to sound contrived.
So what influence has the church and Christianity played in your music?
I write a single word sometimes just so I can fuck with it later. Speaking of “later,” that's a word I wrote down yesterday. I want to write a song with “later.” I don't know, man. And then there's songs that come to me in two minutes; I just write the words down really fast, and then I play it, and then I go and record it on my phone or in the studio or something, so I don't forget it, and some of those end up being some of my best songs. And then there's ones that I struggle with and wrestle with for three or four years, with pieces of the lyrics and things, until finally it just falls into place. Or I just stick 'em together with another one that doesn't really make sense, but it sounds cool.
When you're putting an album together, are there particular songs that you really want fans to like more than others, and are you shocked by what they like?