Hillbilly Herald’s Jimmy Herald talks about the L.A. scene, their live show and making it as an indie band
Sometimes you just gotta pay attention to the flashing lights around you when you are interested in hearing a great new band. I saw this Nikki Sixx character tweeting about a band called Hillbilly Herald and thought “Hmm, well Nikki did like Raging Slab a helluva lot back in the day, maybe this would be worth investigating”. I didn’t. Then I see they are gettin a ton of love from Slash. Then I get a message from our old friend, the beautiful and talented Miss Vicky Hamilton who again mentions this Hillbilly Herald band. Vicky knows a thing or ten about rock bands so now I start Youtubing and find this band is pretty damn good. I heard their singer Jimmy Herald interviewed on our local rock station here in Rockford, Illinois and he sounded pretty cool so I got their debut album and tracked him down. We talked about the bands beginnings, their song inspirations and a bit more, read on….
LRI: The story has it that you guys have deep roots in L.A. and were in fact not working as a musician but a bartender when Slash told you that you could probably kick as much ass as a lot of what was going on in the scene. Is that half right, all right or is there a lot more to the story than that???
Jimmy Herald: You’re about 99% right. He didn’t say we would kick more ass because I didn’t have a band at that point. He just suggested I start a band since I was such a big fan of rock and roll, so I did!! When Slash talks, you gotta listen!
LRI: Besides Slash, another legendary figure in the Guns N Roses story,Vicky Hamilton is behind your band. Vicky guided the careers of early Motley, Poison and GNR so she knows a thing or two about troublemakers. What has Vicky been workin with you guys on?
Jimmy: Mostly she’s been helping us out in looking for a manager, label, and all of that.
LRI: The song “Yellow Belly” is catchy as chlamydia. And you know it. Who inspired or what went into the writing of that track?
Jimmy: “Yellow Belly” was written about a friend at the time who I had a huge falling out with over money, girls, the basic shit friends fight about. It was inspired by what I was going through at that time. Every one of our songs is either about somebody that was in and out of my life or touched me in some way or another, good or bad but it seems like I’ve been dwelling on the bad! It’s like therapy to get that stuff off my chest, the good stuff I hold onto. I’ll save that stuff for the Hillbilly Herald Christmas record!
LRI: People have a certain uppity, too cool for school stereotype about L.A. and Hollywood but you guys have almost a shitkicker sensibility to you that places you somewhere altogether different in my mind. What is it really like these days and do you enjoy touring outside the area and kind of making where ever you are your “home” for the night?
Jimmy: It’s all geography. It doesn’t matter where you’re at. Whether they’re stuck up or not doesn’t matter. I think that L.A. has seen so much bullshit that they can smell a turd from a mile away, so they are tougher in a way. They have a lot more choices of what to do on a given night so if they do come to your show like they come to ours you had better be on your A game. Everybody out here is the best of the best and losers go home! Whether we are playing Atlanta, Georgia or L.A. we are gonna give our show 110%, it is ALL about the show!
LRI: I can kind of see that based on the limited amount that I know about you. You guys strike me as a rowdy, live band first and foremost In your opinion, how much has the material changed from performing it live to the production of the record?
Jimmy: We rehearse and write for the live show, not for any recording. When we came into the studio we played the songs just like we do live so nothing really changed except for what we felt in the moment. We’re definitely a live band first and foremost like you said. We were either lucky enough or brave enough to try out our new shit on the SLASH tour. If they dug it, it stuck, if they didn’t we tried something new. It is ALL about the fans, we did all five tracks in one day, this actually is a live record, no fake crowd noise added in the background to make it seem live! No overdubs, as far as the band and our performances goes, it is all live.
LRI: Play armchair psychologist for s second. What does the personality of each member of the band bring to the table and chemistry of the band?
Jimmy: Each member knows their role in the game like a football team. There’s a quarterback, running back and sometimes the lineman just needs to block. At this point we just let each person do what they’re best at. I’m not really into computers or gear so they don’t have to worry about me monkeying around about that shit. They’re not really into the business side of it and that is one of my favorite parts of this so I handle that. We’ve been doing this long enough where it’s a well-oiled machine.
LRI: What do you think the biggest misconception your supporters or detractors have about you or your band?
Jimmy: That we’re rich. We do all of this on our own. We solely come out of pocket for this and every product we put out we have paid for whether it’s a record, a video, videogame, we pay for it. No label, no management and no backers up until our recent Kickstarter campaign. That was the first time we’ve really reached out and asked for some help from our fans. I was a little weary of it but it was necessary to get it out. I think if you don’t ask for help how can you expect to get help (Ed. note: hmm maybe I should start a fund for impoverished writers). We have a great, hard working band that is 100% dedicated to playing rock and roll with no bullshit. We are a blue collar rock and roll band.
LRI: This album is loud and very well played, performance wise. Do you also enjoy stripping down a lot of these songs and playing them acoustically in a more intimate setting?
Jimmy: We have yet to do a fully stripped down set. We have done “Dallas Bride” acoustically which is on youtube and we recently played “Country Roads” on the radio but the acoustic thing’s not really our vibe. We like it loud, hard and fast!! (laughs)
LRI: You have been a band long enough to have your own quirks about gear set-ups and equipment type stuff. Is there any one element of your sound that absolutely, positively has to be spot on or you won’t enjoy the show?
Jimmy: Not much, we just need to be able to hear ourselves up onstage! Other than that we just plug in and fuckin go for it, what you see is what you get!
LRI: Thanks for talking with us, one last question. What is the most batshit crazy thing you’ve seen, smelled or heard happening while Hillbilly Herald was playing a gig?
Jimmy: The craziest thing that’s happened to me on tour was realizing that I’ve only been playing music for 5 years and I got to tour and open up for Slash on a U.S. run. All the pussy, money, drugs and bullshit will never add up to that! How crazy is that? I was a bartender and Slash told me to start a band and look at us now (laughs). That is some crazy shit. Oh yeah, I got another story about this chick and a monkey….we’ll talk about that another time.