Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Mike Gentry
It is with confidence that Hank Williams would never have gotten into neck tattoos and lip rings had he just lived a longer life. The country legend, who died far too young, would have stuck with his cowboy britches, hats and boots and would have kept the body art off of his own. Bob Dylan has lived into these times of rampant defacing and/or decorating and he's still without any truly visible inking and, it could be that the former Mr. Zimmerman is absolutely without. We can't be sure. It's impossible for Mike Herrera, the main face for the still-working Bremerton, Washington, pop-punk band MXPX, as well as the songwriter and lead singer for Tumbledown, the band in question here, to hide his multi-colored neck and the bright hues ringing his Adam's apple. They are the thick mementos of his younger days playing those three chords and the truth, the poppy and youthful songs of unrequited love and chasing after girls as if there was nothing more important out there. When those tattoos were first acquired, every new day meant another chance to see the girl of your dreams and to have such an experience lead to another song and another aching longing. We would have to ask Herrera if those longings and the tattoos simply went hand-in-hand or if they were mutually exclusive of one another - perhaps two very separate interests that only seem to coincide with each other in his basic timeline. Herrera is unmistakable as a punk rocker, whether he likes it or not, and yet here, with Tumbledown, he's a man that you'd picture with bowed legs, a stubbly chin, straight-creased riding pants, a hat and a nose for the nearest saloon no matter where he was.
Tumbledown is Herrera's country and western band and it's his way of getting to stray from certain subjects matters into the world of ones that weigh a mighty bit heavier on heads as the years start taking their tolls and it's plain to see that things have gotten quite a bit more serious and permanent in what one would record as a blink of an eye. See, Herrera has done what many an American boy has done as he's progressed in years: He's gotten in touch with an ancestry that may never have been his, but he wishes had been. He's become consumed with the mythological ideas of being a dusty cowboy and of battling the elements, the law and facing the hardships of settling into a land that doesn't want you, that has complications sewn into its hellos and greetings. It's the idea of some remnant of the Wild West, when men were judged on their quick draws and on their capacity for drink. Luckily, there is a common thread between punk rockers and outlaws, and that's whiskey and an inferiority complex. The difference in sound of an inferiority complex in a two-minute punk song and that in a country song is that it just sounds defiant and pissy in punk rock and it actually does sound self-deprecating in country music. Herrera writes a great country hook and he writes many of them on his new band's debut full-length, singing, "My days are numbered and my days are done/My daddy was a pistol and I'm just a son of a gun," getting to those clever parts of country lyricism that it's hard to get too much of. He sings of a pair of faded jeans having "seen better days under the sun burning ablaze," and we feel as if we were out there amongst those West Coast cowboys, the ones feeling the blues and the ones who turned the mentality of an outlaw into a look and a feel and a gold rush.