For Brent Amaker & the Rodeo, punk-rock cowboy attitude has become a way of life

There was, of course, a time when Brent Amaker didn’t always wear a cowboy outfit, but those days are gone.

Now the suits have essentially become a permanent fixture for Amaker and his four-piece band, the Rodeo. The Seattle group wears nothing else while on tour, which is the perfect complement to Amaker’s sound: foreboding, twang-soaked western (not country, dammit) music that showcases the singer’s resonant baritone voice.

Amaker and the Rodeo this week release their third album, “Please Stand By” (Spark & Shine Records), a collection of western songs brimming with punk-rock attitude. It’s part calculation, part primer for badass living.

“I look at bands like the Ramones and Devo and they had a very clear identity,” Amaker tells Listen, Dammit. “They knew what they were doing, and there wasn’t any question about it.”

Here are three more facts we learned from Amaker:

1. Packing for a tour is easy. Cowboy outfits are mandatory. In fact, the only other items of clothing the musicians are allowed bring are socks, underwear and t-shirts. “That has really contributed to the evolution of the band. It started out as this shtick, and it’s become this reality for us as we’ve lived it,” Amaker says. “You put the cowboy outfit on and everything becomes extreme, everything becomes exaggerated. We literally become caricatures of ourselves out on the road.”

Not just on the road, either: “I’ve got my hat on right now,” Amaker says, while not on tour. “I do two different things: I do the full-on cowboy outfit that you see on the record cover, and then I do what I call cowboy business-casual, with polyester Wranglers and a coat.”

2. Amaker didn’t always live the cowboy life. “There was a time in my life where I took a break,” says Amaker, 46. “I did the thing where I got married and got a job and recorded multi-track songs in my closet and kind of disappeared into a miserable existence. There was a dark period.”

Emerging from that period is part of what accounts for Amaker’s take-charge badass attitude. “The badass part comes from my personal belief that in life, a man should have a set of balls and make decisions and not be a pussy,” he says. “I don’t know if that’s badass or not, but I think that failure to do so leads to failure.”

3. Speaking of caricatures … “Please Stand By” comes in a deluxe vinyl edition featuring “Mescal de la Muerte,” a graphic novel (emphasis on graphic — “not suitable for children and most of America,” says his label) inspired by the band’s hard-touring, whiskey-belting ways, and written by horror filmmaker Jay Cynik and illustrated by Simon Young. “Through touring for a number of years, we’d find ourselves in all kinds of crazy situations and we used to talk about how we need a comic book. We could be comic book characters,” Amaker says with a dusty chuckle. So how much of the action portrayed is real? “We’re not killing demonic Mexican wrestlers on a daily basis, so there’s some exaggeration there,” Amaker says. “But the characters are loosely based on the personalities of everybody in the band.”

— Text by Eric R. Danton, photo by Johnny Podhradsky

Man in Charge mp3
Pocket Calculator (Kraftwerk cover) mp3

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