Interview: Chad Sullins and the Last Call Coalition make a bold statement with new album ‘Incommunicado,’ play 2 Oklahoma shows this weekend
From Friday’s Weekend Look section of The Oklahoman.
Chad Sullins and the Last Call Coalition make a bold statement with new album ‘Incommunicado’
The Oklahoma red dirt blues-rockers promise rowdy shows this weekend at Tulsa’s Mercury Lounge and Weatherford’s JC Cowboys to celebrate their first release on Fort Worth, Texas-based label Smith Entertainment.
The Stillwater-based singer-songwriter vows that music lovers who catch his red dirt blues-rock outfit Chad Sullins and the Last Call Coalition in concert will get the kind of raucous show they would expect from a band whose second album features songs like “Thank God for Jack Daniels,” “Full Throttle” and “Straight to Hell.”
“We do haul ass full throttle and we usually are fueled by Jack Daniels,” Sullins said with a laugh. “It is rowdy. It is loud. It is fast-paced.”
Fortunately, the title of the hard-touring band’s second album, “Incommunicado,” has become increasingly inaccurate. In naming the follow-up to the group’s aptly named 2009 debut “Uphill Battle,” the frontman channeled his frustrations into the title and the album cover, which features a distant radio tower.
“Basically it means ‘unable to communicate’ … because with our first record, which came out in 2009, we couldn’t get any radio play or anybody to pay attention to us in any way, shape or form. So we just kept hammering down the road, and luckily with this record, it’s starting to get a little more attention,” Sullins said in a phone interview last week from Shawnee, where he was playing an acoustic show.
“Kind of the irony of it with this record is it could have gone either way,” he added with a laugh. “Luckily, it went in a way better direction than I thought it would, so I’m pretty stoked.”
Now that they finally have people talking, the singer/guitarist and his cohorts — lead guitarist Josh Rutz, drummer Jeremy Clark and bassist Jerry Stanley — are continuing to celebrate the release of their new album with shows Friday at the Mercury Lounge in Tulsa and Saturday at JC Cowboys in Weatherford.
With the July 10 bow of “Incommunicado,” the Stillwater quartet not only made its debut on the Fort Worth, Texas-based label Smith Entertainment but also premiered on the Texas Regional Radio Top 100 chart with the record’s first single, “Thank God for Jack Daniels.” Support from the label, help from other red dirt bands and old-fashioned hard work made the breakthrough possible, Sullins said.
“We’ve pushed 200 shows a year for the last two or three years really ‘cause … we were just like ‘Let’s force people to pay attention,’” he said. “I mean, we coulda just hung it up and been like ‘OK, well, this (first) record didn’t do crap and I’m tired of driving around all over the place, so let’s just quit and call it a day.’ But that’s just not the way it works with me ‘cause I’ve tried every other job and pretty much been fired from every other job. And this is the only one I enjoy. So I wasn’t quitting.”
Born in Hobart and raised in Altus and Knoxville, Tenn., Sullins was working a job he hated in the southwestern Oklahoma oilfields when a pal introduced him to red dirt music, that enigmatic and heady blend of country, rock, folk, blues and Western swing.
“I’d played in different punk bands and rock bands and stuff growing up. I mean, I got my first guitar when I was 16 and I put my first band together when I was probably 18 or 19. I was born and raised listening to old country music from my stepdad and my mom, but just to piss ‘em off, when I … got my first guitar, I learned every punk song I could get my hands on,” Sullins said with a laugh.
“To me, red dirt music was kind of the bastard child of country music. You know, kind of like the punk rock version of country music. So I fell in love with it immediately.”
He started writing songs and got his first gig opening for Jason Savory at the Stillwater bar the Watering Hole in 2005. The owner offered Sullins a weekly slot, but the singer-songwriter only knew the six original songs he had just played.
“I went back home (to Altus) that week and learned 30 cover songs and then started playing my weekly gig in Stillwater … and finally ended up just moving up there,” he said. “Then it was like a year later when I got my first show on The Strip at Willie’s.”
Although his blues-rock band doesn’t make a typical red dirt sound, Sullins, 34, isn’t shy about communicating his love for the robust, close-knit music scene. “Incommunicado” even closes with a cover of the late, great Bob Childers’ signature song “Dance with the Gypsies” and Sullins’ original companion piece “Oklahoma Moon,” which he penned after attending a memorial jam at the former home of the red dirt legend.
“When Bob passed away (in 2008), that first weekend everybody got together at The Farm, and I got invited to go … and I didn’t even play that night ‘cause I was just so in awe of everything that was going on. I was just standing over back in the corner watching,” he said. “There was a big circle around the fire and everybody was playing and drinking and having a good time and playing Bob songs. … With this scene, we’re all like a big brotherhood.”
Chad Sullins and the Last Call Coalition
When: 10 p.m. Friday.
Where: Mercury Lounge, 1747 S Boston Ave., Tulsa.
When: 10 p.m. Saturday.
Where: JC Cowboys, Interstate 40 at the Thomas Exit, Weatherford.