News Column

Coyote Union brings driving folk to St. Joe

August 30, 2013


Aug. 30--There's a road less traveled where folk and Americana music in the vein of Mumford and Sons meets the driving rock of bands like Kings of Leon.

A band of friends from a rural portion of Arkansas have hit gold on this path and are reaping the benefits as they sift through its treasures.

Playing with Eyelit at 9:30 p.m. Aug. 30 at The First Ward House, the young guys of Coyote Union have a found a perfect, eclectic balance on their debut EP and are looking forward to showing that off.

In different types of bands since the ninth grade in their hometown of Mountain Home, Ark., drummer Mark Bertel and guitarist Christopher Royer had no reservations about wanting to make music and touring their full-time career.

"We always tried to make it in every band we were in. Like 'Man, this could be our career' and then we really sat down and thought 'Coyote Union is really our best shot.' And we're trying to take off with it," he says.

With the missing pieces slowly falling into place, including vocalist Luke Gessner, violinist and pianist Wes Dorethy and bassist Jordan Finley, they knew they were onto something.

When you listen to songs like "Teardrop River," with its rousing collection of whistles, hand claps and three-part harmonies, you can see it. Songs like "Bones" with a Mumford and Sons-like thumping bass drum that morphs into machine gun snare drum rolls on its violin-laden chorus and the southern grunge rock and whistles of "Pot of Gold" solidify that feeling that, yeah, these guys are something special.

"What we want people to feel like is 'Man, it's in your face. It's something I can clap to and just feel good,'" Bertal says.

It would be easy to say these guys are hopping onto a trend, as Americana has become one of the hottest genres in rock music, but that's not the case. Coming from a small town in Arkansas, much like their musical forefathers such as Johnny Cash and Glen Campbell, this type of music is in their blood.

"We weren't trying to play music that fits what's going on right now. We were trying to play music we enjoy," Bertal says. "We just feel really lucky that what we like to play is what's hot right now. If we were a band in the '90s, I don't think we'd get the response we're getting now."

Inspired equally by punk bands as much as folksier music, Coyote Union reflects the eclectic part of Arkansas it feels is misrepresented or forgotten altogether.

In a way, the band's hometown's reputation is not too far removed from the largely false image St. Joseph is given.

"It gets a bad rap around the nation for hillbillies and stuff like that, but there's actually a lot of people here that are into art and stuff like that. It's a really artistic place as well," Bertal says.

Wearing state pride on its figurative sleeve, Coyote Union honors the area where the members grew up, with hopes of supporting it through various fundraisers and giving underprivileged children access to shows.

After all, it's the inspiration behind much of the band's music.

"It factors in a lot. A lot of (the songs) are inspired by floating on the river or going to the lake and just having fun in our natural state," Bertal says. "We all grew up here since we were real little, so it's kind of a heritage that we've adapted to. It's a way of life, I guess."

They've been doing their state proud, with a Daytrotter session booked, potential to write a theme song for an upcoming Discovery Channel show and shots at big Midwest festivals like Wakarusa.

They're feeling the love and are seeing many people reciprocate it. It's something they won't soon ignore.

"We never ever want to forget where we came from if we get the opportunity to spread our music now," Bertal says.

Andrew Gaug can be reached at Follow him on Twitter: @SJNPGaug.


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