Bikes, Beer, Burlesque and a Big Horn

Tour de Fat brings Drums and Tuba and the Yard Dogs Road Show along for the ride


On Saturday, the Tour de Fat will be rolling into town. This festival is put on by New Belgium Brewing Company, who in their infinite wisdom, bring bicycles, beer, music and the people who love them together to raise money for local bike organizations. Musical acts The Yard Dogs Road Show and Drums and Tuba will join the fray during the day and then play shows at local venues that night.

Boise Weekly caught up first with Eddy Joe Cotton of the Bay Area-based Yard Dogs via phone as he was preparing a mighty breakfast of bacon and eggs for his band of merrymakers.

BW: How did the Yard Dogs get started?

EJC: Me and two of my friends thought playing in a jug band„washboard, jaw harp and wash jug bass„would be fun. We traveled up and down the West Coast doing shows in little roadhouses, parties, little festivals, stuff like that. We were part of a puppet troupe called the Zoopy Funk Puppet Chaos, and we were spawned from this puppet chaos thing. This incarnation of the Yard Dogs has been together about five years.

You play outdoor festivals and clubs, right?

Yeah, but our show is more of a nighttime show, more of a cabaret performance. It's designed for cabaret and theater, like vaudeville. We do a lot of music festivals though, too.

What's a typical show like?

The show itself is very musical. The band is as important as the performances themselves. It usually starts off kind of slow and dark and then it builds. The daytime shows are more family oriented and faster. The nighttime shows end up being darker and weirder. It's very folkloric and there's a thread of peculiarity that runs through the whole evening. We have sword swallowing and burlesque but it's very conceptual and, I guess, avant garde. It's really hard to explain.

Is it hard to travel with 15 people or do you have it down to a science by now?

Yeah, we do. After a show, we used to have this huge pile of puppets and instruments literally like six or seven-feet tall. The pile of props and instruments was so interesting people used to take pictures of it. That's how unorganized we were.

What is your particular role in the group?

I have one bit I do called King of the Hobos that's storytelling with music. For the most part, I just make sure everything happens like it's supposed to. I'm kind of the silent boss.

Do you all make a living at this or does everyone have to go back to a day job every few months?

The thing is, none of us have ever had day jobs. I'm 34 and I've managed to survive in the arts in one way or another. But there's a sacrifice that comes with that. We live very modestly. When we're touring, we can survive.

Is there a person or an act that is the star of the show?

That's interesting; there isn't. We don't focus on any one headlining bit. It's very obscure the way the show takes place. I think people do want that one icon or that one person to grab onto that they feel represents the show as a whole, but we don't really have that. Everyone has their time in the spotlight.

Later, BW reached Brian Wolff, the tuba part of New Orleans-based indie rock group Drums and Tuba in a Seattle restaurant as he, too, was about to dig in to breakfast.

Who is Drums and Tuba?

Drums and Tuba is me, Brian Wolff, on tuba and trumpet, Tony Nozero on drums and Neal McKeeby on guitar.

Will your new album also be on Righteous Babe Records [Ani DiFranco's label]?

Yeah, this one will be.

How has your music changed in the 10 years you've been together?

It's gone through lots of changes. When we first started out, it was pretty punk rock, pretty stripped down, no electronics or anything. And then we kind of went through an electronic phase and things got a little funkier. Now, it's getting a little more back in the rock direction. We started singing on the last record and there will be more of that on the last one.

Do you write bass lines and then fit the tuba in or do you write for the tuba?

I don't really think about it that consciously. Sometimes the tuba is the bass instrument, sometimes it's the melody instrument. Strangely enough, even though the band is called Drums and Tuba, I don't really focus on that instrument at this point. Whether you know there's tuba in there or not, it shouldn't really make a difference. If you think it's a bass, fine--it's a bass. It's just more of a different sounding bass instrument. I never really thought, "I've got to play a certain way because it's a tuba." I think it ends up with some lines that are less noodly than bass players' because you can't cram in as many notes, which I think sometimes is helpful.

Do you guys consider yourselves a rock band?

Definitely. It's music that's in between genres, but when anyone asks me what we play, I always say rock music.

Who writes the music and who does the vocals?

It's a collaborative effort. Sometimes we just get together and start playing and eventually someone starts playing something cool so we work on that. Tony does the vocals.

Is it because he's the best singer?

Well, I did a little on Battles Ole [their 2005 release], but it's hard to sing and play the tuba at the same time.

Do you guys sound the same live as recorded?

We definitely think it sounds a little bigger live. We never really perfect that sound in the studio, so it's more intense and loud live.

Saturday, August 26: Tour de Fat, 12-7 p.m., FREE, Julia Davis Park; Drums and Tuba with Horn of Happiness, 8-11 p.m., $3, Neurolux; Yard Dogs Road Show, 9 p.m., $10, the Bouquet.