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East Dallas Forty (Ounce) 

The Von Ehrics, cruisin' and boozin'

The Von Ehrics Guys in touring punk rock bands - sweaty, hungover, and tired of wearing the same clothes for two weeks straight - tend to swear a lot. As do guys in touring hardcore country bands. By God, combine a touring hardcore country band with a punk band and you have a recipe for more F-bombs than you'd find in a week of The Sopranos reruns. Robert Jason Vandygriff, guitarist and singer for the East Dallas "punktry" group, The Von Ehrics, apologized to me about his use of "foul language" in this interview, but I assured him that, as a proud alternative weekly, we'd be a little upset if he didn't stir the shit (er, pot) a little bit along the way.

Speaking of touring bands: The Von Ehrics spread their lyrical gospel of drinking and driving around playing shows over 100 times last year, doing a lot of drinking (and driving around playing shows) in the process. However, Vandygriff says they'd play 200 gigs if the demand were there. Oh, and a regular drummer would be nice too — and believe me, Spinal Tap has nothing on these guys. (Jeffery Wayne Mosley, the only other regular member of the band, plays bass).

"We've gone through five drummers in the past six months," Vandygriff says. "For us, either they're great guys, but can't play; they can play but they're fucking assholes; or they can't tour. Some guys need to be trained, some guys come in and want to change things to establish control. With us, it's laid out for you — songs, shows and everything. I had one guy tell me, 'Man, I am a songwriter.' It's like, man, you fucking bang on things."

Birthed in the Red River bottom of North Fannin County, Texas, in late 2000, Vandygriff and Mosley soon melded the sound of their parents' country and gospel records and the punk and metal records they listened to as adolescents into the crooning-yet-caustic mix they currently purvey.

"We used to be the standard issue metal/punk band that would throw in some Waylon or Bob Wills for shits and giggles," says Vandygriff. "We got fed up with playing what we thought people wanted to hear and made a conscious decision to play what we liked. We figured we were raised on and loved gospel and traditional country (thanks to geography) and we loved punk rock, Southern rock and metal. We basically went to Mexico and wrote a record about it. Most of what you see (with other bands) is hardcore country or guys wearing cowboy hats playing rock & roll. I haven't seen too many true country punk bands out there. Bands that want to play songs from a church hymnal as if Bad Religion were doing it are not all that common."

Since the release of their debut LP Damn Fine Drunks, the band has shared the stage with a number of its idols, including Reverend Horton Heat, Dixie Witch, Vallejo, and Mudhoney, as well as dozens upon dozens of shows with bands you've probably never heard of. If Vandygriff had his wish, they'd play even more than they do now.

"Last year we did around a hundred," he says. "Before that we could barely get shows. No one knew who we were and it didn't seem like they really wanted to find out. Once we put out Damn Fine Drunks we started getting calls instead of (having to leave) messages. Although we still leave a lot of messages. We'd do 200 a year if we could. I used to be an office manager at a real estate firm. Before that I was a legal administrator. Jeffery is a pipe fitter and a machinist by trade. Now that we're super huge rock & roll superstars, we pick up work at bars and places of that nature. Anywhere that encourages a good Jim Beam habit."

Mostly, they just tour their asses off, loading up their van ("The Smokewagon") with Steve Earle and Guns 'N' Roses and Johnny Paycheck records and a modicum of beer, content to go anywhere people want to hear them play. Just do what you do, says Vandygriff, and the rest ought to take care of itself.

But what is it that they do, exactly? For once, Vandygriff is nearly silenced.

"If I tell you that we're going to get piss drunk and Jeffery is going to pull his pecker out, do you think it will help our draw? Maybe in the ways of law enforcement, I guess. We'll probably get piss drunk, though. I've never seen Jeffery pull his pecker out and, to be honest, I don't care to.

"But it will be some balls-out, mean-ass, countryfied punk rock & roll."

The Von Ehrics play the Milestone this Friday along with Dirty Box, Ivor the Engine Driver, and PPR. Visit solidgoldempire.com for more information.

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