Rock out in crunch country
By Simon McCormack
Like many musicians, Clayton Mills of Austin's Dixie Witch doesn't want his band to be pigeonholed into a single musical category. He seems especially perturbed by the name of the genre in which his band is most commonly placed.
"As far as calling us 'stoner rock,' I don't even smoke weed anymore," Mills says. "If your drug of choice determines your genre, then my genre would be 'Miller Lite, Marlboros and an occasional shot of tequila rock.'"
Regardless of their categorization, Dixie Witch's tunes speak for themselves. Most of the power trio's distinction comes from the country twang lurking just beneath the crackling guitars and symbol crash-happy drums. Sometimes it's merely the obvious Southern accent on one of the band's two lead vocalists. More often, it's a Southern-fried guitar lick that creeps out of the requisite wall of sound or a tempo that's designed for dancing—not blazing.
"A lot of bands say they're southern sounding but it's usually because they have a rebel flag on their guitar or on their T-shirts and they're really just metal," Mills says. "I think what stands out about us is that we have a classic, Southern rock edge to our vocals and melodies. It would be hard for any of us to be in a band where we didn't bring some of that to the table."
Since the band's inception in 1999, Dixie Witch has relentlessly toured the country, increasing the band's fan base and helping it conquer new musical territory. "It’s definitely made us more organic," Mills says. "We really play off each other live and we don't always play the songs verbatim. Trying to keep it interesting has led us to new material we wouldn't have considered if we were just sitting at home."
Dixie Witch's latest offering, Smoke and Mirrors, is the group's most cohesive and diversified release. Tracks like "Set the Speed" move at a breakneck pace (by "stoner rock" standards) and, like all good power trios that don't require a second guitarist, there's plenty of epic soundscapes despite a general lack of overdubbing.
As for what the band has been working on lately, nearly an album's worth of new material will be on display at Burt's Tiki Lounge on Friday, Nov. 9, when the band returns to Albuquerque for the first time in nearly two years. Blood of the Sun, Black Maria and Full Stride will give the 21-plus crowd all they can handle without costing them a dime.
"We're getting antsy," Mills says. "We haven't been on the road for a little while, which isn't normal for us and we're anxious to get out there and show people what we've been working on."
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