With influences ranging from The Flatlanders and Buddy Holly to Augustana and Jason Isbell, West Texas Exiles are reinvigorating the music world with a modern interpretation of the “Lone Star vernacular.” Grounded in rhythmic vibrancy and lyrical honesty, the Exile sound echoes the vastness of the West Texas sky. “New Moon Foe,” the band’s first single from their self-titled debut album, combines a driving, grinding pulse with haunting lyrics. Meanwhile their second single, “Hotel Tomorrow,” evokes the ghosts of southwestern Americana at its snakebit best. But it’s on a track simply entitled “Exile” that the group’s intentions are declared most strikingly: this band of outsiders aren’t just waltzing across Texas; they’re riding into the sunset in search of new musical horizons.
1. What gets your motor running?
Daniel: Life experiences. It could be anything. I tend to be moved by sadness. My own or just observed. One thought, phrase, melody, or lick on the guitar usually gets things going.
Marco: When it’s evident that time and effort has been poured into whatever medium I’m consuming—be it music, film, food, dance, etc.—it inspires me to create. Lately, film has been pushing me to write and record more than anything.
2. Tell us about a work of art you feel is woefully misunderstood or underappreciated.
Daniel: A bit general here, but a lot of times people write off traditional country/folk music as antiquated. They feel like it’s “had it’s time.” But I feel that it’s more relevant today than ever. We may have traded the two-dollar bill and a hot rod Ford for bitcoin and Tesla, but the sentiment remains.
Marco: The Wire. Everyone talks about The Sopranos and Breaking Bad being pivotal moments in television history, but The Wire rarely gets thrown in that pool. The fact that it never won an Emmy is a WILD injustice.
3. Every member of the band hails from West Texas, but West Texas is a very big and diverse region. What is the sound or “vibe” of West Texas that you think brings you all together?
Daniel: For such a vast and at times unforgiving place, some undeniably great art has come out of West Texas. When we found each other down in Austin, there was almost a nonverbal understanding of one another. It also helps that everyone in the band are (most of the time) total professionals.
Marco: I think geographical isolation has something to do with what brings most West Texans together. Every city in West Texas is pretty far from a “big city.” I think that makes each town in West Texas a little more unique. It breeds a sort of camaraderie and pride in people out there. Also, when I was in high school not many people were listening to folk, punk, and Americana music. That was the case with the other guys in the band, too. Unity through geographical and musical isolation in West Texas definitely bound The Exiles tighter.
4. You guys are following in a grand West Texas musical legacy. Who are some of your West Texas musical heroes?
Daniel: The greats, such as: Terry Allen, Buddy Holly, Waylon Jennings, Jimmie Dale Gilmore (who also happens to be the father of bandmate Colin Gilmore), Butch Hancock, Joe Ely, and too many more to list here. As far as up-and-coming current artists, I really think songwriters like Ryan Culwell, Natalie Maines, and Reilly Downes are all killing it!
Marco: There’s a band from El Paso called The Lusitania. They were all a few years older than me, so my first band got to open for them often. They’re one of my biggest sources of musical and lyrical inspiration.
5. Do you see Texas itself as having its own musical tradition? Or is it more that the various regions of Texas have their own sounds?
Daniel: There’s definitely a distinct Texas sound, but really it’s all about the hats.
Marco: When it comes to folk and country music, Texas seems to pride itself on having a unique sound and set of ideals. Folks like Guy Clark, Townes Van Zandt, and Willie Nelson championed integrity over the idea of “selling out.” That led to more modern Texas country and folk artists having this “us against Nashville,”or “us against the industry” approach, and this allowed the music to be a little more rough around the edges. That’s definitely a defining trait, when it comes to Texas music.
6. Your band made quite a bit of noise at SXSW. What’s next?
Daniel: The same thing we do every night. TRY TO TAKE OVER THE WORLD. But in all seriousness, Vol. 2 of our EP will be out this year, preceded by a few single releases.
Marco: Since SXSW, we’ve been on the road nonstop. When we aren’t out, we’re in Eric’s (the band’s bass player) studio writing, rehearsing, and recording. The next big thing we have on the calendar is the release of our song “Bad Luck.” It’s been a crowd favorite for awhile. The production on the track is a wild ride, very theatrical and dark. We’re hoping some movie folks will hear it and put it in the Peaky Blinders movie or the next big Halloween film or something like that. Hell, I’ll settle for Shrek 5.
7. How do you take your whiskey?
Daniel: With a splash of water.
Marco: Depends on the whiskey. I usually do bourbon with a small cube or two. With nice scotch/Irish whisky, I’ll throw a few drops of water in to open it up a bit. Jameson is my go-to shooter. And I’ve made quite a few Manhattans with Still Austin bourbon and rye.