The duo, Buck Gooter, from Harrisonburg, Virginia, play raw, throbbing experimental rock that is alternatively brutal and bluesy. Drawing from aggressive noise, elemental post-punk, and narrative story-songs, Billy Brett and Terry Turtle make music that is oppositional through its disregard for sonic convention as well as its direct confrontation of power.
“There’s only ever been one war / the war on the poor,” the two deadpan together on “One War,” over layers of clanking percussion and creeping riffs. The track is from their recently released record, “100 Bells.”
Since 2005, the band says they have released six vinyl LPs and over a dozen self-released collections.
On 2016’s “Who Put You in Charge?”, they called out fascists devastating the planet. “The air that we breathe / the water that we drink / there’s very little evidence that politicians think,” Turtle starts on the second verse, in a sing-song melody, over a noisy whirl of blown-out sounds.
Buck Gooter’s music feels environmental—the sounds of the fucked up world seep in, but they also directly respond to what they see.
The final track on the new album is “Fracking Up the Planet,” a scuzzy mid-tempo ballad that tears into repealed EPA regulations and reckless oil companies. ”There’s a new sheriff in town / savior or reality clown?”
Billy from Buck Gooter spoke to me about “Fracking Up the Planet,” the new album, their hometown, and more.
How has your hometown, Harrisonburg, seeped into the ideas and sounds that comprise Buck Gooter?
Harrisonburg is an isolated place in terms of an active music scene. Isolation plays a pivotal role in how we approach songwriting and in influencing our perspectives. Isolation motivates us to leave town and connect with people elsewhere through shows and touring. There have been attempts to frack in our area and to build pipelines. The constant environmental struggle has definitely informed the music.
In what ways do you think Harrisonburg’s constant environmental struggles have informed the music?
Being aware of your surroundings will seep into your lyrics and maybe music as well. The poultry industry is heavy in this area, and with it comes the machinery, the loss of animal life (a billion dead every year), and the abuse of employees. These struggles find their way into the music whether we want them to or not. Sometimes we sound like a hulking beast that’s chewing up the land. With this knowledge of our home, we can then sympathize with the bigger picture and relate to other abused locations, aka everywhere humans settle.
The sounds of local environmental abuse actually made it into one of our songs. At the beginning of “Waste Treatment” (from our “Stainless Steel Mirrors” LP), you can hear the sounds of the downtown sewage treatment facility that handles all of the poultry waste and is surrounded by homes and the community.
The lyrics on “Fracking Up the Planet” speak for themselves — “There’s a new sheriff in town / savior or reality clown? / question for computer I guess.” The “question for computer I guess” part struck me the first time I heard it.
“Question for computer” is a joke. It means something so complicated only a computer could figure it out. It’s a play on the idea that we even discuss whether or not our wholly rotten leaders are good or bad. They’re all the same and they’re responsible for moving our societies in destructive, negative directions. Who else gives the orders?
You’ve sang about environmental destruction before, back a couple years ago on “Fun in the Sun.” Do you feel like your perspective has shifted at all between writing “Fun in the Sun” and “Fracking Up the Planet”? Any particular moment or experience inspire “Fracking Up the Planet”?
The destruction of the biosphere is something to be concerned about. Without the planet, there will be no societies and no social issues. It’s great that people focus on all aspects of injustice, I think there’s plenty of room out there to speak for the planet, and we take the time to do that with this track. We stand by the lyrics to “Fun In the Sun.” Humans destroyed the planet, get ready to deal with the results of that – that’s the gist of that song.
I noticed on the lyric sheet for “100 Bells,” your spelling switches from “100 bells ring for me” to “100 belles sing to me”. What inspired “100 Bells” (the song) and why did you choose it as a title for the album?
Some people would say “I have to wake up at 7 bells” if they were to rise at 7 am. It’s common parlance in the military. My idea was that the “zero hour,” a.k.a. the end of the world, would be “zero bells.” “100 bells,” in this idiosyncratic interpretation, then becomes the opposite of the zero hour because it’s “100,” like “100%”, or the beginning, instead of the end (“zero hour”). It’s an inversion of terms in order to say “we’ve made it to 100, now we begin” instead of saying “we’re starting at zero.”
So “100 Bells” is a call to arms, a wake up call for something new to happen, for life to begin, to shirk off the old ways having learned our lessons and bring about the positive peaceful now. There’s hope in the title.
The bouncing back and forth between “bells” and “belles” is an illustration of the duality – “bells” being masculine, control, in this case the negative, and “belles” being feminine, creative, in this case the positive. The singer is describing the effects of both sides of the coin and then at the end posits that maybe there just won’t be anything anymore (“there’ll come a time when the bells won’t be ringing,” a conflation of some holy Marvin Gaye lines), which is of course a reminder that time is short and now is the time to live and take positive steps.
That’s one way to interpret it, others exist.
“Protest song”—what does that mean to you? There are a lot of ways music can be “protest music.” What kind of “protest music” do you listen to in 2017?
I’m a music fan, and I listen to a good deal of rebel rock, protest rock. One of my favorite protest albums that I find to be deeply inspirational is Joe Lally’s “There To Here.” I’ve had the CD since it came out in 2006 and believe it or not on Saturday when Charlottesville was being defended I bought a brand new copy of the LP at a store! Still in the shrink wrap after 11 years! That record lifted me up after a horrific day for our country.
“There To Here” is loaded with thoughtful tunes and interesting arrangements, and he just nails it with his perspectives on the socially focused jams. Check the title track – “As we walk / side by side/ no shame / in who we are/ we are the masses who can’t be pushed around.” Empowering stuff, heartfelt. I would say the simplicity and sharp focus of the lyrics to our song, “One War”, is pretty much a direct descendant of Joe’s style.
If you have strong feelings about injustice and it inspires you to write a poem that you set to music, that’s great. I personally am not wholly inspired by current events and injustice for all of my songs. My songs come from many different places. Buck Gooter’s style and performances are a protest against the complacency and safety of the prevalent re-run culture.
Listen to “Fracking Up The Planet” (and the full album can be found here):
Are you an independent artist who has written and/or produced a protest song that you would like featured? Or do you have a favorite protest song? Submit a song to protestmusic@Shadowproof.com