The Curly Wolf
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The Curly Wolf

Redondo Beach, California, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2013 | SELF

Redondo Beach, California, United States | SELF
Established on Jan, 2013
Band Rock Americana

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"Album review: CURLY WOLF – Calling Your Bluff"

The Curly Wolf [Release date 07.08.15]

‘Our aim is to show that there is more to country music than radio pop lets you believe’. Curly Wolf hammers home their sense of purpose with a defining mission statement and from the opening power of ‘Calling ‘Your Bluff’ you can see why. They draw on rock, country and hardcore punk, but they never fall short of a great melody and the true spirit of Rock & roll.

Sometimes they use traditional instruments such a banjo, fiddle, mandolin in a powerhouse style that tears genres asunder, but they always places the emphasis on harmony singing over the metronomic powerful rhythm section of drummer Mike Bouchard and bass player Matt Pliskin

On ‘Grind It ‘Till You Find It’ they tap onto the commercial hardcore of heartland rock, the current label on which Nashville hangs country rock, while the up tempo ‘Diesel Blood’ is an unlikely fusion of punk and country, and ‘Grow American’ is full of vim, vigour, real passion and an unlikely Mariachi trumpet.

Of course you could argue that they are late arrivals on a roots rock scene that has housed everyone from The Long Ryders to the alt. country styling of 16 Horse Power, and more recently heavier Anders Osborne, but they do have depth of songs to leave their own unique imprint. So while the melodic refrain of ‘I’ve Won’ does sound like several other bands, ‘Cadillac 62’ is a blistering country rocker wholly of their own making.

Front man Grant Benzinger phrases passionately on ‘Fall Back Down’, as the band cleverly incorporates a lap steel into a ripping arrangement, while the same instrument lies at the core of the more relaxed country ballad ‘ICU’, a song big on harmonies but in search of a memorable chorus.

By the time of ‘Meet Me At The Gasser, we’re into up tempo traditional country with some hot picking, but they finish defiantly on the magnificent ‘Radio Silence’. It’s a song with an independent message: “I don’t want to be, I don’t want to say, something I can’t look at no more’.

Benziger delivers his best performance on a lovely anthemic style waltz, with essential stream of consciousness lyrics: ‘Consensus is Texas, we’ve got a new play list now, worry no more, it’s a 100 years war I’m responsible for, coming through with nothing but the clothes that I wore, I can’t take it anymore’.

It’s the way the band charts a path through musical diversity before hitting bulls-eye on the concluding track that puts them above their contemporaries.

They say the best is always worth waiting for and you can almost extend the point from this particular track to the band as a whole, as contemporary roots rock never sounded better. ****

Review by Pete Feenstra

Pete Feenstra presents his Rock & Blues Show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio every Tuesday at 19:00 GMT, and “The Pete Feenstra Feature” on Sundays at 19:00 - Get Ready to Rock


"The Curly Wolf: The South Bay’s rising outlaws"

by Ed Solt

It is impossible to write about the Curly Wolf without diving into the culture around the band. The band is a product of the Gasser Lounge, drummer Mike Bouchard’s classy Redondo Beach establishment, which possesses the ambiance of badass Americana centered around a lit-up shrine to the Man in Black himself, Johnny Cash.

Bouchard’s infamous “Creep Machine” ‘Econoline decked in ‘70s vanning steeze sits in the parking lot. The waterhole is for the patron who doesn’t mind listening to the heartbreak of a Patsy Cline song followed by the howling of the Misfits’ Glenn Danzig while clenching a strong drink in a tattooed fist. The Curly Wolf has also been behind the annual underground vanning and biking cultural event, the “Escape to Hazzard County” camp out in Santa Barbara County.

The Curly Wolf first came together when one of the Gasser Lounge locals, Kyle, who lives down the street, encouraged Bouchard to check out the links to the videos of his cousin playing the banjo.

“I always get emails to book bands at the bar. I normally will go through the videos for twenty seconds and be nice as possible to the bands that we don’t really do live bands,” said Bouchard. “Kyle always thought his cousin was a perfect fit for Gassers. Then I get a video of this dude on a banjo. I had to have him play. Kyle was right.”

This “dude on a banjo” happened to be Grant Benziger from the San Francisco Bay Area. Benziger’s musical style stood out, an uptempo traditional country sound combined with a unique vocal delivery, hinting at a punk rock background. Benziger came down and set up shop with Matt Pliskin, Curly Wolf’s stand-up bassist, who slaps away intensely as the cornerstone of the band, at the Gasser Lounge 3rd Anniversary Party.

In 2012, Bouchard asked the Curly Wolf to play the inaugural “Escape to Hazzard County” camp out, described by Bouchard “as an event purely focused on good ol’ fashioned redneck fun.”

“They were f***ing killing it, playing on a flatbed farm truck. It was a party,” Bouchard said.

