Greg Loftus & The Ten Ninety-Nines: Greg Loftus & Cody Brown

gregcody

Greg and Cody have carved their names into the Americana\Alt-Country scene in good ole Austin, TX where they play regularly around town. Even though they come from different backgrounds, Greg growing up in the Northeast devoted to punk bands, and Cody, a born and raised Austinite (a rarity in town these days), exploring the blues in his early days, are complementary in the best of ways. Catching one of their intimate shows is a must for anyone who loves the kind of country Texas is known for; they are an Americana gem in the music capital.

Greg Loftus & Cody Brown

Sarah: What do you guys do outside of playing music?

Cody: We’re both in construction.

Sarah: Is that how you guys met?

Greg: No, I actually met Cody through Craigslist and we’ve hung out every day together for the last 4 years! I was looking for a guitar player when I first moved here – I guess it was almost 5 years ago now – and we ended up hanging out-

Cody: Where did we meet? Oh yeah, Spider House Ballroom.

Greg: Cody got banged up; he got wasted on Thirst Goat beer because he was nervous.

Sarah: Awe, so cute!

Greg: Didn’t you turn down another gig?

Cody: Oh yeah!

Sarah: What? What happened?

Cody: A bad career choice!

Greg: You made a bad career move on that one!

Sarah: Was this with another band?

Cody: Yeah, this girl out of New Orleans who is amazing.

Greg: They’re actually getting pretty big now.

Cody: Yeah, they’re doin’ well! I was talking with them about being in their band but then Greg came around and I was like, “Yeah”-

Greg: Sorry, man!

Cody: You ruined my career!

Sarah: But, you got a beautiful friendship out of it.

Cody: Yeah-

Greg: That’s more important. Money and fame are overrated!

Sarah: 5 years ago, Craigslist; it’s where it all began.

Greg: Yep! Since then, we’ve kind of had a rotating cast of people on drums and bass.

Cody: Us two have been the only consistent band members from the beginning.

Greg: Well, Kevin came back. He’s one of our best friends and he’s played in other bands as well so we got his bass player also.

Cody: He played bass for us but he’s now our current drummer. He’s a talented dude and a funny guy.

Sarah: So, have you played consistently for the past 5 years?

Greg: Pretty much, yeah. You know, there are some off months, but as an average it ends up being about once a week. This week we had 3 gigs all together.

Sarah: Yeah, you guys played at Blackheart the other night, right?

Greg: Yeah, Blackheart two nights ago. I also did a song swap the other night at Hard Luck –

Cody: Cheater!

Greg: Yeah, and then we have another gig tomorrow night at NxNw which is more just a job.

Sarah: At least those kind of jobs keep you limber.

Cody: It keeps our chops up; I can work on weird chops and nobody gives a shit.

Greg: We can work on weird songs and no one cares.

Sarah: So you guys have gone through two name changes, you’re on your second, right?

Greg: Yeah, first we started out with Carpetbagger which is more rock-n-roll

Sarah: So, you’re styles have changed?

Greg: I guess, but not really. We’re actually coming back to it now. Cody’s been playing with me for some time, so I booked it under my name, Greg Loftus, for a while –

Cody: Carpetbagger was kind of rock-n-rollish, but now we’re doing kind of singer/songwriter stuff with Greg Loftus and the Ten Ninety-Nines. It’s getting back to more rock-n-roll, cool band, though.

Greg: Which we’re all psyched about because it’s more fun; the live shows are more fun.

Sarah: How would you define your style of music?

Greg: I just say Americana because there’s so much of it, alt-country, rock-n-roll; I want to go more toward the straight rock-n-roll kind of stuff because I’ve been having such withdrawals from that. I love country music and there’s great country music here, but I just want to start a straight up 1970s rock band, like, Dad rock! You don’t really see that anymore.

Sarah: You have to wear that kind of clothing, though!

Cody: Dad rock jeans!

Greg: You don’t really see bands doing Tom Petty stuff, you know?

Cody: Like country leaning into ’70s rock stuff.

Greg: With big guitar solos.

Sarah: What’s been your best moment performing together?

Greg: Probably that last release show; that was fucking awesome! We did an album release at Stay Gold in December.

Cody: The Creedence show; there was this show for Halloween at Hole in the Wall  and everybody picks a band to cover. We picked Creedence [Clearwater Revival], and it was fucking awesome!

