From the artwork on their debut CD, Black Top Open Road, to the songs contained within, the romance of the road weighs heavily in the music of Thrillbilly. So it’s fitting that the only time I could find to sit down for an interview with the members of Thrillbilly was before a welcome home gig in Portland after they returned from a spring tour of the Southwest that encompassed 23 shows in 26 days.
Playing gigs all the time is a way of life for one of the hardest working bands in Portland. Thrillbilly has been pursuing their brand of road music for two years now, although the band has been together in different incarnations for six years. Originally it was lead vocalist J. Bowman and guitarist Doug Lindstrom recording their songs for personal keepsakes in future drummer Tom Kilman’s studio. Gradually the pieces of the puzzle fell into place when bassist Davey Hall and, finally, lead guitarist Mark Dybvig came aboard.
“It’s a good thing we’re a five piece band,” notes Dybvig, pointing out that the odd-numbered total of members is an advantage when employing democratic process. But you’d be hard pressed to hear any dissenting voices within their music. Thrillbilly’s single-minded approach to straight-ahead American rock ‘n’ roll has earned them positive reviews and an increasing fan base all over the West.
In recent months, they’ve gelled both musically and personally, which tends to happen when you spend a month living together in a borrowed Winnebago, as the band did on their recent tour. Although the trip was loosely structured around their appearance at the SXSW conference in Austin, it was stops in out-of-the-way towns such as Bend, Oregon, and Chico, California, that the band found most rewarding. “When you come back to a town you played before and the people are wearing your T-shirt and know your songs, that’s the best,” explains Bowman.
Thrillbilly’s self-released CD came out last year. The bulk of the songs were recorded at Kilman’s studio (“on our dime, on our time” being the impetus according to Kilman), but the band also had to resort to guerrilla recording tactics for other portions of the disc. Although band members admitted to a fair amount of trepidation upon the release of the CD, they’ve been pleased with the positive reviews it received. Buoyed by this critical success and a bevy of new songs, plans are already being made to record and release another CD in the same fashion. And, of course, to get back out on the road.