500 Miles to Memphis
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500 Miles to Memphis

Cincinnati, Ohio, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2003 | INDIE

Cincinnati, Ohio, United States | INDIE
Established on Jan, 2003
Band Rock Americana

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"REVIEW: 500 MILES TO MEMPHIS: BLESSED BE THE DAMNED (2019)"

"They don’t sound like anyone else. At all. Or at any point… 500 Miles To Memphis have constructed something wonderful here… “Blessed Be The Damned”? Hell, yes. The Devil always has more fun, you see, and damn me, this is good." - Maximum Volume Music


"Rootsy Cincinnati Rockers 500 Miles to Memphis are in Peak Form on Their New 'Blessed Be The Damned'"

“Still, one of the band’s most impressive feats is a more seamless blending of Country/Americana and Rock/Punk, a mix that is especially vibrant and powerful on Blessed.” - CityBeat


"500 MILES TO MEMPHIS/Blessed Be the Damned"

"this bunch blows their sound wide open as this sounds nothing like the last 4 entries. Aggression is always in fashion and the malcontent vets brought in as ringers here know how to turn it up to 11." - Midwest Record


"DC Larson's JUKEBOX JURY"

"Guitars crunch madly, spurred to high gallop by the same splendidly indomitable beat that's always propelled rock'n'roll. And robust vocals make fine topping for sometimes Celtic-informed "Americana Punk" - DC Larson's Jukebox


"Album Review: 500 Miles To Memphis Blessed Be The Damned"

"Blessed has so many catchy songs, it’s easy to find yourself tapping your feet along with the groove instead of taking notes or writing a review, and nearly impossible to find a favorite. In short, if you like rock, you’ll like this album. The mean mountain riff of the title track, the 90s punk of “No Doubt About It,” the bluegrass-cum-cowpunk of “In My Chest” – the album is just good from front to back and might be 500 MTM’s best yet." - CincyMusic.com


"500 Miles to Memphis' inspired country/punk gets even more diverse"

"If you like country-punk, these guys are the reigning kings." - Independent Clauses


"Going the Distance"

Promising locals 500 Miles to Memphis are a little bit Country, a little bit Rock & Roll

Interview By Mike Breen



500 Miles to Memphis
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The subject of distance comes up a lot when talking with area trio 500 Miles to Memphis. There's obviously the name, indicating the distance between Cincinnati and Elvis' adopted hometown. Then there's the spread-out living situation -- bassist Wade Owens currently lives in Hamilton and will soon move back to his hometown, Dayton; drummer Lee Steele calls Forest Park home; and singer/guitarist Ryan Malott lives in rural Bethel, where he was born and raised. It's seemingly a logistical nightmare, when you consider practice scheduling and gigs all over Greater Cincinnati, but the band members don't seem bothered by the mileage.
Then there's the matter of 500 Miles' sound, which, almost miraculously, makes energized Emo/Punk and traditional Country music sound like they were born to be inbred bunkmates. They are two sounds more than just a proverbial 500 miles apart, kinda like blending Polka and Death Metal. It's not Punkabilly or AltCountry, but a very distinct sound that seamlessly merges the contemporary pining of Emo, the energy of Punk and the rowdy and hallowed ache-and-rumble of vintage Country & Western, all slathered in enticing Pop melodies.

It's almost as if 500 Miles to Memphis' sound was in the air, just waiting for the band to finally catch up to it. Each member had played in Punk bands. But Malott, the main songwriter in the band, found the Country chocolate to 500 Miles' Punk peanut butter when he moved to Dallas for a brief stint. On an invitation to start a band in the Lone Star State, Malott relocated only to have the project fall through. But while in Dallas, the lifelong Bob Dylan and Neil Young fan caught a live set from a band playing traditional Country music.

"I thought 'God, what have I been missing out on,'" Malott recalls. "I just fell in love with it. I went out and bought as many Country albums as I could."

It wasn't his first introduction to the music. Growing up on a Bethel farm, where his family raised soybeans and tobacco, his grandfather frequently listened to old Country music.

"At the time I never got it," he admits. "(I thought), 'What is so good about that? It's horrible.' "

Steele says he also heard countrified sounds a lot growing up; his grandfather played upright bass in a Bluegrass band. "I really liked Bluegrass, but I always thought there needed to be more drums," he says with a laugh. "And that's kind of what we do. There's not a lot of (obvious) Bluegrass (influence) in our music, but it's real fast and there's a lot of pickin'."

