On a Thursday night, deep in the woods of hilly southern Cullman County, you can hear it a long ways off. It’s a sound that doesn’t belong, but at the same time fits these back roads perfectly.
It’s the sound of big, dirty, percussive, crunching rock. Drums that shake things that don’t wanna shake. A voice that finds its way to you, drawing you closer.
Follow the noise like breadcrumbs, and you’ll find yourself peering through the brightly-lit doorway of a tiny, makeshift hut.
But this ain’t Hansel and Gretel, and this ain’t the Black Forest — this is Shallow Side, one deep-woods monster of a local band hoping to carry their sound — and their message — far beyond the treetops.
Oh, and that isn’t a hut — it’s a little storage shed-turned practice room; a place you don’t want to be when that MesaBoogie half-cab stack starts cranking out a concert’s worth of sound.
Shallow Side is the most recent — and, perhaps, the most committed to a career in music — of a succession of heavy bands with ties to the Cold Springs community who’ve gained local success over the past decade. They’re not a Christian rock band (they get asked that a lot, locally), and they’re not a devil-rock band (they get asked that sometimes, too).
What they are is a group of guys with a need to talk to the world through what they make — words and music — and to listen when the world talks back.
“It’s not as glamorous as what we make it look to be, but it turns out where the payoff is that glamorous,” says songwriter and vocalist Eric Boatright. “What I mean by that is this: what we do, for us, pays off in the stories so many people end up telling us about our music; a night they spent somewhere where we played.
“These are people where we’ve played on a tour, in Michigan; in Ohio — someone will come up the second time we’ve been somewhere and tell us, ‘Man, I was at a low place when I heard you guys last year, and that night — your energy; how cool you guys were as real people — that started something really good for me, and I’ve been a fan ever since.’ That’s what it’s all about, right there. That’s everything. We want to be, for people, exactly the same as they expect us to be through our music, when we get to meet them.”
He’s not kidding. Each member of the quartet — Boatright, drummer Heath Fields, bassist Cody Hampton and guitarist Seth Trimble — is completely approachable and unassuming, happy to talk without irony or posturing about why they wanted to form a rock band, and why they can’t see themselves doing anything else.
“We’re serious about this,” says Hampton, a Decatur native who brought his blue-collar work ethic along when he joined what already was shaping into a hardworking band. “This isn’t a jam band or something we just do for fun. It is fun — I mean, where else can you jump in a car and ride five hours down the road with three of your best friends? — but we work at this like a job; really, like more than just a job.”
The band loves the connections it’s making through its relentless cycle of touring, downtime, and more touring, but they aren’t turning their backs on Cullman. In fact, they’re playing a $5 July 4th show right here.
Shallow Side and other acts will front the second-annual July 4th Rock Fest this Wednesday at Deep South Tattoos, located on Ala. Highway 69 in Good Hope.
Catch them now, though — before they go to California. The band, still in the throes of raising money for a suitable touring van, is set to launch an August touring stint that will place them at venues in and around Los Angeles.
And ask for autographs. By the time Shallow Side gets back from L.A., getting ink from these down-to-earth Cullman guys may be a whole lot tougher.
* Benjamin Bullard can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com or by telephone at 734-2131 ext. 270.
Watch below as Shallow Side gives us full access on a Thursday night practice jam in the deep woods and click here for more music from Shallow Side.