Growing up, punk music conjured up images of graffiti and brownstone, safety-pins in earlobes, torn tee-shirts and mohawks (not faux-hawks). Nowadays, punk stylings have branched off into retail outlets (HOT TOPIC) and rock operas (GREEN DAYís ĎAMERICAN IDIOTí). Purists may reject such indulgences but to me, thatís just rock n roll. While its initial defiance may be long forgotten, punk music never, ever brought to mind images of the state of Montana but itís home to the punk rock trio TONIGHT WE RIDE. Having played in bands since high school, the thought of lead singer and guitarist DUB, bassist GREG and drummer BOMB just seemed like the right thing to do. The Helena-based bandís debut CD ĎOF THE WESTí boasts punk rock with a decidedly country and western twist recalling early X and walks that delicate line between partying hard (DRINK MYSELF INTO OBLIVION) and the apocalypse (OTHER SIDE OF THE WALL PART II). Despite the humor, ĎÖWESTí has its deep moments. The song CAIN STATION is sung from the point of view of a person with a brother in Iraq.

ROCKWIRED spoke with the lead singer and guitarist DUB of TONIGHT WE RIDE. Here is how it went.

I never wouldíve expected a punk band to be from Montana.
Theyíve got a cow-punk type thing going on up here.

Like X. They kind of hand a country tinge to what they did.
Yeah, and there is a lot more of that kind of thing popping up.

You guys have a great CD! Now that itís out there for people to hear and the work that has gone into making it is behind you, how do you all feel about the finished work?
Honestly, I couldnít be happier with that CD. I like it more every time I listen to it. We recorded that thing for absolutely no money in our living room. People are pretty surprised to find out that we did it for nothing and did it ourselves. We did it with a TASCAM 16- TRACK RECORDER and some computer software.

Wow! Real rock n roll!
There is a nerd back-end to it though.

How long did it take to put it all together?
We actually put a time limit on how long it was going to take to put it together. We had been in bands before and fucked off and had done a bunch of stuff and had never nailed anything down in terms of saying Ďweíve gotta get this done by this amount of time.í For this CD, we put a two week time constraint on it from start to finish. We had to have it done in exactly two weeks up to the day.

Most punk albums should be done in that time anyway.
I think so too. There were a couple of good things that came out of that. One, we busted it out right away and that was awesome. Two, the album has got a tight sound to it but itís also got a free sound to it. We didnít go back and do guitar parts a hundred times. We did them twice and used the best of the two takes. It really makes for a more interesting listen just from my standpoint. Normally you would go back and listen to it and go ĎI screwed that up!í or ĎI couldíve done that better!í For me- it is the inconsistencies that really make the recording.

Talk about the music scene that you guys are surrounded by in Helena.
Itís not really one city. Montana is just Montana. There is a ton of punk rock up here, there is a ton of rock n roll up here and there are a ton of bands that are going and doing it right now. Weíve got our own closed-off kind of thing up here and weíve got a group of bars and venues around the state that everyone kind of circulates in. At any given time up here there are probably fifteen bands, between the ages of twenty and thirty-five years old, that are playing for almost no money but are just doing it nonstop. There are also a handful of bands that venture outside of the state. Itís a really big network up here. Everybody knows each other.

Talk about the genesis of the band. What got everybody onto the same page to want to do a project like TONIGHT WE RIDE?
In the beginning, it was just me and the bass player. I play guitar and I sing. Right now, weíre a three piece but when we started out, it was me and GREG and we were a two-piece and we had written most of the song on this CD but I used to play them on acoustic guitar and he played a stand up bass. Iím sure youíre familiar with all of that two-piece east coast indie stuff.

We figured that we would skate along with that idea for a while until we realized that there werenít any balls behind it. Me and GREG had actually played in a metal band before this band and did a tour of the West Coast so me and GREG have actually known each other for a while and actually live together. As the drummer ADAM had come back from college, we scooped him up just as quick as we could because he is an awesome drummer. He had played with GREG in a couple of bands in high school and was really into the music that we were doing. We had decided that we really couldnít be a two-piece band any more. We had to add a drummer and we had to go all electric. We re-wrote all of the songs over the course of six months and fine-tuned them with a drummer then we pumped the CD out.

Talk about your two other band mates. What do they bring to the table both musically and personality-wise that sort makes this whole thing work?
GREG, our bass player is really into Ė as are all of us Ė into a lot of the old soul and funk stuff like SLY AND THE FAMILY STONE and ARETHA FRANKLIN. I love OTIS REDDING and AL GREEN and that is definitely a direction that we are going into, but GREG really gets into funk. He used to play a lot of funk bass and I kind of turned him on to punk rock. Heís mixed the two styles together kind of, and he is just an awesome bass player. Heís also really snappy. He picks it up right away. As far as personality goes, GREG is all over the place. Heís got three or four unicorn tattoos.

