“A bottle of bourbon later, we’re good friends,” Smith said. 

click to enlarge Shane-Smith-BY-AMY-SCARBOROUGH-AL-GAWLIK-PHOTOGRAPHY.jpg

Oklahomans have beer and whiskey to thank for songwriter Shane Smith’s strong bond with the state.

Shane Smith & The Saints is a multifaceted band out of Austin that melds elements of rock, Cajun folk, Celtic music and Americana. The group returns to Oklahoma City for the first time since the debut of its new album, Geronimo, for a Nov. 20 show at Wormy Dog Saloon, 311 E. Sheridan Ave.

In addition to the strong fan base the five-piece has found across the Red River, Smith attributed much of the act’s early success to the support of Mustang Brewing Company and its founder, Tim Schoelen.

“He’s gone over the top in making sure we’ve got a place to stay every time we’re in Oklahoma,” Smith said. “He makes sure that there is a plethora of alcohol every time we’re ever around him. I’ve passed out standing up ... a total of six times at this point on different occasions.”

Smith first met Schoelen at a show in Fayetteville, Arkansas; he approached the band after watching them play.

“A bottle of bourbon later, we’re good friends,” Smith said.

Smith said Schoelen immediately took an interest in the musicians, finding them a host of show opportunities in Oklahoma, from corporate events to their first Wormy Dog gig. He also got them a new trailer after they outgrew their old one.

The band, Smith said, is thankful for the warm welcome and hospitality that has come to define supporters who call Oklahoma their home.

“They’re the types of fans where, if you don’t have a fan base the next time you come back, they’re trying like hell to get you a fan base just by word-of-mouth,” he said.

“All out”

Patronage might have given the band a boost, but the real gains The Saints made with Oklahomans were more likely the result of their passionate performances.

Smith said they try to “leave it all out there” every night.

“It’s a pretty sweaty show, I guess is the best way of wording it,” he said. “It’s usually a pretty rowdy, sweaty environment.”

Geronimo radiates the heat and rhythm previously only available at a concert. Successful bands, Smith said, either exploit an already-popular sound or go completely against the grain to find and define success on their own merit. The Saints hope Geronimo accomplished the latter.

“We’re probably not going to have some of the radio singles off it,” Smith said, “but at the end of the day, we can walk away from that and say, ‘That is our sound, and not too many people sound the same.’”

While recording, the band went through a trial-and-error process as the members learned how to capture the sound and energy of their concerts. Some days, they recorded together live as a band, with minimal overdubs added later. Other days, they took a more piecemeal approach.

The strength of their musicianship and road-dog dedication is apparent; The Saints took only one weekend off to record Geronimo. The rest was recorded as the band toured through cities like Nashville, Dallas, Austin and San Marcos, Texas.

Life on the road influenced Geronimo, too. Rustic-yet-modern tunes evoke images of the red-rock American West.

“It’s a really visual record,” Smith said. “The music itself, I feel like, really paints a picture of what the words are talking about.”

The power of Smith’s methodical lyrics is palpable. The track “Right Side of the Ground,” inspired by his brother’s attempts to bounce back from some bad-ending relationships, is dark but overwhelmingly human.

Smith said he hopes those human elements continue to endear the act to fans in Oklahoma City and beyond. Shane Smith & The Saints will travel to Dublin, Ireland, later this year for a series of shows and hopes to set more overseas tour stops the near future.

Looking ahead, Smith hopes The Saints’ winning formula of touring, songwriting and local brews will help the group further establish its sound and fan base.

“Even though it’s kind of like a ‘Shane Smith-plus-band’ or whatever, it’s really become a pretty tight-knit family of me and the guys,” he said, “and hopefully, the music is sounding like that as well.”

Print headline: Spirits’ spirits, This band bonds with an Oklahoma brewer — and their fans — over beer and a bottle of bourbon.

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