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Updated: Aug 25, 2023

In the heartland, where the echoes of honkytonk rock 'n' roll resonate, a St. Louis band known as The Fighting Side is causing quite the stir. Their emergence has sent ripples through the realm of alt-country, demanding attention and challenging the status quo.

Their double single release of 'Fires' and 'Can't Help Myself' is a testament to their prowess - a showcase of both musical arrangement and lyrical depth. Each piece is an artistic tableau, a reflection of a group that's honed their craft to perfection.

As they tirelessly work on their upcoming album, slated for a mid-2024 release, The Fighting Side is currently on tour, so we managed to get some of their time to go through these two songs and what they mean to the band, and much more for FLEX!


Hey guys, welcome to FLEX! How are we doing?

Brad: Thanks! We're really glad to be here. Thanks for having us.

Seth: Y'all are one of my favourite blogs, so I'm really glad we're here.

Your music is described as a fusion of various genres like punk, rock, bluegrass and traditional country. How do these variations of genres form together in the band?

Ben: All of us grew up listening to and playing different types of music. A lot of the way I learned bass was coming from jazz and Motown sound music so I’m sure that bleeds into the sound too. I think some of us have had to work a bit to find that country-ish sound but it’s still kind of a melting pot that just works when we come together to write songs.

Seth: Yeah, when we first started out, Brad was the only one of us that grew up with and had experience performing traditional country music. The types of projects I had been a part of were punk, acoustic folk, and this kind of prog/jazz/punk band that Ben and I had been in. So, although I steeped myself in the classics as sort of a crash course, it isn’t ingrained in me like it is for Bradley. I would often joke that our music is mainly just a bunch of people who don’t listen to country trying to write country songs.

With a background in traditional country and punk rock. How do these seemingly contrasting musical backgrounds influence the songwriting and overall vibe of the band?

Timmy: Clearly, a lot of us in the band grew up listening to punk and more aggressive music. That was what influenced us to play music in the first place. And I think that kind of naturally bleeds through now that we’re older and more involved with Americana, country, blues, ect.

David: Totally, and when the songs start to take shape, the instrumentation in our varying influences really takes over and adds the flavor. Playing twangy stuff isn't what I'm used to, so a lot of what I normally do bleeds into the twang.

Seth: Yeah, we always try to have some twang going for consistency, and just because it’s fun. That usually manifests in Brad's vocals and what David does on lead guitar, but other than that we don’t necessarily say “this song has to be this or has to be that” which I think is pretty evident in the distinction most of our songs have from each other. We always say that we're a honky tonk rock 'n' roll band, but it's also just good twangy rock, so we're really free within those lines.

Brad: I always joke that every properly maturing punk kid grows up and puts on a flannel. Ha ha. For real though, and to answer both this one and the last question, I think there is so much crossover in the world of traditional country and punk rock. All the songs are about the working class struggle. There are few folks more rock n roll than Woody Guthrie, Willie Nelson, and the types of folks to put their values up front before you ever even get into the tunes. I think that's a lot of the crossover for me, and so when I write a line like "they say the future is yours, but it's the past that I still can't afford", I can sing that in either style and it'll hit. It's just struggle music. Like the Bottle Rockets said, "watch the baby dance." But truly, the coolest thing about this band is watching how the vibe is driven by our personal dynamics. The sounds evolve as we do. It's rad.

Ben: It also kind of allows us to fit into all different types of genres when we’re out playing with other bands. If we’ve got a really country audience, we can put a great country set together but if we’re in a spot where we need to be loud and rock hard we can get a set together that’s perfect for that too. Best of both worlds.

Your double single release 'Fires' and 'Can't Help Myself’ - what was the recording and writing process like for these songs, and why did you choose to release them together?

Timmy: The songs were recorded at two very different studios with different engineers, but both provided great experiences. Help Myself was recorded at Harbor in Alton, Illinois, which is a bit more of a DIY studio with vintage gear and all the vibes. Fires was done at Kalinga, which is the old Smith/Lee in St. Louis.

Ben: We really had Fires locked in tight and recording that one was pretty seamless. Can’t Help Myself was a bit different. That’s a song Seth wrote and has been with the band from very early on, but I know he was never really satisfied with the way the first recording of it turned out. We spent a lot of time getting that one perfect in the studio at Harbor but Nick Dewitt took to it and just made it beautiful. I think Seth is at peace now with the way it turned out.

Brad: Fires was a song I wrote one night, on a solo camping trip. I usually jot song ideas down here and there, but this one kinda poured out quick and I just knew it would be a barnburner. So I sorta fast-tracked it and we put it together fast. It wound up a little on the backburner during the pandemic shutdowns, but it was the first one we pulled back out when we got back to new arrangements. Recording it with Ryan Torpea at Kalinga was a breeze. We were ready. Shooting the music video and playing a bunch of flamethrowers and stuff was way fun too.