During the set, while Benziger and Pliskin were jamming, Bouchard found a metal can and drumsticks, joined them on set and started banging away. He joked afterward, “I’m in the band.”

“It felt 100 percent natural. Like he had been in the band for years with us,” said Benziger. “We were grinning ear to ear the whole time so we knew this was the future of Curly Wolf.”

“I had him at ‘Hey, man,” joked Bouchard, continuing, “We all see and eye-to-eye on music. I knew this when I asked if I could play double bass drum.” [Double bass is commonly only used in Metal, just another example of the band’s eclectic sound.]
Although The Curly Wolf has played festivals with the likes of Huey Lewis, The Doobie Brothers, and Heart, Escape to Hazzard County is where they have the most fun. The event often is referred to as “Camp Curly Wolf,’ a joke printed on a t-shirt for the second camp out. Since 2012, they have partnered with Rolling Heavy Magazine, a killer publication focused on the resurgent Custom Van culture of the 70s, to build a bigger and better event.

“We’re not trying to sell you anything. We’re not trying to impress anyone. We’re not trying to make money,” Bouchard said. “We just want to party with fun people who like vans, bikes, music, and hillbilly shenanigans.”

Besides Bouchard, other members of the band have a part in the production. Benziger handles promotion and ticketing. Pliskin is the sound/tech guy along with Paul Moses of the band Freestone.

“Matt also sets up a pretty mean private camp kitchen. Ol’ boy can work wonders on a tiny camp stove,” Bouchard said.

The recently added fourth member, who plucks with fury on the mandolin, is Billy Lupton. He works the monitor. “Escape to Hazzard County” is preparing for its fifth camp out on November 12.

“It is a perfect fit,” said Bouchard. “There’s so much that goes into an event and those 18 hour days are grueling. But the payoff is worth it. It’s that much sweeter.”
In 2013, the Curly Wolf released a full-length record, “Both Barrels.” They have currently been at work on their sophomore effort, “Calling your Bluff,” at the legendary GrandMaster Recorders in Hollywood, which produced albums for the Foo Fighters, No Doubt, Queens of the Stone Age, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Beck, and Bad Religion.

“The acoustics are incredible. I recorded my drum parts in the same room where the Foo Fighters recorded the drums for ‘My Hero,’” Bouchard said.

“It felt like we were recording in a haunted 70s pirate ship,” Benziger said.
The band builds on a sound that combines a foundation of roots country and bluegrass with rock ‘n’ roll, outlaw country, and punk.

“We cross over to many genres well, and are embraced by fans of country, punk, and metal,” said Bouchard. “We don’t stand still. Our raw energy at shows makes us better live.”

On Friday, May 13, the Curly Wolf will be releasing a cover of Danzig’s “13” in homage to its influences.

“It’s a really cool story. Danzig wrote it for Johnny Cash and he loved it and told a story about how they met in the studio,” Benziger said. “It’s a really special way to honor two of our heroes in one song, you know? Then Danzig did his version after Johnny passed.”

All roads meet at the Gasser Lounge, where band members conjoin for various shenanigans. That chemistry, a hard-living friendship, is a palpable force wherever they play.

“We are not one of those bands that only meet for shows,” Bouchard said. “After all the hours we spend together working, we are happy to hang out after for a few drinks at The Gasser Lounge.”

The Curly Wolf plays Saint Rocke on Friday May 6. Doors open at 6 p.m. Show starts at 8 p.m. For tickets and more info, see SaintRocke.com ER - Easy Reader News


"Local Musician Spotlight: 6 questions for Grant Benziger"

JM BERRY
INDEX-TRIBUNE MUSIC WRITER | April 14, 2016

When you hear the name Benziger, especially here in Sonoma, your mind immediately goes toward wine. But in the case of Grant Benziger, you’d be wrong.

Oh, he still enjoys the fruits of the vine, but music was his calling from way back in his younger days. When he used to sit in his father’s office, dad Mike Benziger saw the young man taking a keen interest in the music on the radio and encouraged Grant – leading to a father-son trip to Klein’s Music for a $100 guitar. Young Grant couldn’t put it down.

Born and raised in Sonoma County, once he turned 18 Benziger was off to Hollywood to chase his dreams and attend music school at the Musicians Institute. He eventually hooked up with some like-minded musicians who also had appreciation for a variety of musical genres, punk, metal and country, and Curly Wolf was born. The band has now moved to Redondo Beach, which seems to be more to Benziger’s liking than Hollywood.

Curly Wolf will be at B&V Whiskey Bar and Grille tonight, kicking off at 9 p.m. Benziger told us recently about his favorite music and whatever happened to that $100 guitar from Klein’s.

Many musicians in our generation cite the Beatles on Ed Sullivan as that moment when they knew music was what they wanted to do. When did you realize you wanted to be a musician?

