Rodney Parker & Fifty Peso Reward Apologize. Again.
Ask three members of Denton country-rock outfit Rodney Parker and Fifty Peso Reward where the band name came from, and you'll get three humorous, and ultimately, unrevealing answers.
"Nowhere," say bass player Brooks Kendall. "From drunk 22 year-old idiots."
Multi-instrumentalist Danny Skinner adds, "The story is really not interesting unless you were there, and even then it's still not interesting."
Perhaps the band's lead-singer and namesake, Rodney Parker, sums it up best, "Secrets!"
While that type of symmetry and cohesiveness is representative of the band whose core has been together for over a decade, the vision and the music of the group, unlike the name, is far from aimless. And thanks to a fantastic new EP, The Apology: Part II, the group continues to be anything but a secret. With lead-guitarist Zach Galindo and drummer David Feigelman rounding out the current line-up, few bands from Texas can match the raw firepower Parker and the rest provide on stage or on record.
With the recently released EP - an urgent bookend to 2010's anticipation-stirring The Apology: Part I - Parker and crew have established themselves as a dependably kick-ass group that hasn't produced as much as a single foul note since before the release of 2008's The Lonesome Dirge, the first album the group considers to be the first true representation of their skills and the one which gained attention from press and new fans across the country.
Before that breakthrough, however, Parker had written songs for a record as a solo artist, more or less. The solid, but rough-around-the-edges Blow the Soot Out was quickly recorded and released in 2004, and was only a hint at what Parker and his cobbled together band of old chums were capable of once they had a couple of years to gel.
"I had written most of those songs without having a band," says Parker. "We got together and really quickly got in the studio. Back then I don't think any of us would have believed that this thing would end up lasting over a decade with the same guys. So in some ways I guess it [Blow the Soot Out] was more of a solo thing, but that changed quickly after the record came out."
When that time came to gather up some partners for a band, Parker didn't have to look too far or think too hard. After playing solo open-mic nights, Parker reached out to childhood friends he grew up with in Grapevine, Texas to kick recording into high-gear.
"I got offered a full band show at a private party," he says. "I took the gig because it paid well, but I didn't have a band yet, so I had to scramble to put something together. The first person I called was Brooks. He, Danny and I went to school together, so I've known them both since we were ten or eleven. Danny joined a little later after that, and then we brought on Zach."
Though the group has been firing on all cylinders with the 29 year-old Feigelman currently on drums, the band somewhat mirrors arguably the most prominent of all rock clichés -- constant drummer replacement.
"We have had several drummers come and go," says Kendall. "Gabe Pearson was our drummer through The Lonesome Dirge years and he now plays for Turnpike Troubadours. Adrian Hulet was drummer for the couple years before Gabe and he left us to become the front man for Osocloso."
The lack of a steady drummer was a part of the reason for the lengthy time between Soot and Dirge, but it wasn't the only hurdle for the band to clear.
"There was a lot of searching going on between those two records," says Skinner. "And I don't just mean stylistically, but personally also. We were learning about being adults, music professionals and being on the road full-time. It's a lot to digest and it changes you. We were exploring those changes, I guess. Also, like most bands, we incurred quite a bit of debt making our first album and were seeing very little return supporting it. We weren't exactly eager to take that debt deeper."
To add to such real-life adjustments, Parker points to artistic development as another reason the band waited for the right time to start producing music regularly.
"It took that long because we were changing as musicians and songwriters and becoming better," Parker says. "We demanded a lot more from ourselves than we did with Blow the Soot Out. Those years between the first and second record are when this band found its identity."
Members of a band are typically, and understandably, wary of admitting they share a style or even worse, sound like another band. RP50PR (as many fans have come to abbreviate the lengthy moniker) are indeed a rock band which draws heavily from its regional roots creating the effectively hard-charging sound known these days, for better or worse (mainly worse), as "Texas Country." While the group senses the often-times narrow sonic boundaries of what many Texas Country fans expect, they also grasp and accept that such a label has more to do with fitting into a marketplace and not being held-back artistically. Not too much, anyway.
"You can beat up a town playing a show every month for years and never increase your draw at all," Parker says. "Then radio starts playing your stuff and all of a sudden people are showing up. So we have to take that into account when making a record. It's not everything, but it's there. It's usually with smaller stuff like song length and titles, maybe how quickly we get to a chorus. For this band playing in this genre though, we still live way out under the edge of the umbrella."
Kendall agrees that there are commercial concerns when planning a new album or writing songs, but he's not terribly worried he and his mates will ever cross an uncomfortable line.
"I wouldn't say we let any sort of restrictions get to us too much," he says. "We obviously aren't going to make a Casey Donahew or Josh Abbott record, so we aren't going to try to."
Indeed, both of the Apology EPs are harder rocking and of higher quality than much of what Donahew and Abbott, two of the most popular bands from Texas touring today, have recorded to date. Parker's vocal's often reveal a desperation that lends the songs great force, making them a tad too substantial for some Texas Country fans. Of course, the aforementioned Greek-Row Kingpins -- Donahew and Abbott -- regardless of what most music critics think should be the case, often draw thousands of people to their shows and regularly have their songs in heavy radio rotation across Texas. RP50PR will be hitting various parts of the Midwest soon to support their new release, so it's no secret they indeed hope to grow their band as well as their brand, but only when the time is right.
"Touring all over is most definitely a goal of this band," Skinner says. "We used to do large scale touring full-time, but it was before we could really afford it. We won't go back to a schedule like that until we are making enough money for it to make sense."
Thanks to the years of shared history and the sometimes costly lessons learned on the road, this band understands that dependably great music is more valuable than practicality. Regardless of financial discussion, artistic considerations and the manner in which a band works together off the stage, a group has to plug in and burn it down on the stage, above all else. Most who have seen RP50PR play live will agree that the task isn't a difficult one for the mysteriously named crew.
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