Sometimes I love the internet. One day, thanks to some social networking subscriptions I came across a video of the Bailey Hounds doing a cover of Pantera’s “The Great Southern Trendkill“. I was immediately intrigued. The cover was performed acoustically, during a radio show, and the band did a phenomenal job. It really was like hearing the song all over again. With my newfound interest in the band, I began digging for more, and found a Philly-based band, who are truly committed to their art. If you are familiar with my previous posts you will know that I have little use for labels in regards to music, I use two, good and bad, so I will not attempt to classify these guys other than to say they are good. Their debut album, Along The Gallows can be streamed and purchased from their website thebaileyhounds.com, I recommend doing so. The album for me, has an instant rapport, it is instantly personal. While you listen to the tracks, they could have been written about your life. My favorites include “Devil Tree”, and ”Always on the Wrong Side”.
Recently I had the opportunity to “sit down” with Ryan Petrillo, vocalist/guitarist and songwriter for the band, and I asked him a few questions:
Dan Warden: Tell me about the band. Whatever you feel is important, but I’m leaning towards, when did you get together, how long have you been together, were some of you in other bands before etc.
Ryan Petrillo: What I can say about the genesis of The Bailey Hounds is that it was initially started by Gary and myself. I had recently left my friend’s band, Liam and Me, after being on tour with them for about two years. I wasn’t a part of the writing process, and I was itching to play my own music. When I ran out of money and couldn’t afford the touring life any longer, I hunted down a Philadelphia drummer and found Gary. He had played extensively in the Philly folk and bluegrass scene and once we met and started playing, that started things off. That was about three years ago. However, the band we have today has only really been around and performing regularly for about a year. With the upcoming year, we’ll be releasing new music, new covers, and playing outside the tri-state area pretty extensively. We’re in the midst of setting up a tour headed south for early April.
DW: Who were and are your influences?
RP: I think citing “influences” is a tremendously difficult thing to do because as music lovers and musicians, we are exposed to so many artists and genres; we really take a little from all of our interests, regardless of time periods & genres. I grew up hearing Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Bruce, & Zeppelin on my Pop’s record player, so I was always surrounded by that. As a teenager, I really only listened to metal & punk, and as I got older and broadened my horizons a significant amount, I really started becoming enamored with artists like Ryan Adams and Iron & Wine. I think each of us in the Hounds has our own Top 5, you could say, and we all bring a bit of that to the table—a mosaic of all the music we grew up on, whether that means Led Zeppelin, Grateful Dead, Hot Water Music, Tom Waits, or Pantera.
DW: I watched a YouTube video of you regarding the Dylan cover and heard you say you had been in Punk and Metal bands before. Why the change?
RP: The change wasn’t anything consciously done. I always wrote songs for myself, and at the point where my hardcore band could’ve gone one way or the other, I decided to move to Scotland to study Gothic literature. I suppose that really ended the era for me.
DW: If you could pick one album that changed your life, what would it be?
RP: It’s not an easy task to choose a single album that changed my life, but honestly, Pantera‘s The Great Southern Trendkill and Ryan Adams‘ Love is Hell both had a profound effect on me and how I approached music.
DW: Getting to Along the Gallows, what was the recording process like?
RP: We recorded at Racetrack Sound Studios in South Philly with Shane Moore & Lance Davis, who were a real team in the process. The studio was incidentally only blocks away from my apartment, so on summer days, I’d stroll over there with the scent of Termini‘s canolli and Pat’s Cheesteaks in the air and knock out vocals for a song or two. We only recorded on weekends and I think at times the process felt like a train pushin’ an old car down the tracks or something. We’d go weeks sometimes without hearing what we recorded and when we finally did…well, it was often just a relief that we were getting the sounds we wanted. The studio was a comfortable place for us and Shane & Lance sacrificed a lot of their time getting the right feeling and shades and dynamics out of the songs.
DW: After seeing/hearing your cover of The Great Southern Trendkill, I started digging into the band. You seem to have a decent amount of exposure, why the decision to self release the album?
RP: Ha, honestly, there was never another option besides a self-release. I don’t think it’s a decision we consciously made per se, but I think for our first album, it’s definitely something we all felt compelled to do. We put a lot into the album, even down to making the physical cases of the CDs ourselves. Every decision we made about the album was ours, and I’m not sure that would have been the case if we hadn’t released it independently.
DW: Is it difficult to book gigs in Philly with your sound?
