Listening to The Goddamn Gallows is not a passive experience. You don’t sit quietly in your seat and watch the band play. You do not attend a Goddamn Gallows show like an evening at the cinema.
The band is too loud, too raucous, too fun for such disengaged interaction. They tour the country for months at a time, a band of pirates on an asphalt sea. Sporting names like Fishgutzzz (upright bass), Baby Genius (drums) and TV’s Avery (accordion, washboard, trouble), the band defies most common description. Often billed alongside rockabilly bands as much for aesthetic as for sound, The Gallows’ own music comes from much muddier waters. When trying to find a clever slot to categorize them, people often find themselves venturing into the wilds of the “-billy” and “-core” subgeneres. The band has alternately been described as “hobocore,” “Americana-punk” and “guttercore.”
“I think it’s because of how we’ve grown over the years,” said frontman Mikey Classic. “And we’ve definitely grown. I don’t think we’ll ever stop growing and trying new things.”
True enough, the band started as a trio of Classic, Fishgutzzz and Baby Genius. Members were added here and there, with Avery and banjo player Joe Perreze sticking around. Each new member added a new wrinkle to the band’s sound — another dimension to what the band could do, both sonically and in its live shows.
Now, the Gallows hum along like a cobbled together hot rod: it’s sexy and fast, but virtually every moment spent with it fairly seethes with a kind of danger, like it could all come flying apart and smack you in the face. Fans appreciate the band’s aggressive demeanor. People near the stage never know when Avery will come flying down, stealing their chairs and puffing his cheeks in their faces. Classic’s own demeanor on the mic — one foot planted defiantly forward, neck straining — mirror the lyrics of songs like “Ticket to Bleed” and “Y’all Motherfuckers Need Jesus,” songs that aren’t just dirty shanties from modern-day buccaneers but reflections of the band’s ethos. It’s an R-rated take on life in the American Rust Belt.
“Our songwriting is definitely collaborative,” Classic said. “Everyone brings their own piece to a song, and we’ll all kind of sit down and stitch it together. And, of course, we do a lot of writing on the road.”
All that writing has most recently resulted in “The Maker,” the band’s fifth studio album, released this past April on Farmageddon Records. It’s as raw and angry as anything the band has done before. In short, it’s classic Gallows, and fans are devouring it whereever the band goes.
The band has been making regular trips through the capital city since 2008. Like any other band that spends the majority of its time on the road, the Gallows pass through Des Moines several times a year, so why not stop a time or two and play some music? The response has been growing ever since. Crowds fill the venue the act settles in, and as word of mouth spreads, the crowds get larger.
The band’s sound is best appreciated live and up close. It’s an experience that calls out for sweat and beer and a loud, yelling mass of people. It’s a tent revival gone rogue. But ultimately, it doesn’t matter whether you make it out to a show or listen to the albums on your iPod, just so long as you listen. Because this is a band worth celebrating. CV