The Buckets - Falling on the Butter side

The Buckets know all about the road well traveled. Actually, they were founded on the concept of the wide open road. "The band is really based on the American ideal of truck driving," says Earl Butter, the Buckets' songwriter and singer/guitarist. Not that members of the band have logged hours behind the wheel of a semi. Butter says it's more like keeping the spirit of the long-distance haul alive. "This country is the one of the only places in the world where you can drive 3,000 miles without seeing any real borders or checkpoints," says Butter, "I think that's a romantic ideal." Butter should know all about that cross-country drive. He formed the group in the late '80s in Boston. In 1991 he relocated to San Francisco. Violinist Wanderlean Taters, who is an unofficial member of the Breeders, is a founding member of the band. Other current members include lead guitarist Kid Coyote, bassist Slim Volume, and drummer Rob Bob. Don't go expecting the Buckets to play sad odes to the big rig driver making the long sojourn across the continent with a only George Jones tape for company. This might come as a shock, but Butter isn't really Earl's name. All the members of the band employ stage names. The Buckets operate with the tongue-in-cheek humor of Butter's role model, They Might Be Giants. "They're not in music to be strictly funny," Butter says. "I think some of their songs are very moving. But it's always under a layer of quirkiness." Slow River Records recently released the Buckets' first full-length record. The self-titled, self-produced CD features 15 tracks that cover common country music themes of lost love, beer drinking and, of course, truck driving. Butter describes the Buckets' sound as having a hard country beat, with rock influences added in the form of Coyote's guitar work. The uptempo sound of the band might be closer to the faster western swing beat than to traditional Nashville country. The Buckets' hokey stage names and their fun live act may mislead folks. Although the presentation is frivolous, most of the songs hold up as tales of real pain and loss. One listen to the record reveals a deeper, more meaningful side of the band. Although the album has a few silly or lighter numbers, songs like "Mistake #1" and the Johnny Rivers-esque "Postmarked, Virginia" have surprisingly haunting power. A good example of the dual nature of the Buckets' music is "I'm Drunk", the first song on the record. "Some people get the mistaken impression that it's a 'woo hoo!' kind of drinking song, but in actuality, it's a grim confession of alcoholism," he says. With lyrics like, "I wish that I burned alcohol instead of burning wood/And I wish there was a better way to cover up my sorrow," it's hard to doubt him. The band has earned a reputation as a consistently solid live act. Butter credits that to his determination not to take musically as deadly seriously as some musicians do. "Country music has more room in it for humor than rock, for sure," he says. "Not silly. More like laughing through your tears. It's like They Might Be Giants said: 'Most rock music is like a soap opera; it's kinda like real life, but there's no humor in it.' " (The Buckets' self-titled debut CD is available from Slow River Records, 16 Nicholson St. #1, Marblehead, MA 01945.)