SlakJaw
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SlakJaw

Denver, Colorado, United States | SELF

Denver, Colorado, United States | SELF
Band Americana Punk

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SlakJaw’s songs, like “Bullet in the Guts” and “Soup Line Lament,” quickly suck the audience onto their crazy train of wild, dirty music, labeled “Bum-Core.” Everyone listening is “hobo-fied” with the band’s Woody Guthrie/Blues/let’s-start-a-fire-by-the-train-tracks-and-sing sound. Recently, I spoke with Bobby Genser, guitar and vocals, and Chuck Stake, guitar and lead vocals, for the band.



Chuck tells me about getting started. “Terry O’Quinn from the show, Lost, inadvertently taught me how to sing and strum at the same time. I was working on a movie set when I got out of school, and he used to bring his guitar to the set and sing Hank Williams’ songs between scenes.” SlakJaw has been playing about three years after first starting out as Trainshine back in the 90s. Other members of the band, Mathew Hunter and Ero Guy, (“gut-bucket” bass/vocals and washboard/drums, respectively), have known one another since they were kids. Chuck adds, “We had always meant to start a louder and more raucous version of that band. So, we did. And we called it SlakJaw.” After seeing them play at The Bluebird, Bobby Genser joined in.



“I have been playing for while. I never, ever, take the ability to play for granted,” Bobby tells me. “It is the one thing that separates me from the rest of the herd. Some people look to God and religion for help with their hard questions. I have music and my guitar to help me answer the really tough ones.” He adds, “Oh you can shred on the guitar? So what? Nobody cares anymore and it’s nothing new, but can you write a simple tune that will make a generation of people turn their heads and bend their ears?” Good question for any musician or writer to ask themselves.



Genser must have worked out quite a lot this way as he rips everything he’s doing to shreds while on stage. To hear him is to definitely forget about feeling “down and out” in any way. You will thank him before you leave the show. Mathew plays what is called the “gut-bucket” bass. Watching them set up is part of the show. They have an interesting talisman made of guitar, skull and candelabra. Then Mathew sets up the bass. It is a giant stick with a single string, perched on a bucket. Oh yeah, and it’s electric. “It’s an ancient instrument,” Mathew says after I ask what the hell it is.



Dream gig? Bobby answers: “A flatbed truck, with SlakJaw playing to thousands of freight-hoppin’ hobos at the national hobo festival.” X

- Colorado Music Buzz


While most bands view dive bars as an unfortunate stepping stone they must climb before they can entertain thousands of people at massive venues, there are a select few groups like Denver’s Slakjaw that embrace the seedy, dimly lit clubs as home.

It’s no coincidence that Slakjaw fits in with venues like the Lions Lair and the Larimer Lounge; the idea for the band came while they were surveying alcoholics at a dive bar and thinking about the type of music the down-and-out barflies would like to hear. The soon-to-be band mates came up with their bum core sound, which they describe as Mad Max meets Woodie Guthrie.

“We want to play something entertaining, but you can still hear yourself think,” said Chuck Stake, Slakjaw’s kazooist, guitarist and lead vocalist. “Bands got to think about the room they are playing in instead of thinking about the room they want to be playing in.”




No ‘trustifarians’

Slakjaw simply wouldn’t work if the band members were college age trust fund kids who were slumming it in an attempt to be authentic. But after seeing the band play live, it’s clear that these four guys are legitimate and about as far as “trustafarians” as it gets.

Bobby Genser, one of Slackjaw’s vocalists and guitarists, was homeless in San Francisco before traveling around the country in his car for a year and a half.

“We have all lived a rough life, everybody has been on the streets before,” he said. “But I think even people who haven’t been through the hardships can relate to the music. There’s a romanticism to the bum’s life, having that sense of freedom.”




Getting noticed

Slakjaw freely admits that they are terrible at promoting themselves. The band is searching out a manager and only reluctantly embraced MySpace, calling it a necessary evil. However, a set of high profile gigs — including a sold out show with Slim Cessna’s Auto Club at the Bluebird Theatre — the four-piece has garnered some local attention and notoriety.

But regardless of how far Slakjaw goes, the band’s dream is likely different than every other musician in town.

“If we had a platform to sit in front of some hobos and play our music, that would be awesome,” said Genser. “It’s a lonely time out there and these are lonely songs.”

- Denver Daily News


Last Tuesday’s line-up at the Larimer Lounge was auspicious enough that even Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper was there. And Denver, if you ever had any doubt about how truly rad your mayor is, imagine him enjoying a few beers to the homeless tunes of Slak Jaw. ‘Nuff said.

Denver’s Slak Jaw performed a 40-minute set of self-proclaimed “Bum-Core” before Skeletonbreath, a style by which they stand steadfast and empassioned. They sound exactly like what you might expect to hear huddled around a flame-filled oil can a few miles north of the Larimer stage, and they’re damned proud of it.

Lead guitarist Bobby Genser shared vocal and guitar duties with frontman Floyd Hill, who belted out a gritty voice that provided a perfect punk-rock inflection to wino lyrics. He sounded like a combination of Shane McGowan and Jello Biafra. Meanwhile, Matthew Hunter, standing on the overturned washbucket that served as the base for his “gut bucket bass,” added a perfect rhythm section with Ero Guy’s snare, bass and three cymbal trapset.

Slak Jaw’s appearance is as vital to their booze-infused music as its anthemic sound. Hunter’s bass, with it’s free-floating rod and single string, was topped with a maraca and some tambourine cymbals. The band had set up a guitar altar in front of the stage made from a worn-down acoustic topped by an animal’s skull and two candelabras. To keep the mystique alive after the show, they sold soup cans with Slak Jaw branding that contained (according to the label) “Pure Love, Pork and Beans,” and provided a single stick of chewing gum in their cardboard CD packing, presumably to mask some inevitable whiskey breath.

Or could that have been meant for Skeletonbreath?
- Denver Post --Reverb


For the uninitiated, SlakJaw plays a brand of jug band-based blues that drips profusely with alcoholism, heartbreak and pure beauty. The quartet features Hunter, who plays standing on the overturned washtub of his bass, singer/songwriter Floyd Hill (an old-school Denver scenester not many degrees of separation from another legendary local band, The Denver Gentlemen) on guitar and heart-wrenching, drummer Ero Guy on snare and sticks, and guitarist Bobby Genser. Their place in the Lion’s Lair seems more congruent than the famous black linoleum bartop and bright red ceiling. Expect to be regaled with booze-soaked stories of damnation and redemption, beauty and pain, hobos and hookers, most set in bars just like the Lair. - Denver Thread


Discography

200 Proof Bum-Core

Photos

Bio

SlakJaw's mission is to create great jug-band music with a rowdy bar-band attitude. The band played its first show in 2006, and has gone on to play practially every venue along Colorado's Front Range. Slakjaw has also shared the stage with national acts such as John Doe, The Legendary Shack Shakers, Slim Cessna's Auto Club, Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band, The Detroit Cobras, Tim Barry, and many more.