After returning from Dallas, Malott was on a mission to start a Punk/Pop band with Country undertones. A classified ad landed Steele, but it wasn't until after several failed attempts with other players that they found Owens. The trio solidified near the end of 2003 and, just a few months later, recorded a self-titled, six-song demo EP, which they've been tirelessly sending to record labels and radio stations to good response.

The band gradually lost the rougher edge, drawing more from classic Country's rustic, rootsy songwriting than Punk's abrasiveness. "With Punk Rock, it wasn't something I fell in love with," Malott says. "It was just something to do while I was in high school."

The band members say they've largely received positive feedback so far, despite their unlikely sound. But, being in their early 20s, they feel like their youthfulness has created an unnecessary stigma.

"We've been through a lot of crap," Malott says of the ageism. "If I was older, I don't think we would have. When people see us get up onstage, they're like, 'Oh boy, these guys just got out of high school, here comes some Metallica.' But I think we make up for it by how we play."

Fellow musicians have particularly taken to the group. Members of Indie Pop trio The Giant Judys have championed them and Lisa Miller of wussy provided them with what Malott considers their greatest compliment, overlooking their ages by saying "don't let the boyish good looks fool you, these guys are old souls." It was a line they liked so much, they quoted it in early press kits.

"That made me feel great," says Malott. "Like, 'Thank God, someone doesn't just see us as a bunch of kids.' "



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500 MILES TO MEMPHIS (milestomemphis.com) plays at the Borders in Eastgate at 8 p.m. on Saturday. On Sunday, they'll be at the Southgate House playing in Junie's Lounge before the Drive By Truckers concert.

E-mail Mike Breen
- City Beat


"50 Miles to Dayton"

by Paul Barbatono
While searching for 500 Miles To Memphis on the Internet, I found links to such assorted fare as desk chairs, motorcycles, a real estate company in Texas, and a used 2001 BMW going for $21,000. I also found several band links indicating a quintet that is slowly becoming one of Cincinnati’s most revered country-punk acts. Ryan Mallot, guitarist/vocalist for 500 Miles To Memphis, provided the genre that his band most easily fits into early in our conversation last week.


“About three years ago, I was originally in a punk band without any of the guys I play with now,” he said. “I moved to Dallas with no intention of playing country music, and I was playing in my first country band within a week. I did that for a while and decided I needed some flavor with all that twang, so I moved back to Cincinnati and started the country punk band I’m currently involved with.”
The band released their self-titled debut last year on 3rd Silo Records, a label that boasts fellow Cincinnati acts Bagg, Len’s Lounge, and The Stapletons among its throng. Mallot is content with 3rd Silo for now but explains that the lure of the majors is always swimming around in his brain.
“We’re definitely ready,” he said. “But I’m not sure if I actually want to. People get screwed all the time and major labels just don’t care. All they’re worried about is making money, which is why they have so much of it. All I need from a label is good distribution, tour and promo help, and a trusting relationship.”
The 500 Miles To Memphis LP is a significant clash of punk n’ twang that would make for perfect background music to a hard-hitting docudrama about Johnny Cash or the soundtrack to your next Memorial Day cookout. The songs remind the listener of the work of guys such as Ryan Adams, Jon Langford and basically everything the Chicago label Bloodshot regularly releases. The music is heavy but familiar and impressive, and the band does their best to ably back Mallot’s shriek.
The music could almost be considered a mash-up, two significantly different types of music that mesh incredibly well together, if it wasn’t for the fact that country music (especially older country music, not so much current mainstream country music) holds many of the same ideals and notions of punk music. A lot of it is incredibly dark, sinister, and unbelievably brilliant. Mallot explained that the band begins and ends with his music, but that a sense of democracy is always existent.
“I write all the songs and lyrics and take them to practice with a pretty good idea of how I want it to sound,” he said. “Then it’s just a matter of working out certain parts and getting everyone’s input.”
Mallot also explained the precise, seemingly demanding process he’ll put himself through when writing lyrics and/or music for the band. This process can be different for any writer, in that many have different ways of going about it. Some can write on tour with the van groaning underneath their feet while others tend to write in fits and bursts wherever they’re most solitary and comfortable.
“I tend to write the lyrics and music together,” he said. “I find that if you start a ritual with songwriting, they all end up sounding the same. Hell, I’ve written songs naked in the woods before.”
Mallot’s passion for his home is evident in how he responded to the cancellation of the annual Cincinnati Pepsi Jammin’ On Main Festival — a yearly summer tradition for the city.
“Because of the cancellation of Jammin,’ myself and some friends decided to take it over and rename it Jammin’ On,” he said. “We’re gonna have over 50 bands on ten stages. It’s gonna be great. If that’s not exciting, I don’t know what is.”