Literally the moment I touched a guitar. Once my dad bought it for me, I rarely didn’t have it attached to me. I think one of the moments was when I saw the Bodies at the Phoenix Theater in Petaluma about 2001. To see people I knew rocking like that really inspired me. Then my brother took me to a Metallica concert at Candlestick and that was it. I knew then for sure.

Do you still have that $100 guitar from Klein’s?

That sunlight acoustic I got at Klein’s... yes, I still have it. It stays in Glen Ellen and I play it when I’m back home. My nieces play with it now and that’s nice to see.

Who are your primary influences?

For me, it’s ever evolving. Clearly we’re rooted in punk, metal and country, but I’ve tried hard to embrace all genres of music. Just because I like metal doesn’t mean I can’t like Dr. Dre or reggae. My sound turns into a melting pot of all my influences.

What CD or playlist is in your car or your iPod?

Boy, anything from Hank Williams III to Mastadon. Although, when we’re writing it’s primarily our mixes and that’s what is there primarily now. We have a new single that is really different for us that I can’t wait to release.

Tell us about Curly Wolf. Are you playing with anyone else?

The Curly Wolf is the main act, but we have this interesting concept act that is kind of a cross between the Blue Man Group and Alice Cooper called Dead Marionette Theater. It’s really a Halloween style show with lots of theatrics and stage stuff going on. The dream is to bring that act to Vegas.

If you could have written one song, which one would it be?

Oh man, I’ve actually thought about that a lot of times, and came up with a lot of songs. I honestly think if you asked me every day, you’d get a different answer. - Sonoma Index-Tribune


Discography

Still working on that hot first release.

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Bio


Diesel fuel, burning tires, and Fernet-Branca…that would be the aroma coming out of your speakers if you could smell the music. The Curly Wolf delivers a hard charging alt-country rock sound that comes from a variety of musical and cultural influences. Cash, Hank, Waylon…Rancid, The Misfits, Queens of The Stone Age…Trucks, Choppers, Vans…these are the common threads that brought these boys together to create an aggressive new music alternative to today’s standard country music.

Born on a Northern California ranch, Grant Benziger picked up the guitar at an early age and quickly developed his skills. He discovered punk and heavy metal through the local skate punk scene and immediately started putting his own bands together. At the ripe age of 14 he was fronting punk bands and playing bars and clubs he normally wouldn’t have been allowed to step foot in as a minor. His diesel-trucking brother soon showed him the ways of traditional and underground country music. Grant instantly took to the sounds of Hank Williams, Pasty Cline, Johnny Cash and many other old-time country legends. This influence began to meld with his current style and he began to develop his own aggressive rocking country sound.

Mike Bouchard spent most of his adolescent and college years in Georgia where he played in local punk and rock bands. In high school he quickly advanced to Captain of the drum line where he developed much of the chops he still uses in the band. After a move to Los Angeles, Mike opened Gasser Lounge in Redondo Beach- the place to go if you like your music loud and your drinks stiff! The bar would later play a key role in the creation and development of The Curly Wolf. Mike’s style is loud and heavy. He is the backbone to The Curly Wolf sound.

Matt Pliskin was born and raised in Los Angeles County’s South Bay. Growing up in an area responsible for bands like Black Flag, The Descendents, Circle Jerks, and Pennywise, Matt couldn’t help but be heavily influenced by the genre. He followed in the footsteps of these influences playing bass in various hardcore punk bands around the South Bay. It was through the sounds of rockabilly and pyschobilly that he realized the power of the upright bass. Matt and Grant attended the same music school in LA, but only linked up after answering an ad Grant posted looking for likeminded musicians. This was the start of The Curly Wolf.

From Nirvana and Metallica to The Wu-Tang Clan and NOFX, Billy’s musical influences run the gamut in punk, metal, and hip-hop. Billy played guitar in local punk and metal bands for over a decade. One day he heard some Bill Monroe and immediately fell in love with the mandolin and became fanatical about learning to master it. As a fan of the Curly Wolf Billy really wanted to play with the guys, so he offered his services and started joining their set from time to time. It was an immediate and natural fit. He continued to play more and more Curly Wolf shows, so much so that they decided to make it official and the band now had a full time mandolin player. Billy’s aggressive yet beautiful (Mike likes to call it twinkly) sound on the mandolin really rounds out the Curly Wolf sound.

As previously mentioned, Mike’s Gasser Lounge played a key role in the formation of this group. Mike had received a copy of a unique cover Grant and Matt had made of “Die, Die, Die” by the Misfits. Mike instantly loved this version with Grant pick’n the banjo and Matt slappin’ the upright bass. Mike decided to have them play the 3rd Anniversary party for his bar. Instantly a crowd favorite, this was the beginning of not only great new friendships but a new musical movement in the South Bay. Like the legendary punk bands that came before them, The Curly Wolf is rallying against the status quo. They are creating a harder, more aggressive style of country music that pays homage to its roots while trying to push the genre forward.


Band Members