The Country Rockin’ Rebels were founded by Bad Science Fiction guitarist Michael Head, operator of local Headtrap Studios for around 20 years (started in OB in 1989 and in Lake Murray since 1994), and singer-songwriter Tristan Luhrs. “He and I have worked in my studio since then, and we recorded his first solo album, Sketches of San Diego, in 2010,” says Head, who released the full-length on his own Cabeza Records. “It was essentially a prelude to the Rebels project. A year later, Country Rockin’ Rebels was the second CD, and that’s the project we built the new band around.”
The duo eventually recruited a full lineup including Mark Eppler (slide guitar), and Steve Tahmahkera aka Tamahawk (drums), among others.
The group played some of their earliest gigs in Ocean Beach, where Head regularly presents concert performances by local bands at the O.B. Farmers Market. “The Rebels always have an amazing time at the O.B. Holiday Parade, with crowds reaching monumental numbers. They’re so appreciative and supportive. The main stage of the O.B. Street Fair, with the Pacific Ocean at our backs, isn’t too bad either.”
Some of those gigs, according to Head, were just plain strange.
“Once while playing a local street fair, a female fan walked up the back stage steps mid-song, picked up my backup guitar, and posed with it as her boyfriend took a picture. I didn’t even see her, I just saw the horrified faces of the crowd and turned around as she calmly placed my guitar back in its stand, and walked away.”
The CD release show for their self-titled full-length (Cabeza Records) happened December 21, 2011, at the OB Farmers Market. A third album Ride Rebel Ride was released in 2016. “It’s the third installment in what we like to call our ‘CD cycle,’” according to Head. “We already have two or three more albums’ worth of material, kind of a Kid Rock and David Bowie thing, if you will. We’ve laid down the basic tracks and we’ll be releasing it on CD and digitally, with hopefully some vinyl [version] as well.”
As with the first two releases, the album was recorded at Headtrap. “We’re a totally ‘green’ studio, utilizing recycled insulation, soundproofing, windows, doors, and recycled paint. We even use the carpet rings as tubes for cable runs! Plus, it’s the cleanest studio in town. We’re obsessive about cleanliness. Good for our clients, a pain in the ass for our janitors.”
A video for their single “Summer Days,” from Ride Rebel Ride, was produced at Lake Murray's Cabeza Records/Headtrap Music Studio. The album features nine new songs by songwriter Tristan Luhrs and producer-guitarist Michael Head. It seeks to mix rich guitar tones and layers of stringed instruments, and to capture the solo interplay the band has developed live.
"My greatest musical inspiration, my dad, always said that the Rolling Stones are the greatest ‘country rock’ band to ever play," says Luhrs. "This album was undeniably inspired by those Stones records that were, all at once, rock and country."
Luhrs is also an author, self-publishing his first book in summer 2017. “Planet California is a part-autobiographical, part-sci-fi novel about a guy who drops out of college at the University of Minnesota and flees the cold weather to live out his dream life as an artist and author…. The bulk of the story takes place in San Diego, as ‘Tristan’ transitions from innocent table-waiting Midwesterner to pot-dealing surfer.”