500 Miles to Memphis will open for Link Wray at Canal Street Tavern, 308 E. 1st St., on Thursday, May 14. For more information, call (937) 461-9343. - Dayton City Paper


"Who the Hell Was That?"

500 Miles to Memphis
/ Self Titled CD
By Alana Mattar
The over-production that opens this album is in no way an indication of the sound that follows. Actually, it distracts from the obviously talented arrangements and vitality this piece offers.

This debut album makes you want to hear 500 Miles to Memphis live, and soon, afraid you might miss the opportunity to hear these guys before they get picked up by some national act and their ticket prices sky-rocket.

The group claims to be "country punk," and I'd agree, but I prefer to use the term "country" more lightly than a B105 listener. Lead singer, Malott tells a story in each of his songs, minus a platform. The lyrics do not hide behind blaring instrumentation or angry vocal explosions. The 500 Miles boys took a chance on a sound that is very different from anything this town is familiar with. Their attempt toward originality works, and works well.

If the energy and spunk that this album generates is any indication to their live performance, sign me up. The number one thing that this album has going for it, besides exceptional song writing, is that it will appeal to a variety of original music supporters and not just the punk rock audience.

Catch them at Alchemize 6.18.05 - Only Local Music


"Album Reviews"

"Editor's Pick! With summer coming to a close, it's almost time to put away those sunshine jams and break out music to get me through another Canadian winter. 500 Miles To Memphis is the perfect band to help us through that transition. Sunshine In A Shotglass goes just as well with an open window drive through the country as it does with a glass of stout by the wood stove. The band's combination of punk grit and attitude combined with country staples such as a vocal drawl and tales of remorse make the band appeal to Social Distortion's fans as much as Lucero's." - Punknews

- Punknews


"Going the Distance II"

I first met Ryan Malott, mastermind and sole original member of the local "Country/Punk" band 500 Miles to Memphis, four years ago. The band, a trio at the time, was fresh out of high school. Malott was 19.
He contacted me out of the blue about his band's new CD. He was persistent but polite, looking for some press for his fledgling group. I didn't know it at the time -- or maybe I didn't believe it -- but they were headed out on a long road trip that would literally take them all over the country.

I gave the CD a listen, expecting a generic, rough-around-the-edges Punk band playing Johnny Cash songs. Some of that record was just that. Back then they were less graceful at actually blending Punk and Country, more or less alternating between Punk and Country. And the playing wasn't exactly expert level.

But I heard something on that CD: Malott's genuine, raw-talent songwriting touch, especially on the tracks "'Nother Year Down the Toilet" and "Fireflies." His writing on those songs seemed like a different person than the one bashing out more Emo-y Punk Rock.

It certainly didn't seem like the work of a 19-year-old.

I set up an interview with the band, and Malott was last to arrive. Breathlessly coming through the door, he said something about being stuck at work in the small town of Milford, where he lived.

While amiable, Malott seemed a tad nervous, unsure of what to say. It was his first interview.

He told me about his brief move to Dallas, where he saw his first live Country band. This was a year prior, when he was all of 18.

I was somewhat stunned that this person sitting in front of me was the one who exhibited such a natural songwriting ability and had an instinctive, effortless style that didn't come off like someone trying to force a Country square peg into a Punk Rock round hole. Malott said he'd heard Country music all his life thanks to his grandparents but never thought much of it, especially when he got into high school and discovered Punk.

The song "'Nother Year Down the Toilet" feels like it could have been written 50 years ago. There were no phony hiccups, no "hillbillied up" gimmickry -- it just flowed like it was written by someone whose DNA was imprinted with traditional Country music.

