Relationships forged in larger musical cities often shoot off into towns with smaller music scenes, usually to the benefit of independent music lovers and concert-goers. One minute rock ’n’ roller Moe Cooley of Montezuma County’s Moetones is in Austin finishing up work on the new Moetones record, the next he’s playing bass with Austin’s Beth Lee and The Breakups for a show or two in and around the Southwest.
The two met recently in Austin via mutual musician friends; Lee mentioned having some shows in New Mexico, and Cooley got her a Saturday night show at The Balcony Backstage. They meet once, rehearse once, play some shows. The mentality and mind-set worked for them both: The Moetones play a bunch of twang and rock ’n’ roll. Beth Lee and the Breakups play a bunch of twang and rock ’n’ roll as well.
“We kind of have mutual friends, so I knew it would probably work out just fine, and I sent him my tunes and he loved them,” said Lee. “We had a little rehearsal while he was down in Austin, and it fell together. It’s not odd in Austin for something like that to happen; you can have one rehearsal with somebody and do a show the next day or week.”
Lee’s music career began in 2008 in Austin after college at the University of Texas. What began as a hobby eventually grew into a pursuit of music as a full-time deal. She now gets out on the road quite regularly and has three records under her belt, the last being 2016’s “Keep Your Mouth Shut.”
The music is a hearty dose of raw country and garage rock, tossed around with sultry vocals over a bed of spaghetti western surf guitar. It’s blues music, rowdy-country-twang and rock ’n’ roll all in a glorious and unrefined package. While that description and failure to commit to one genre may impede the band booking shows at more staunch venues in Austin, it remains a defiant stance.
“You have to have a niche, but I don’t know exactly what mine is, rock ’n’ roll maybe,” said Lee. “I don’t know if that works in your favor here in Austin, or if it backfires. A lot of venues are single minded in having only one genre, like country or blues or soul. I’ve noticed myself wanting to be all of that and sometimes just getting pushed out of different venues because I don’t play enough honky-tonk or blues. But it’s a good thing artistically, for sure.”
So just call it rock ’n’ roll, which is what it is and that should be fine for Durango venues. A healthy dose of country-influenced twang and surf noir with a strong female lead presence works; there should never be anything wrong with having some original music influenced by the likes of Lucinda Williams, Dick Dale, Rufus Thomas, or Amy Winehouse.
“I usually say it’s rock ’n’ roll, but all those other influences have been there,” said Lee. “Country, rockabilly at times, and Lucinda Williams was a huge influence, and still is. Bob Dylan, Rolling Stones, it’s all there. And recently I’ve been getting a bit more of a punk or garage rock influence just with some of the people I’ve been playing with. I like to keep it interesting; I get bored easily.”