The High Rolling Loners were founded in the spring of 2005 by John Verruto as a Flying Burrito Brothers cover band. After he landed Eric Boone on drums and Ryan Bartell on guitar/vocals, and was supported by a rotating cast of bassists, it quickly turned into an original band, with Verruto and Bartell sharing songwriting duties. Boone named the band after mishearing a line from the song "Railroad Lady."
Simple rocking country, similar to Robert Earl Keen, is what High Rolling Loners play. The guitar ranges from growling to twangy. There's an occasional harmonica, and the lead vocals wear a Southern drawl like a pair of boots.
The band received two 2006 San Diego Music Award nominations for Best Country Band and Best Americana Album for their self-titled debut EP.
The band frequently tours cross country. Verruto says of one tour “We were illegally carrying this monster 16-mortar firework cube, Deep Impact, for thousands of miles." The munitions were given to the band in North Carolina. “We weren't sure what to do with it, and we were nervous when we were driving through tunnels in Baltimore and New York City with it, because there were huge signs prohibiting hazardous material. The plan was to light it off at a rest area and drive off quickly, looking in the rear view mirror and cheering while videotaping and giggling. After a week, while staying at our booking agents’ ranch outside Rolla, Missouri, we drank a case of local wine and set it off at two in the morning. The last two mortars were filled with a bunch of smaller ones, too, so there was a great finale; it whooped ass.”
Even more nerve wracking than smuggling explosives, according to Verruto, was the band’s March 22, 2007 gig in Chattanooga, Tennessee. “It was on East Martin Luther King Boulevard, in a really poor neighborhood, in a run-down ghetto, with a bunch of guys hustling for change on the sidewalk. Out in the back, you could see second-story windows with no glass and lots of fire damage, and crackheads were nervously peeking their heads out at us. After the show, while I was backing out of our spot, some crazy mofo started slamming on my driver-side window, demanding change for a hotdog. We tore the hell out of there. I hope I didn’t run over his foot.”
As for local disasters, "Our worst local gig was at the old Fannie’s bar that used to be in Spring Valley. It was New Year's Eve closing out 2005, which is the worst night to play music anyway. They had a heavy metal band cancel at the last minute and we filled in. Let’s just say there were violent hecklers who were angry at us for not playing Sepultura covers as promised, and we tried to fix the problem with alcohol. It was an educational experience."
Keyboardist Ted Kocher moved up to San Francisco in 2013.
Their 2014 release Match and Kerosene, produced by Mark Neill (Dan Auerbach, Big Sandy & the Fly Rite Trio, Deke Dickerson), was difficult to complete. The project ran into a couple of logistical bumps the previous year, and was placed into a time capsule for some time while band members found themselves playing in other bands (Old Tiger, The Darrows).
"The title is taken from a line in one of the songs, and I think it captures the tension of the album" says Verruto. "We’re really happy with how the whole thing turned out."
As for the album cover, "David Doyle from the Unknowns is a really talented photographer, him and producer Mark Neill took some headshots with an old timey camera, and then stuffed them into old timey jars, and then took photos of those photos. It came out weird and great."