Sarah: Did one of you dress up as The Dude?

Greg: I dressed up as John Fogerty. It was a blast. People were into it more than they’ve ever been into our music.

Cody: They were jumping up and down. There was another band who covered Public Enemy and there was a The Clash cover band.

Greg: We did a show during SxSw at White Horse which was awesome; they’re usually consistently fun.

Cody: Yeah, but not every one of our shows has been like, “Holy fuck, that was awesome!”

Greg: Yeah, we’ve had some pretty dismal shows where in the beginning of the second song I’m like, “I can’t wait until this shit’s over!” This is the best we’ve ever been now.

Sarah: So, where do you see this going?

Greg: Well, I want to do another record; a rock-n-roll record. I just did an album that was more folky – they were just my acoustic songs – and it had a lot of Austin friends in it. Cody plays guitar and the mandolin –

Sarah: The mandolin?

Cody: Yes! I’ve got a mandolin at the house!

Greg: And, Zach from Mike and the Moon Pies, a country band here in town – they’re one of the hardest working bands here. I just had a bunch of friends play on it and it was a good time! I just want to do one with more of the band.

Sarah: What’s your creative process then for crafting music and writing lyrics?

Greg: I just usually have pieces of songs then I’ll write some music and fit them in which sparks ideas. I wish I wrote down more of the stuff I think about, but I do most of my thinking while I’m driving and I hate it when people text and drive. So I’ll be like, “Oh, that’s a good line” and then by the time I get there 15 minutes later I will have completely forgotten it.

Sarah: In your opinion, what’s the best song you’ve created? The one that you love the most.

Greg: “Cinder and Soot”; it’s one of those that I didn’t spend that much time on, normally the ones that I spend those most time on I don’t like as much. I have some songs that I’ve had the idea for a year. But “Cinder and Soot” is one that just kind of came out; I only worked on for about an afternoon. “Kill the Lights” is another one too, it’s older, about 8 or 10 years old. Then I went through a period where I didn’t like it and now I really like it again.

Cody: “Palomino Gold”off of his last record. That’s just me liking that song because I didn’t even play on it.

Greg: Oh yeah, you didn’t. But, he plays on it now, he plays it live. We match up guitar parts which is really cool.

Cody: I’m trying to think of one with the full band – “American Bruises” which is a really fucking cool song. We all kind of had a part in; I wasn’t just a bystander for that one.

Sarah: Do you normally help Greg out?

Greg: Me and him write a lot together. I’ll get the bases of the song then I’ll show it to Cody, he’ll work out his parts and then we’ll bring it to the drummer and bass player. Cody will change some parts, but once it gets past me and Cody, that’s basically what the song is.

Sarah: And then lyrics follow?

Greg: Oh no, usually I have about 70% of the lyrics written. I know the melody and what it’s supposed to sound like and then sometimes I’ll just finish the lyrics in the studio. It’s weird, because I feel like I write songs in so many different ways. Like, sometimes they just fall out, or sometimes I feel like I work on them forever, or sometimes I’ll do a full song and then I’ll break it down and change it into something else. Sometimes I’ll have a lyric and then a song will just write itself around that. I will never write all the lyrics to a song and then do the music after. The second that I have two or three lines is when I’ll start writing music. I’m not like, “Oh, this is a poem I wrote…”

Sarah: How did you guys start playing music?

Greg: I’ve been playing the guitar for 18 years and I’ve been writing songs since before I could play the guitar. I remember picking up a guitar, I didn’t know how to play it, but I just wanted to write songs so bad. I was, like, 12 or 13 years old and I was just hitting the guitar and singing over it, trying to write something. It took me a good 10 years before anything decent came out of it. I grew up playing in punk bands for a long time. I loved punk rock as soon as I could listen to anything – all through middle school and high school. As a kid, I loved Springsteen and my dad was a Deadhead, which punk rock guys usually hate the Grateful Dead, but I loved all sorts of stuff. I loved a lot more of the melodic punk rock stuff. I was never really into Black Flag or Screamo. I love Bad Religion and The Clash; those bands molded my sense of the world. But, I tell people all the time that punk rock leads over to country music because all of it is just three chords. Also, Most of it is the same message, like outlaw country music ; Waylon Jennings is a fucking badass you know, who calls shit out. It’s like, slowed down punk rock or sped up country.