I noticed the MY LITTLE PONY unicorns on your MYSPACE page.
Heís got a thing for dumb tattoos. If you check out our MYSPACE and look through the pictures, you can see some of the dumb tattoos that heís acquired. He really is a personality. Heís really fun to be around. Heís just wild. We really like to party hard and we really like to have a lot of fun and the CD kind of gets that message across. The thing to do would be to see us live if anything because we throw it down pretty hard live and we always try to have a good time regardless of the situation whether we are playing in front of two people or two hundred people. It doesnít matter. ADAM our drummer is kind of quiet he likes a lot of progressive stuff. He is a much better drummer than the album gives him credit for. He is more than happy to tame it down and play just the essentials.

Talk about how music began for you?
We were all in high school at around the same time and we had all started out in different high school bands. We had started to network with this group of people in Montana. They were all people of our age group. We were sixteen or seventeen years old and we were all starting bands in high school and it is just one of those things where once you pick it up you canít sit it down. You canít stop doing it. I kind of got bit by the bug when I was very young and so was GREG and so was ADAM. There was really nothing else to do in Montana. We just wanted to write music, play music and have fun.

What kind of place do you think that you are coming form as a songwriter?
There are three things that we really write songs about. We like to write songs that are inspired by individual people that we know. That was what this album was largely based from. We also write songs about partying and drinking and having a lot of fun and we also like to write songs about the end of the world.

How millenarian of you.
Yeah. We believe that our next album Ė which we are going to tart recording here pretty quickly Ė is going to be a concept album based around the idea of 2012-end-of-the-world thing which we donít believe in by any stretch of the imagination. We donít believe that itís going to happen. Itís just one of those things that makes for fun subject matter and its fun to think about it.

And think of all of the bad movies that itís going to inspire.
Exactly! Iím going to go see everyone of them. The idea of the apocalypse appeals to me and I wonder why anyone would write about anything else. I like to think that it would happen in my life time because itís something that I would really like to go through. If I had the option to see the apocalypse or not see the apocalypse, you better believe Iím hopping on the apocalypse train. You know what Iím saying?

Explain if it can be explained how a song gets written once youíve had those three sources of inspiration.
The grand majority of the time, it will be something that I have written and I will work out the words and the chords and the progression and bring it to those guys and they will really flesh it out or they will give me an idea and I will take it and expand upon it. In some cases GREG will write some stuff. ADAM does not writing whatsoever.The majority of the stuff Ė I write but itís heavily inspired by GREG and those guys really work to flesh the whole thing out so itís really a group thing, but the whole thing starts with me Ė not to sound incredibly egotistical.

What songs off of this album stand out for you the most and why?
There are a couple of ĎWhoaí- heavy tracks on here that have a lot of whoa-ing and not a lot of words. They are always fun to do live because when youíve got a bar full of drunk people and they are all whoa-ing, itís pretty awesome. What I all the ĎWhoaí songs are CAIN STATION and FIND MY WAY HOME. Those are always really fun songs to play. FIND MY WAY HOME has got keys and strings on it and it just pumps the whole song up and makes it sound epic. Those are two of my favorite tracks on there along with OTHER SIDE OF THE WALL which is a big favorite of a lot of people and thatís just the acoustic track. That one is more a story-driven track and it was actually supposed to go on this next album. Itís a concept track that has more to do with the second track than anything else.

This is going to sound like a very superficial question, but I happen to love album art. Talk about the cowboy and the panda in what looks like a showdown on the cover.
That is not a superficial question. That is an awesome question! I wish more people would ask me about it. We have a friend named CODY ECKMEYER that does all of our art for us. That cover looks like an oil painting but he actually did it on the computer. We told him the name of the album and nothing else. He came up with an east meets west kind of theme. Itís not an east versus west theme which I was misquoted as saying one time. They tried to make it sound like it was some sort of Ďterroristí thing. Itís an art dynamic that I think is awesome. It makes for awesome album art.

Talk about the bandís future direction in terms of its sound. You hinted earlier that you guys are leaning towards a more soulful sound.
The more songs that we write the more soulful the stuff ends up sounding. Some of the music is getting simpler and some of the vocal parts are getting more out of control. If you listen to some of them old soul songs, itís just two chords back and forth but the vocals are just climbing up and down the scales. For me and the band taking this approach is kind of like playing a game. Writing and performing music is sort of like playing a game. There are a hundred different ways to play it and itís just a matter of figuring it out. Rock n roll has been around for so long that everything that you are doing has been done and itís just a matter of how well you do it and learning the tricks to make it work. Itís really all about figuring out how to play the game and how to make it work for you. We are on our way to doing that right now. Itís a crazy game. Itís the most interesting game that you can play and I donít know why everyone doesnít play it.

What would you like someone to come away with after theyíve heard this CD?
Iíd like for people to come away with a big smile on their face. Iíve heard the album described as feeling like ďhomeĒ but thatís coming from Montana people who already know who we are. I would really like people to associate this CD with home, if that makes any sense.

Not quite.
I would like people to associate it with a feeling of warmth. I want people to feel good when they are listening to it and Iíd like people to party when they are listening to it. I just want it to be something that is going to make people feel good.