The Culls
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The Culls

Calgary, Alberta, Canada | INDIE

Calgary, Alberta, Canada | INDIE
Band Americana Bluegrass


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos



"Culling the Country from Rock and Roll"

Thursday Nov 8, 2007

Heath McCoy, Calgary Herald

There's no doubt about it, Rick Overwater struggles with the suggestion that his new country band The Culls sounds like it has garage rock blood coursing through its veins on its debut CD, If Your Horse Returns Alone.

It's not that Overwater is in any way ashamed of his rock influences. He vented them with glee for years in his former band, Agriculture Club, where country music, punk and metal were all elements of the group's raucous sound. But he really did mean for The Culls to be his pure, honky tonk statement.

"For every three Agriculture Club rock songs I wrote, another one would come out so country and I didn't want to bastardize it," he says.

Those songs that Overwater so carefully protected now form the bulk of The Culls' repertoire.

And to be sure, The Culls is playing its own take on country music on If Your Horse Returns Alone, with genuine strains of honky tonk and bluegrass running through the recording, along with tasty mandolins, lap steel work, and Overwater's own redneck drawl.

But there's also a rhythm section that hammers the beat home with rock abandon. There's a raw, scrappy energy to The Culls' approach that you're far more apt to hear in a garage than at a barn dance.

Overwater acknowledges all of this, but on this project he seems worried that people won't hear the traditional country influences that are the album's true point of inspiration.

"I would like to think that people who hear this band won't automatically go, 'Oh, there's a rock guy playing country,' because this is genuine," Overwater says.

"I don't mind if people hear those (rock) influences, but I'd consider it a bit of a failure on my part if (the country side) came off as just an affectation.

This is a genuine extension of me."

But Overwater shouldn't sweat about whether country or rock comes through in the mix, because The Culls -- with Todd Maduke on guitar and mandolin, Michael Platt playing the bass and Mike Semenchuck on drums -- boast a cool chemistry, either way.

Check out the ominous hillbilly stomp of A Warning Shot From The Lord, or the rock meets bluegrass thrash of Country Boy's Revenge.

"Bluegrass is the speed metal of country," says Overwater, again taking pains to put the emphasis on pure country where The Culls is concerned. "Some of that intense drive that might sound like rock really comes from our bluegrass influences. . . . A lot of those old cats could play at light speed."

Overwater formed The Culls about two years ago as an avenue for bringing life to the country songs he was writing. The name The Culls is a tip of the hat to his youth, growing up on a farm.

"That comes from the saying 'culling the herd,' "

Overwater says. "When you cull cattle, it's a rural term for putting aside the rejects and the left-behinds. I thought it was a pretty good name for a country band.

"I try to insert country (references) into my stuff, because I think that's where country music has gone wrong. The soul of rural life is no longer there in the songs because no one is living that life any more.

It used to be that 90 per cent of the culture was rural and 10 per cent was urban. Now it's the other way around."

Overwater had meant to juggle his time between The Culls and Agriculture Club, but eventually, the latter band "kind of went into suspended animation," he says, the members all immersed in new projects.

"When I finally realized nobody was coming back, I took the website down."

Despite his commitment to a country vision with The Culls, Overwater admits that his love for hard rock lingers. To exorcise it, he says, "I'd need some sort of brain surgery where you severed one lobe."

To satisfy those rock 'n' roll demons in his soul, he's currently putting together a hard rockin' side project.

"I think if I don't play rock, that influence creeps into my country music," he says, "and I'm really trying to keep the two separated."

- The Calgary Herald

"Culling the phoniness in country music"

Do-it-yourself inspiration

Published November 8, 2007 by Mary-Lynn Wardle in Music Previews

Don't be fooled by the breezy, lovably silly first track on Alberta band The Culls' debut album, If Your Horse Returns Alone. While "Mathematician Blues" tallies up a list of professionals that a wronged lover would like to enlist to spread the bad news on their no-longer-significant other, the album soon plunges into an odd sort of darkness, albeit a darkness dressed in humorous rags.