I knew from those songs that Malott was a special talent. Talking with him, it was clear he was still pretty naive about it all.

I asked him if he'd heard Uncle Tupelo. He had no idea what I was talking about.

"'Nother Year Down the Toilet" could have been an Uncle Tupelo song. And he genuinely -- I could tell by the confused look on his face -- had no idea that they, the grandfathers of this AltCountry thing, had even existed.

That's when I was convinced that Malott wasn't just goofing off, trying to create a novelty act. It was no "See the Incredible Rowdy Band That Mixes Country Music With Punk Rock!" stunt -- although Malott was fine with marketing the band that way. The "hybrid" was just the way his songs came out.

He later tells me that he would get upset when he heard groups somewhat similar to his, like The Old 97's, a band he discovered only a year ago.

"I heard The Old 97's and I was like, 'Wow,' " Malott now says. "It hit me like a huge tidal wave. I was like, 'Oh my God, I'm not original! I thought this was totally new and no one's ever done this.' "

Four years ago, beneath the youthful wonderment and idealism, I could see that Malott was serious about his music career. He possessed a drive that seemed to say, "This is what I was meant to do. There's no way this isn't going to work."

So far so good. Today, Malott has a record deal, an electrifying band lineup, tour plans that include overseas gigging and a new album that stands as a bold statement about the fragile human condition and its ability to regenerate.

But, boy, it wasn't easy. It took way more than 500 miles to get to where Malott is today. And 42 different band members to help get him there.

High, lonesome, deep
As it happens, I not only popped Malott's interview cherry -- I'm also popping his "interview to talk about the big label-released album" cherry as well.

Malott, with his trucker cap and part-hipster/ part-Milford-boy sideburns, is eager to discuss the band's new album, Sunshine in a Shot Glass, their first for the respected North Carolina-based Punk indie label Deep Elm Records.

We meet at The Poison Room downtown. It's the first night of Eric Diedrichs' freshly relocated "Songwriter Night," something that -- in its years at Allyn's Cafe -- aided Malott and most of the other current 500 Miles band members' development as musicians.

"It's so perfect that we're meeting at Songwriter Night," Mallot says as we talk by the club's back door next to a row of garbage cans. "That's how Stephen (Kuffner, current guitarist) and I met. That's how I've met a lot of musicians in this town. That helped me get over some of my fears of playing live. It helped me hone my craft and - City Beat(cover story)


"Review"

"An entertaining blood-and-broken bottle country punk combo, on first listen 500 Miles To Memphis sound like the Old 97s fronted by Billy Joe Armstrong of Green Day. On paper, it really doesn't sound like a good idea, but when you give Sunshine In A Shotglass a go it's actually rather tasty. Other current alt country brethren come into the picture now and then, with similarities to Patty Hurst Shifter, Lucero and Drive By Truckers. The combination of a punk derived vocal style over a broken bottle, blood spitting, barroom country band makes for a rousing listen. These boys must be well worth seeing live!" - Americana UK - Americana UK


"Country Punk???"

"It starts with some fine fiddle work in the best bluegrass tradition, then quickly switches to a thrashy, punky twang. It is as great an intro tune as you'll find, setting the rowdy mood for this wonderfully demented rock 'n' roll hoedown. Welcome to Sunshine In A Shot Glass from 500 Miles To Memphis, the Cincinnati band that has truly mastered the punk-country vibe. A lot of bands have been experimenting with merging traditional hard country sounds with the alt-rock sound, but few do it as seamlessly as 500 Miles with their piercing soaring guitars, organ, fiddle and pedal steel. What really sets the album apart is Malott's deeply personal songwriting. He takes us on a debauched journey from alcohol and cocaine abuse to lost loves and finally a sort of peaceful resolution. It's not pretty, but somehow never depressing. The songs are 'whiskey-soaked,' begging to be played loud with a playful anger, waiting for a bar fight to break out. 500 Miles To Memphis has managed that rarity: a satisfying and complete work that is rowdy, heart-wrenching and full of wonderful roadhouse twangy thrashing rock." - Cincinnati Post - Cincinnati Post


"Listening..."

