“Our newest song is ‘Rancho Ghost Town,’ named after Rancho San Diego, which is right near where I live. It’s about widespread implanting of strip malls throughout our eastern rural areas, making them like any other nameless, flavorless settlement.”
Guitarist Billy Shaddox and his brother Bobby (drums) were born and raised in the backcountry. They say the natural rhythm they grew up with drives the sound of their trio, Billy Midnight and the Chlorine Cowboys, which also includes bassist Phil Varela.
“I think our music speaks of where we’re from, where we grew up. It has that country feel. We call it desert rock.”
The Shaddox brothers grew up in Dehesa. “When they built Sycuan, a lot of traffic and litter came with it. That forced us out of that valley. We picked up and moved to a quieter place.”
That place was Jamul, southeast of El Cajon, which has always been known for its undeveloped beauty. Shaddox, a civil engineer, says that is also changing.
“It was depressing the first time I saw the tract homes creeping in. Gated communities are coming here. You get your choice of one of three models. It’s sad when you see your lifestyle reduced to picking your abode by going to the store. It’s like picking a box of cereal.”
Shaddox says the sound of his band owes a lot to country-rock pioneer Gram Parsons (the Byrds and the Flying Burrito Brothers). “He took refuge in Joshua Tree [National Monument]. The Eagles were into the desert thing.… Convoy came from Jamul,” said Shaddox about the local band that was recently signed to Hybrid/Sire.
One of the songs on Billy Midnight’s album, Live at the Tradewinds, is called “Sasquatch,” about the legendary ape-man. “I would describe ‘Sasquatch’ as the inner ape in all of us that comes to us in spirit. No matter what it is we’re doing, if the Sasquatch comes on, we can get kind of kooky. Sasquatch makes us run out in the forest naked and scream with joy.”
Billy Midnight and the Chlorine Cowboys appear Sunday, 9:30 p.m. at Blind Melons in Pacific Beach and August 12 at Rosie O’Grady’s in Normal Heights.