Taking a break from watching Peter Pan with his toddler daughter, Culls singer-songwriter Rick Overwater explains that the juxtaposition of darkness and humour is natural to someone raised in the country. While he terminated a viewing of Dumbo at one of the more cruel scenes a few nights earlier, Overwater has no worries his daughter will grow up sheltered from reality.

"We do live out here in the country; I'll be shooting gophers by spring. And she's already seen me taking dead mice out of the traps," he says from the three acre spread between Olds and Didsbury his family moved to in August. "That's why I wanted to get out of the city. I want my kid to think it's OK to shoot and eat your own animals. I was four or five when one of our cattle aborted, and I didn't know what I was looking at but I knew it was a pretty heavy thing."

It was a few weeks after the cattle incident that young Rick was in his daddy's pickup outside of a Texaco station when he heard Johnny Cash sing "I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die." He knew he had found another heavy thing in life, a kind of music that reflected the dark side of rural life.

"That's what's lacking in country these days, is the frickin' country, if you ask me," Overwater says. "I try to make the country references really legitimate. I try to make sure I've seen them and lived them because I find most county songs these days, when it does have some rural reference, it's some city kid that plays good lap steel who is pulling it from another country song because no one lives that life anymore."

A third-generation member of an Alberta homesteading family, Overwater recalls growing up in a farmhouse where the water was hauled in a bucket. He left the prairie to move to the shining city, eagerly attracted by university, girls, bars and the chance to start a heavy metal band. As a rural kid in an urban landscape, he says he was made to feel like a hick for years until he realized it was a reference he could capitalize on in his music. He co-founded the popular Agriculture Club and spun copious odometer miles during years of touring. Ag Club's eventual demise led Overwater to round up guitarist and mandolin player Todd Maduke, bassist Michael Platt and drummer Mike Semenchuck and form The Culls.

While Ag Club mixed country with a metal feel, The Culls sound is tempered with more of a country-bluegrass feel than a metal one (though Overwater does describe bluegrass as "the speed metal of country"). It's a more rural sound for a man who's returned to his rural life.

"People in the country don't have the need for irony," Overwater explains. "They confront death and butcher their own cattle all the time, but at the same time, their outlook is not as bleak. Bluegrass has so many great happy songs with totally vile lyrics — they are happy, clap-your-hands songs, but then the lyrics are death and dismemberment and tragedy and heartbreak and then more death. It's not 'your dad hangs out with junkies,' it's 'your dad would never spend 80 bucks to put a pet down.' You do it yourself."

- FFWD Magazine


Full length (2007): If Your Horse Returns Alone, Transistor 66 Records

Currently charting on national campus radio




Transistor 66 Record Co. is proud to announce the release of THE CULLS debut, If Your Horse Returns Alone

Somewhere theres a place where country musics rural cliches are replaced by genuine hands-on Albertan farmboy experience. Where gospel-inspired lyrics espouse spirituality and soul searching with neither sanctimony nor empty-hearted imitation. Where the feel-good-even-when-singing-about-dark-deeds influence of bluegrass rings out loud and clear. And where the sensibilities of honky tonk pioneers like Ol Waylon,
Cash, and Haggard arent just given lip service before being varnished with a thick
coating of radio-gloss. No one really knows where this wonderful place is. But if it has a stereo, The Culls new CD on Transistor 66 Records, If Your Horse Returns Alone, is being played
regularly. Armed with acoustic and electric guitars, lots of mandolin, some lap steel and a bricksolid
rhythm section, The Culls are a quartet of seasoned Calgary stage veterans from
bands including The Rhythmaires and Agriculture Club (to name just a couple).

Songwriting is why The Culls get out of bed in the morning and few can argue that their own lyrics of redemption, regret, murder, more redemption and even more regret dont hold their own with the venerable greats in their set list.

Sure, theyre no strangers to the concept of small town bar survival, and can bust out public domain bluegrass and old honkytonk covers til the cows come home. But thats not why they get on stage. And rest assured, with a new album under their belts and a bullet-proof live show, youll be glad they did.

Contact Art MacIntyre:
Phone 204.981.8266
Bookings: Rick Overwater,

Band Members