Lou Poster insists he's always been a country musician at heart. "To be perfectly honest, Grafton was always a country band to me," the singer and songwriter said of his long-running (and hell-raising) garage-punk crew.
Lou Poster insists he's always been a country musician at heart.
"To be perfectly honest, Grafton was always a country band to me," the singer and songwriter said of his long-running (and hell-raising) garage-punk crew. "It was just a really loud, riff [based] country band, and nobody could hear what I was saying."
With Drift Mouth, which will celebrate the release of its debut single "The Ghost of Paul Weaver" (We Used to Drink Together Records) with a concert at Ace of Cups on Friday, Jan. 29, Poster has stripped the music down to its coal dust-covered roots, turning out sad, stately songs informed by the folk-leaning artists he listened to alongside his miner father growing up in small town West Virginia. Unlike his work in Grafton and the equally unstable, ferocious Ferals, Poster's vocals often take center stage in Drift Mouth, with the musician unraveling tales that sound as though they could have been passed down through the generations.
"I'm always trying to tell a story … because story songs are always rewarding," said Poster, who first picked up a guitar at 12 years old "for the same reason everyone did: because I was bored and lonely," as he explained it. "Other kinds of music are different in that respect. Pop music is supposed to be digested until it tastes like paper again, and then you spit it out and get the next one. But this stuff sticks to your bones. You can digest it and have it forever."
Though songs often begin as solitary ballads, the material can shift in countless directions once Poster introduces it to his crack band, which includes Brad Swiniarski (drums, vocals), Mark Spurgeon (lead guitar), Craig Davidson (guitar), Roscoe Draher (bass, vocals) and Regan Tonti (vocals). "I Suppose," the flip-side to the "Ghost of Paul Weaver" single, for example, opens like a decades old spiritual one might hear resuscitated on a release pressed by archival label Dust-to-Digital.
Lyrically, the songs can traverse a similarly twisting path. While most could be comfortably labelled murder ballads (death and regret abound in Poster's words), the songs touch on everything from redemption and romance to deep political intrigue.
"In the case of 'Paul Weaver,' I see that mostly as a political song," said Poster, pointing to lyrics about "company men" hell-bent on acquiring land from the song's titular figure, in spite of his refusal to sell.
"It's not just a love story; it's about cultural amnesia. And it's very personal to me," he said, owing in large part to a 60-acre family spread in West Virginia currently threatened by fracking interests. "It's a legacy. It's my birthright. It's part of who I am. The more we abandon that as individuals, the more we abandon that as a culture, and then there's nothing left for us."
And if that sounds bleak, well, that's just life for you, Poster said.
"The world is a fucked up place, and it's a beautiful place … but there's an end. There's a winter to every life. There's a downside to every upside," he said. "It sounds like I'm boo-hooing, but I'm not a sad person, and I'm not depressed. But with every little bit of joy I feel that tinge of melancholy, and knowing that has always been influential to me, just because everything can't be bubble gum and cotton candy.
"At the same time, that also helps ... because it allows me that same kind of equilibrium when bad things happen. It's like a counterweight, and I can still see the good side in those down times."