Wednesday, August 10, 2005
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For every huge musical act that has come down the pike, there have been at least 100 that tried to make it but failed. Even the big acts sometimes have their comeuppances — witness the bankruptcy filings of such bands as TLC.
Then there are the bands that stick it out, making their own way without the typical major tours and record sales. They do their thing, letting their audiences find them, and those audiences are usually a lot less fickle than the “what have the Wallflowers done for me lately” crowd.
Southern Culture on the Skids, featuring two of Roanoke’s finest, is the latter type of band. (Full disclosure: In another life, I was a drummer who played bills across the south with S.C.O.T.S.)
Rick Miller (left) and Roanoke natives Mary Huff and Dave Hartman are Southern Culture on the Skids.
Bassist Mary Huff and drummer Dave Hartman, another Roanoker, have been making music with guitarist Rick Miller for two decades. The Chapel Hill, N.C.-based band has a slavishly devoted cult following and continues to sell lots of its own records, even after leaving major label Geffen. Its fortunes, always decent, are primed to take another turn up with a song on “The Dukes of Hazzard” soundtrack.
“Sometimes you wonder how much time you have left,” Huff said in a phone interview. “Then boom, all of a sudden we’re in “The Dukes of Hazzard.” We’re blessed in that respect.”
This latest upturn, literally a surprise to the band, comes in part because of that Geffen connection. The band parted ways with the label a few years back, opting to use its own studio and get its own distribution together instead of dealing with the darker forces of the business. But Geffen still held the rights to the tracks on 1996’s “Dirt Track Date” and 2001’s “Plastic Seat Sweat.” And “Dukes” director Jay Chandrasekhar had already used four cuts from the post-Geffen “Liquored Up and Lacquered Down” CD on the soundtrack of his 2001 cult hit “Super Troopers.”
“I thought that movie was going to go straight to video, and I guess it did,” Huff said. “But people are always coming up to me and telling me they love it.”
Apparently, Chandrasekhar loved Southern Culture. For “The Dukes of Hazzard,” he used “Soul City,” a cut from “Dirt Track Date.”
“If you don’t follow a trend, you just stay on your own path, eventually things circle right back to you.” Huff said.
So the money will just start rolling in, right?
“No,” she said, half joking. “If Jessica Simpson sells enough of her version of ‘These Boots are Made For Walkin,’ we might actually make some money” for royalties and publishing from the soundtrack’s sales.
Huff, not content just to rock, is also a businesswoman. This year, she has taken over all the booking and planning for Sleazefest, the Chapel Hill music festival that the band helped create 11 years ago. Roanoke roots rockers the Lobsters are among the acts playing this weekend. Huff said they came up with the event in response to the too-alternative bent that Chapel Hill nightclubs had taken. Southern Culture could always draw well there, but bands from other places couldn’t break into the scene. Sleazefest has helped break that pattern, employing the same philosophy that has worked for Huff’s band for all these years.
“If you don’t follow a trend, you just stay on your own path, eventually things circle right back to you.”