Sarah: Yeah, I’ve read that Kurt Cobain was really into country music and then he formed Nirvana.

Greg: Did you hear Sturgill Simpson’s “In Bloom” cover?

Sarah: Yeah, it was fantastic!

Greg: His last record was great!

Sarah: Cody, tell me about when you started playing the guitar.

Cody: Same thing, 18 years ago. My brother picked it up before me. I wanted nothing to do with it for a while and then he taught me the E minor chord and there was something about it. Then he taught me G, and I don’t know-

Greg: You could play “About a Girl’ by Nirvana!

Cody: Ha, yeah! Just those two chords, it was so powerful, and I just took to it. I spent hours in my room, playing by myself, playing music.

Greg: *laughter*

Sarah: You’re ridiculous!

Cody: *laughter* He is!

Greg: That set-up was awesome! “Just a teenager, playin’ in my room, playin’ by myself.”

Cody: … just kind of exploring. So, yeah, that was it.

Greg: You were big into Stevie Ray Vaughan

Cody: Yeah, I was really into blues and stuff like that.

Greg: Which makes you a better guitar player. He started learning great stuff at a young age, and as soon as I learned a few chords, I quit lessons and then I just played as fast as I could and as loud as I could. It wasn’t until I was in my 20s when I started learning about theory and now I’m teaching guitar.

Cody: With the blues, I mean, I wasn’t a child of punk. I didn’t like punk; no melody for me, then fuck that. But, through him (Greg) I’ve learned to appreciate it. I’m more into punk now than I ever was when I was younger.

Sarah: It’s never too late. But, when you’re younger there’s a different connection to it, because you’re more angsty –

Greg: Yeah, that’s exactly what it was for me; the attitude and the message is what got me into it. You don’t really get into it at 31 years old. At 31 you’re not usually like,” I think I’ll start getting into Bad Brains!” The early Rancid albums are awesome too!

Sarah: Rancid forever!

Greg: I went and saw Hot Water Music as a grown up and it was the sweatiest, beardiest, most flanneliest show I’ve ever been to in my life, just a bunch of dudes yelling drinking IPAs.

Sarah: Talk about influences. I know we’ve covered a lot of bands so far but what influences your music now.

Cody: Tom Petty, songwriters –

Greg: Yeah, you have to be a songwriter.

Cody: When you boil it down, that’s where the roots are.

Greg: Your lyrics have to be decent, if not amazing. Obviously, Towns Van Zandt, Steve Earle, Guy Clark, I’m a massive Springsteen fan. Just so many people.

Sarah: Anyone in Austin?

Greg: A lot of my friends are some of my favorite songwriters; Cory Reinisch, Ben Ballinger, Leo Rondeau –

Cody: Leo Rondeau is fucking great!

Greg: There’s just so many people in town that are killing songs, and it’s great, so, if you do a gig with somebody and you appreciate them as a songwriter, it makes you want to be better. I do a lot of song swaps where it’s, like, four guys and they all take turns playing songa. It’s great, because everybody always tries to outdo the last guy, but in a totally playful and friendly way. It’s a great experience to keep your songwriting chops up. As far as the newer stuff, Jason Isbell is one of the best out there right now. He used to be in the Drive-by Truckers. But, as far as the old stuff, Hank Williams, Buck Owens, John Prine is one of my favorite songwriters ever! Have you ever heard of Cory Branan by chance?

Sarah: No.

Greg: He’s playing here in a few weeks actually and he’s a phenomenal songwriter. I was actually living in Providence and I saw him play. That’s when Deer Tick’s John McCauley came out. I used to play gigs with him all the time and then he started getting a lot of publicity. A lot of guys started copying him kind of, well, doing more acoustic stuff and I remember seeing Cory Branan play at a place called Jake’s Bar and Grill and I was blown away; it was fucking amazing. I remember that week I started writing acoustic songs and I haven’t stopped since then. Lucero was another one that helped bridge the gap from punk to country. When I was growing up I thought I hated country music because in my head I only thought of pop country because that’s what you get in the Northeast. I mean, as a kid I loved Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash but I didn’t really think of them as country, I just thought of them more as badass singer/songwriters. I mean,  Johnny Cash was punk rock as fuck!

Greg Loftus Website

Greg Loftus and the Ten Ninety-Nines Facebook

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