Texas punk scofflaws the Riverboat Gamblers work through bad run of cards 

A decade and four albums into their career, the Riverboat Gamblers hit a wall upon returning from a tour supporting 2006's "To the Confusion of Our Enemies." Founding bassist Pat Lillard called it quits, having suffered enough at frontman Mike Wiebe's hands, between having his teeth knocked in by an errant microphone swing, and losing his bass on the road after Wiebe forgot to lock the trailer.

The white-hot Texas act was demoralized, despite enjoying a higher profile than ever before.

"We were just coming off a really grueling year and everybody was fucking burnt, and they were like, 'Dude, what are we doing?" Wiebe said. "It seemed like here were a lot of obstacles " and it was just like, 'Fuck it.' Like a running back, we had to barrel through. It didn't feel like here was any way to dodge them."

The group " which also includes once-local Eric Green, who drummed with metro favorite Twenty Minutes to Vegas " took several months off prior to recording its latest, "Underneath the Owl." When the members reconvened, it was for a well-regarded release that eases back on the tempos and pumps up the hooks for the act's catchiest blast of garage-pop-punk. Interestingly, the album was again produced by Andrew Mudrock (Avenged Sevenfold, Godsmack), despite Wiebe's prior complaints about the slickness of "Confusion."

PROACTIVE APPROACH
Like the problems the band had with its label, Volcom, the Gamblers took a proactive approach.

"We had two meetings; one was with Volcom. We were like, 'We didn't feel like this happened right on the last record,' and they said, 'All right, we agree,'" Wiebe said. "(At the meeting) with Mudrock, we were like, 'We'd like to do it again, but here's my issues with the last record,' and he was like, 'I totally hear where you're coming from. Let's try and fix that.'"

The album is highlighted by the anthemic closing track, "Victory Lap," which reads like a travelogue about "living on a dollar a day," yet far from complaining, the song revels in the glory of their job. But it didn't start out like that. Only after five or six rewrites did its more revelatory nature come to life.

"At some point, I was like, 'Things aren't so bad,'" Wiebe said, telling himself between albums, a time during which he was also divorced. "There are a lot of good things in my life. Besides, there's a whole record full of problems."

These days, his attitude is sunnier, and Wiebe talks about how fun it is to sing "Victory Lap" each night. Last year, while on tour with Against Me!, the acrobatic, rafter-climbing frontman even impressed Bruce Springsteen with his energy.

"He told me that between me, him and James Brown, we were the three hardest working guys in the biz," Wiebe said. "We have a new record and attitude. These days, we're a locked and honed rock 'n' roll machine that checks the trailer constantly." "Chris Parker

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