Seth: Yeah, Brad wrote Fires on mushrooms and sent me a recording of him singing the first verse. I could tell right away that it was going to be a more punk rock type of song.

Like Ben said, we'd actually already recorded Help Myself on our first album. It was the last song we did at the end of a marathon recording session, and we were tired. I always felt like we could do it more justice, so I'm glad we got the chance to capture the vibe the way it was intended to sound.

How do you balance crafting hard-hitting arrangements with meaningful and relatable lyrics?

Ben: Brad can speak to the lyrics since he writes all of them, but from my POV, I think what we do well is taking the music and shaping the way it sounds around the feel of what Brad is trying to say in his words.

Brad: So I guess the best way to detail the process is that I normally get a classic country melody in my head. You know the ones, they're all classics. I'll start humming something or a line will hit me and I'll sing it in one of those melodies, but try to warp it into something at least halfway original. When I've got maybe a couple verses and a chorus to what I'm toying with, that's normally when I'll send a recording to our group writing chat. Seth will often take it from there, or just say he hates it, and then he'll flesh the thing out to something we'll bring to our writing nights. These dudes are all impeccable musicians, so the "hard hitting arrangement" part is just gonna happen no matter what. Coming up with meaningful and relatable lyrics is my job, and I try to draw from meaningful, relatable experiences that I've had or things I've watched others go through. I really don't like writing about things that are hyper-specific to my story, and prefer to write songs that everyone can place themselves into.

With a new album on the horizon, could you provide any sneak peeks into the creative direction and themes that listeners can anticipate from this upcoming project?

Ben: I’m really excited about the new songs we have lined up. We’re still working on getting some of them to the place they need to be for a record but the songs definitely cover that whole range of different sounds this band has. We’re trying to put a pair of new songs out into the world every couple of months. I’m just happy to finally get the chance to make my mark with this band since I wasn’t with them for their first album and EP.

Seth: We're aiming to show all facets of what we like to do, from rowdy bangers to more melancholy waltzes. We're gonna run the gamut on this one.

Brad: This is our best lineup yet, and the best group of dudes ever. I'm just really excited to set something in stone with these guys. The recordings we're going to be releasing every couple-few months are amazing, but there's something about an album with it's liner notes and stories that cast a thing into concrete. We're gonna keep doing what we do, and after we put this one down, we're gonna do another. And hopefully another, and then another after that. I'm all about going til the wheels fall off, and sometimes they do.

What do you hope listeners take away from experiencing this unique blend of musical influences?

David: I just hope they relate to what they hear and find some connection to it.

Timmy: I hope that folks are as entertained listening and watching us play these tunes as we are playing them. We’re simply writing songs that we really like playing. That’s where the unique blend comes into play. None of us in this band only likes listening to or playing one genre of music. I think there’s something there for everyone.

Ben: Honestly my favorite thing about all of this has been connecting with all kinds of other bands with the different shows we’ve done. It’s been great having people come to our shows and either discover us or discover one of the bands we’re playing with for the first time. It’s great for expanding taste in music.

Brad: I get corny with this question, but the reality for me is that sharing something you've created with a room full of strangers and having them process your art, right there in front of you, and provide their instant feedback is a really nerve-wracking and magical thing. That symbiosis can be incredible. It's a high like no other, and it goes both ways. The way you feel when you just saw a REALLY good show. The way I feel when we just had a REALLY good crowd who REALLY heard the songs. It's amazing.

And lastly, what is planned for fall 2023 and 2024 for The Fighting Side?

Timmy: The plan is essentially to keep the wheels turning. Hit it hard in the studio without sacrificing touring and playing gigs. We want to be on the road regularly and getting into the studio as much as we possibly can in between runs of shows.

Ben: Yeah, we’re still going to be hitting the road to play shows, but I think we’re gonna be buckling down and getting a lot of new material out there too.

Seth: There's no better test of new material than the road test. Dialing in new material on the road is the only way to get it ready for hitting the studio.

Brad: We're always looking forward to the next shows, always making plans for new material. We've got a really good schedule in place right now, dividing our time pretty evenly between road stuff, writing stuff, and studio time. We're committed to regular releases and regular tours, so it's just about keeping that consistency and commitment in place over the next couple years. We've just signed on with Low Road Artist Management, and we're beyond stoked to see where this takes us and what kind of cool things we'll get to do with them at the wheel. No matter what, the plan is to just keep not stopping what we're out here doing. Adventures in honky tonk rock 'n' roll. Til the wheels fall off, baby.

Stream 'Fires' and 'Can't Help Myself' below:


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