Since forming as a band in 2001, Two Cow Garage has developed a reputation as one of the hardest working–and partying–bands in the nation, having logged over 300,000 miles on the road in their search for rock and roll success. Now that they’ve cracked the Billboard Top New Artist chart, the quintet (Micah Schabel, Shane Sweeney, Chris Flint, Andy Schell, and Cody Smith) are poised to take their brand of alt-country riffs and blue-collar lyrics mainstream. In a phone interview, I sat down with the band and discussed their newfound fame, hydroponic tomato farms, and comparisons to rock god Bruce Springsteen.
John Winn [to Micah]: How do you feel about cracking the Bill Top New Artists chart?
Micah Schabel: Pretty psyched. I don’t know how many records we’ve sold, or how that factors into our position on the charts, but it just feels good. One more thing to put down on the resume!
JW: How does it feel to be receiving all this newfound attention nearly seven years after forming the band?
MS: Great. It’s like we’re being validated for everything we’ve done.
JW: Why did you decide to get Jon Snodgrass to produce the “Speaking in Cursive” album?
MS: Actually, Jon didn’t help us produce the album. Matt Pence did. Jon is a patron saint to us, though.
JW: Did you have a musical style in mind when you set out to make the record?
MS: No. We just went into the studio and played, like we’ve always done. We’re not concept guys–we’re not that smart. Maybe later, after I finish college [laughs].
JW: How has the addition of Cody smith and Andy Schell changed the sound of the group, versus a year ago?
Shane Sweeney: Having a full time keyboardist really helps. We’ve always had keyboardists on hand. But with the addition of Andy Schell, we’re finally able to have a sense of cohesion within the band. Andy helps Micah with the melody and the timing, which is really important to capturing our sound and that’s no small thing.
JW: Some have compared you guys to a 21st Century version of Bruce Springsteen. Is that a fair assessment?
SS: That’s not for me to say [pause]. That’s pretty high praise–don’t get me wrong, I’ll take it. Any of us would take it. I don’t want to draw any comparisons to the Boss. But it’s something to aspire to, I guess.
JW: Which one of you is the poet in the group?
SS: [confused]: Is Cody–Cody’s the poet? He writes all the songs. Actually, we all come to the table with different viewpoints–no one person is more poetic than the other.
JW: What’s the band’s songwriting process like? Does everybody compose the songs alone or do you just get together and jam until you got something?
SS: Everybody participates–it’s a democracy. We start with nothing, start playing, work through it as a band and at the end of the day we either got a song or we don’t. It’s that simple.
JW: According to one website, the band has logged over 300,000 miles on the road the past seven years. Has anyone developed any superstitions or quirks while touring?
SS: No rituals. Everyday is the same and different at the same time–you get in a van and go, and whatever happens, happens. We do have routines, though. I guess that counts.
JW: Has anyone developed any tastes, food wise, during the band’s travels?
SS: We don’t have favorite foods, if that’s what you’re asking. We do like to eat local. Shrimp Gumbo in Louisiana, a Whataburger in Texas.
JW: A Whataburger? What is that? Do they put Tabasco on that down there?
SS: Well, it’s–you know that saying, ‘everything’s bigger in Texas’? It’s a bigger, meaner version of the Big Mac.
JW: Oh. I see. So how do you entertain yourself when touring?
SS: We read a lot, listen to records on our iPods. Everybody does their own thing, more or less. Whatever gets us to our next destination, I guess.
JW: According to the band’s MySpace profile, Two Cow Garage has been able to amass almost 5000 friends. 4,890 to be exact. How come the band has been able to have a large net presence?
SS: From touring. We’ve made a lot of friends via word of mouth, and their friends tell their friends. If we can get just one more person to come to our shows, that’s ok with us, it does not matter how they find out about us. If they learn about us from the Net, the more the merrier.
JW: The band has also tacitly endorsed peer to peer file sharing of its songs. Why the interest in p2p? Aren’t you afraid that this would cut into your profits?
SS: I don’t know if we’ve endorsed it. I know there is no way to stop it. It’s a catch 22. If they download our songs and decide to go to one of our shows and buy our CDs, that’s good. But piracy is obviously an issue. We’re not going to spend every hour of the day fighting these kids. That’s time we could spend recording songs. We’re not Metallica.
JW: Do you see social networking and p2p as the new tools for bands such as yourselves to become known?
SS: I don’t know. It’s hard to say. I’m computer illiterate. The Internet is obviously a big component of getting the word out as peer to peer.
JW: I noticed the band’s website is under construction. Any idea what is going to happen to it?
SS: Very good question. I hate to dodge you’re question, but we don’t know what will happen to it. I guess we’ll take it one day at a time.
JW: Does anyone have any ambitions beyond being in the band?
SS: I personally don’t. The band is my life.
Andy Schell: I love playing music. But I’m also working on this hydroponic tomato farm. My hope is to play music and sell them on the side. Like Paul Newman.
Cody Smith: No plans. Time for school has passed. I want to keep playing music.
JW: Has anyone considered a backup job in case the rock and roll gig doesn’t work out?
SS: I don’t think so. Everybody has a flexible job—bartending, or working the door at a nightclub. Nothing with a steady paycheck, per se.
JW: Final question. What do you want people to know about Two-Cow Garage that they don’t know right now?
SS: We have a whole lot of leather products. Jackets and pants, that kind of thing. Also, we’re not a country band. Just because we have ‘cow’ in the middle of our name, doesn’t mean we wear spurs and sing about dead dogs and our wives leaving us.
JW: Thank you for your time.
SS: Thank you.