"Cincinnati's favorite sons, 500 Miles To Memphis, obviously have their share of Willie and Waylon CDs in constant rotation on their tour bus. Probably best described as country punk, the band blends the noise and energy of Social Distortion with the song writing of the Highwaymen. Think power chords with plenty of lap steel guitar. Sunshine in a Shot Glass is a solid take on the genre, showcasing a band that could hold its own against groups like Lucero or Drive-By Truckers. The songs take enough influence from punk and classic country that you can almost hear anyone from Johnny Cash to Rancid singing a song like Broken, Busted, Bloody. There are a dozen tracks here, and each is nearly as strong as the next." - Insite Atlanta - Insite Atlanta


"500 Miles to Memphis release amazing video for "Hold on Tight""

Cincinnati based punks 500 Miles to Memphis have released a video in collaboration with horror specialists Rue Morgue for their song “Hold On Tight”. The video is absolutely phenomenal, zombies, live shots and blood, lots and lots of blood. 500 gallons ironically enough.

Give the new video a watch below.

“Hold On Tight” comes from 500 Miles to Memphis’ upcoming album Blessed Be The Damned. Due out August 9th through Paper + Plastick, if this is just a taste, the rest of the album promises to be a real banger. If you’re a fan of The Raygun Cowboys or Lucero you will enjoy these guys. - Dying Scene


Discography

"500 Miles to Memphis" - 3rd Silo Records March 2005

"Sunshine in a Shot Glass" - Deep Elm Records June 2007

"We've Built Up to Nothing" - Deep Elm Records Feb 2010

"Stand There and Bleed" - Self-release Oct 31, 2014

"Revival(Live)" - Self-release Nov. 2018

"Basement Bluegrass Sessions"(EP) - Self-release Nov. 2018

"Blessed Be the Damned" - Self-release Jan. 25th, 2019

"Blessed Be the Damned"(re-release) - Paper + Plastick Records Aug. 9th, 2019

Photos

Bio

Formed in 2003, the boys of 500 Miles to Memphis came together on the banks of the Ohio River between Cincinnati, OH and Newport, KY.  Their genre-bending take on Americana and punk rock has been received worldwide in the form of movies, tv, video games, and their award-winning live shows.  Logging 250 performances a year, these indie road kings have been to hell and back. After taking a short break from touring in 2017, 500mtm has jumped back in the studio to deliver their 5th studio album with Old 97’s producer John Pedigo at the legendary Gwynne Sound in Cincinnati.  If you are a fan of high octane punk rock, bluegrass, and Appalachia, these boys are for you. The latest album “Blessed Be the Damned” is set for release on Jan. 25th, 2019.


  1. "They don’t sound like anyone else. At all. Or at any point… 500 Miles To Memphis have constructed something wonderful here… “Blessed Be The Damned”? Hell, yes. The Devil always has more fun, you see, and damn me, this is good." - Andy Thorley, Maximum Volume Music

  2. "Blessed has so many catchy songs, it’s easy to find yourself tapping your feet along with the groove instead of taking notes or writing a review, and nearly impossible to find a favorite. In short, if you like rock, you’ll like this album. The mean mountain riff of the title track, the 90s punk of “No Doubt About It,” the bluegrass-cum-cowpunk of “In My Chest” – the album is just good from front to back and might be 500 MTM’s best yet." - Brandon Wheeler, CincyMusic.com

  3. "Guitars crunch madly, spurred to high gallop by the same splendidly indomitable beat that's always propelled rock'n'roll. And robust vocals make fine topping for sometimes Celtic-informed "Americana Punk"-DC Larson's Jukebox

  4. "this bunch blows their sound wide open as this sounds nothing like the last 4 entries. Aggression is always in fashion and the malcontent vets brought in as ringers here know how to turn it up to 11." -MidwestRecord

  5. “500 miles to Memphis is a great American rock band that has been making infectious roots and punk music for years while managing to stay under the radar of the mainstream. This new record is everything that is good about rock ‘n’ roll.” - Ryan Smith(Soul Asylum, The Melismatics)

  6. “Still, one of the band’s most impressive feats is a more seamless blending of Country/Americana and Rock/Punk, a mix that is especially vibrant and powerful on Blessed.” - Mike Breen, CityBeat

  7. "If you like country-punk, these guys are the reigning kings." - Stephen Carradini, Independent Clauses

Band Members