music in the park san jose

.San Francisco’s Country Risqué Explores Queer Country Music

Band says there’s a place for everyone in the genre

music in the park san jose

Country Risqué took shape during the pandemic lockdown. The band’s songwriters, Miles Gordon and Daniel Bromfield, met while attending the University of Oregon in Eugene. 

“I played guitar in the psychedelic jam-band scene in Eugene. Daniel played keyboards in indie bands, as well as his own projects in Eugene and in San Francisco. We kept in touch after we graduated. He invited me down to play with him at the Honey Hive Gallery in the city. After that, we started talking about putting together a queer country band. Then the world shut down,” Gordon said.

“I’ve been doing home recordings since I was a kid,” Bromfield said. “When I was 12, my parents got me a battery-powered portable recorder. I slowly got more equipment and started doing home recordings, so it was easy to start making demos and exchanging them with Miles. We each wrote dozens of songs and culled them down to the nine we put on the album.”

As Country Risqué came together, the two stumbled into San Francisco’s queer country scene. “One of the first bands we met was Squeakie, a group fronted by a transgender gay couple,” Gordon said. “In the last five years or so, a lot more queer people, and people of color, are getting record deals. The perception of country is changing, especially in our generation. Some folks grew up thinking country was music made by white, conservative males, but today there’s a place for everyone in this genre, including queer people.”

While the duo was assembling the songs for the album, they put together a band with Richard Moog on lead guitar, Danny Moriarty on bass and drummer Tomas Georgiou. They had to pause for a while, due to the Covid shutdown, but as things opened up, they began playing live. At an early show, Sonny Smith, of Sonny and the Sunsets and founder of Rocks in Your Head Records, caught their act.

“I recognize a good hook when I hear one,” Smith said. “Whether it’s dressed up in a cowboy hat or some other style, is secondary to me.” Smith took them to his Forest Knolls studio to work on their debut album.

“We wanted to be a traditional, honky tonk band, doing ’50s-era ‘tears in my beers’ music,” Bromfield said. “Sonny encouraged us to get weird. I have a synth I use for everything. He told me to lean into the sounds on the synth and experiment. He asked us to see how crazy we could get, within the confines of the genre.”

The result of the sessions—three days of the band playing the tunes live for 12 hours a day, with a couple of sessions for overdubs—is their debut, Doe-Eyed Loverboys & Saints. Bromfield said, “The title captures the sex and religion that have always been intermixed in popular music, that Saturday night and Sunday morning thing.”

The songs on the album balance traditional country styles with insightful, poetic lyrics. It has the feeling of a Greatest Hits album, blending country, blues and pop into a sound that’s all their own.

“Autumn of Your Charm” is a honky-tonk rocker that finds Bromfield looking back on a past relationship with a touch of melancholy and the aid of a joint or two. On “Depression Drawer” Bromfield taps into the blues, with a bit of Bakersfield twang, to describe hopeless feelings of depression. The realistic lyric and his distressed vocal are lifted by fills from Moog that mimic the sound of a pedal steel guitar.

Gordon and Bromfield harmonize with a few friends on “What Are They Doing in Heaven Today?” It’s a traditional song that sounds like it was written during the pandemic, balancing visions of a peaceful afterlife with lyrics like, “There were those who were struck by disease / Nurses and doctors couldn’t give them much ease … ”

Gordon delivers “Sing About You,” a country ballad with a hint of R&B in its rhythm. His singing is casual, with an undercurrent of dejection and futility, as he describes the end of an affair. “I was thinking about what a good queer love song would sound like,” he said.

“We want to make good music and bring a taste of country to the people,” Bromfield said. “Our live band now features two guys who weren’t on the album—Oscar Garcia on bass and Forest Reid on lap steel—so the songs are faster and less morose. There’s more rave-ups and dance tunes, more tempo changes. We play quite a few covers in our sets, too, so if we open up some rabbit holes for people to go down and start exploring the great country repertoire that’s out there, we’ve done our job.”

Country Risqué will play a live session on KALX 90.7 FM Berkeley at 9pm on Saturday, Feb. 17. The band’s album release party will be at the Rickshaw Stop in San Francisco on Thursday, March 14. Details at rickshawstop.com/calendar/. The first two singles from the album, “Drove Me Crazy” and “Depression Drawer,” are on all streaming services. The full album can be preordered at the band’s website: countryrisque.bandcamp.com.

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