Reckless Kelly have already worn out three vans, and the fourth one has logged 35,000 miles so far. The vehicles don’t last long, according to the five guys in the Austin, Texas-based band.
That’s no surprise, considering they tour relentlessly, within the Lone Star state as well as Nashville, New Orleans, New York City and Seattle. But after releasing three albums on their own, Reckless Kelly are poised for bigger things. A rousing album, Under the Table and Above the Sun, appeared on Sugar Hill Records earlier this year, and a video for “Nobody’s Girl” is in rotation on CMT.
They’re happy about that last bit of news but not as happy as their mothers.
“My mom actually recorded like nine hours of CMT the first couple days and then fast-forwarded to see if she could pick up on it,” jokes bassist Jimmy McFeeley. “Then she saw it accidentally at the gym! She couldn’t really do anything, she didn’t know anyone there!”
The story cracks everybody up. In fact, these five guys have a goofy rapport that comes from brotherhood — more than just the fraternal, we-all-love-to-quote-South-Park kind.
Cody and Willie Braun are brothers from Idaho, who moved to Austin (with drummer Jay Nazz) during the first days of the alt-country movement in the late 1990s. The band, named for a 19th century Australian bank robber, issued its debut album Millican in 1997 and sold more than 20,000 copies. The city’s weekly alternative newspaper called them its Best Roots Rock Band for three years in a row.
Willie writes a good share of the material, which covers the territory of screaming sirens, rubber on the road and a handful of hearts — in the context of gambling, that is. But, alas, no songs about the undying love that’s so familiar on the country airwaves.
“I haven’t experienced the whole undying love thing yet. Pretty much all the relationships that I have been in have come to a screeching halt at some point,” he laughs. “So, you got to write what you know.”
Unlike countless other acts there, they also don’t have any songs on Under the Table and Above the Sun about how great it is to live in Texas. Of course, that doesn’t mean they aren’t appreciative of their passionate fan base there.
“There are a lot of places to play. I mean every little town out there has an old dance hall at least or a couple different clubs. The music fans are just crazy down there. They love their Texas music,” says Willie.
“You can still bring your kids to a lot of the dance halls, and they still have Sunday afternoon shows. Kids down there grow up with live music, and it is much more a part of their life than it is anywhere else that I have seen. They then go to college and find a band to support and follow around. It is more a part of their life down there,” Cody says.
“There is an older group of players that has been around a long time that we all have learned a ton from,” says guitarist David Abeyta, before citing Austin mainstays like Stephen Bruton, Joe Ely, Alejandro Escovedo, Jon Dee Graham, Robert Earl Keen, Lloyd Maines and Billy Joe Shaver. “We take every chance we get to go out and listen to somebody great on a Wednesday night or a Monday night. You don’t really find that in every part of the country.”
“It’s cool too, when you leave Austin and go somewhere else,” Willie says. “You get this instant credibility by default because people go, ’Oh, they’re from Austin, they must be good!'” Then he waits a beat, and adds, “Little do they know, we’re not!”
Again, everybody erupts in laughter.