RP: It isn’t. Many of our favorite bands we play with, like our buddies in Ruby the Hatchet, don’t sound anything like us, but I think there’s some inexplicable thing that makes us feel real comfortable playing shows together. We want to have fun, put on a good show, hang out with friends & fans, and enjoy what the bar has to offer. There’s actually a pretty thriving folk scene here in Philly, but for whatever reason, we haven’t been a part of it.
DW: Are there labels courting the band?
RP: Nope. There are no labels courting the band, but if there were, I don’t know if it’s something we’d be interested in. Being on a label doesn’t seem to have the same meaning as it did in another age. I read some comment that was posted after the Pantera video came out about how all these major labels were apparently courting the band and I was like, “Whoa! Awesome. Wait, no, no…that’s a lie.”
DW: Listening to the Album I find a common theme runs throughout. To me it seems like loss, death and the devil but even though dark themes abound I get the idea that this album is about love and life. A challenge to preconceived notions of love and happiness. Emphasizing the point that death and loss are necessary for life and love. Your thoughts?
RP: Writing for me is a very natural process and I think all of those themes make their way onto the album. I never really thought any of these songs would ever be recorded or played with a full band, so I can’t say that I ever had any intentions about what themes might run throughout the album; I just wrote what I felt I had to say at the particular moment the song was being written.
DW: You might not be able to answer, but what is your favorite song on the album? Or at least what was the most fun to record?
RP: Yeah, I don’t think I can say if I have a favorite. I like how “Along the Gallows” and “Devil Tree” came out. We had Mike “Slo-Mo” Brenner come play pedal-steel on “Along the Gallows” and it really completed the song for me; pedal-steel is my favorite instrument, and I always heard it somewhere in the song. “Devil Tree” was just a fun process because we got to experiment so much with sounds and textures; Vince used a bow on the second-half of the track and played some ambient stuff using a quarter on the strings. Actually, I consider the two songs sister-songs, and I think having them on the album was important to me. I’m pleased with how they turned out, though if you could hear the demo versions I recorded in my room however long ago, I think you’d be surprised with how far they’ve come and developed.
DW: Enlighten me to your songwriting process. As a songwriter myself I find talking to other songwriters that the process for each of us is a little different. With some songs I have written, I wrote the music first then the lyrics, I have almost never been able to write lyrics then add music, and for the songs that I consider my best, I did both at the same time. What works for you?
RP: I usually pick up my Pop’s ’76 Martin, and if something sounds good, I keep playing it. Eventually, I have a melody, and if I’m lucky, lyrics just start pouring out. After I have the skeleton of the song, I bring it to the guys and we play it till we’re sick.
DW: How did the Pantera cover come about? Just so you know I listen to it at least five or six times a week. I have always been a Pantera fan, and also a big fan of Down. Phil Anslemo writes some amazing songs. Listening to the original, you get the idea of the lyrics, but they are expressed through anger and aggression. Your cover puts a new spin on the idea. It becomes personal, for me it is easier to internalize pain and remorse than aggression. So thanks for helping me rediscover a great song.
RP: The Pantera cover was a very unconscious thing. I had been a Pantera fan since I could buy my own cassette tapes, and I always wanted to pay tribute to the band somehow. I had been playing this version of “Trendkill” in my room whenever I had downtime; “The Great Southern Trendkill” was always one of my favorite Pantera songs, and I eventually showed it to the other fellas in the band. They dug it, and we played it at shows a handful of times. The song—to me—always sounded like there was just dirt all over the place. Dirt in the amplifiers and grit in the crevices of the snare. Sand in the microphone and really just this impossible rawness. I remember vividly where I was the first time I heard it in 1996. I was only about thirteen then and I think my Mom was probably thinking, “Oh no…what just happened to my son?” When Spike Eskin of WYSP asked us to come on to play our Bob Dylan cover, I asked if we could do the Pantera cover instead—it seemed only appropriate, figuring it was a station prone to playing heavier music. I didn’t think the video would be seen by more than a few friends & fans, so when it started spreading and Pantera posted it on their Facebook page, it was pretty wild for me. I knew some people would be upset by the approach to the cover, but I was hoping that the majority of people would recognize that it was paying homage to a band steeped in dark southern roots. I got a kick out of some of the comments people were making, but hell, I never expected Pantera fans to even hear the cover, let alone call it anything but blasphemy. I was actually really overjoyed with the amount of positive feedback and really appreciative of all the people who understood where I was coming from.
Thanks to Ryan for taking the time to answer all my crazy questions, and at times be a gushing fan…. Again if you haven’t already check out The Bailey Hounds.