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Area band profile: 13 Creek Crossing takes back-to-basics approach

By Jimmy Alford jalford@news-journal.com
June 9, 2011 at 11 p.m.


<em><strong>Editor's note:</strong> This is the first in a series on area bands to appear in Friday's Unwind.</em>

In a time when the music scene has been infiltrated by pitch correctors and otherworldly divas, up-and-coming East Texas band 13 Creek Crossing strives to resurrect a simpler sound, a better sound - real rock 'n' roll.

Band members Andrew, 27, and Matt Beavers, 29, and Ryan Gilley, 25, along with their sound engineer, John Russo (somewhere in his 40s), aren't kicking it old school or country - they're just kicking it.

They remember when rock 'n' roll had soul and sang about daily life without being shoved out of mainstream rock. Think Creedence Clearwater Revival for the 21st century or Led Zeppelin but not British - if there can be such a thing.

Music started early for brothers Andrew on vocals and lead guitar and Matt, the bassist. They started playing at an early age and both played in bands when they weren't riding in rodeos. The drummer, Gilley, has been hitting the skins for most of his life and has jumped to and from several bands. But the lifetime of music hasn't come easy and not all at once.

All three band members have day jobs. Gilley works as a mechanic, Andrews as cabinet maker and carpenter, and Matt as a hydraulic specialist.

"I've got a wife and two kids," Matt said. "I'm blessed that I have a good enough wife who lets me get out and do this."

Russo, who is blind, is not a band member, but without his sound engineering skills, guidance and somewhat savvy PR skills, 13 Creek would not be whole. He is also the only one who can claim rock 'n' roll as his full-time job.

The band members say their goals are simple: to play their hearts out every time and play good music. Making it to the big time is on the list, too, but who knows? The rock gods are fickle, and the band knows it.

The group has enough songs written for three albums and just recorded its first self-titled one. The members said the first album tells their story.

"We got a little carried away. We didn't go with the industry standard. We went a little above and beyond," Matt said. "John spent like 200 hours working on this album. Andrew spent countless days, nights and weekends putting this together. Recording is tough. I think we'd much rather be up on stage."

But getting on stage isn't all hearts and rainbows. The four of them have been fighting for gigs and fighting to play original music.

"I think it's hard for bands to get out there and play original music and be original in this area," Matt said. "When you go to a bar, they don't want to hear that. We're lucky we've been able to play so much of our own stuff. I would say our sets are 60 percent original and 40 percent cover or 70/30."

Russo said the typical bar crowd is into what they know more than anything else and aren't really interested in taking a chance on something new.

"Brooks and Dunn said it best, 'He threw back a shot and said I'm a George Strait junkie,' " Russo said. "And that what it is. If you can play George Strait, people will drink and drink and drink. They'll be happy, 'heehaw' and 'hell yeah' all night. The crowd loves the typical old country, and if you play something new, well they might leave."

Russo said statewide, the rock 'n' roll scene is pretty exciting and given the chance, he thinks he could make a lot of money on rock in Texas.

"There is an underground rock scene going on that none of the promoters are picking up on," Russo said.

When Russo isn't doing sound for 13 Creek, he works sound for local bars. He encounters a lot of the bands that put a few country songs on demos so the clubs will bring them in, but when they start playing, their fans want to hear the rock.

"It's just like what happened with the Seattle scene 20 years ago," Russo said. "Somebody will figure out that Texas has an underground rock scene going on, and they are going to make a killing."

Russo referred to the commercial success of the grunge scene in the early 1990s that changed the face and feel of rock 'n' roll with bands such as Nirvana, Alice in Chains and Pearl Jam. But the successes of grunge came long after the Seattle sound started in the mid-1980s.

"Everybody up there knew what was going on long before anyone else did," Matt said. "When it finally went nationwide people said 'Oh that's different,' and it stayed big for awhile."

The band lists the grunge artists in the long list of their influences, but when asked what genre their music can be pigeonholed, eyebrows lift and heads are scratched.

"Genre? We'll give you a CD and you can tell us," Russo said. Defining modern music can get pretty tricky. So much current country music would have been headlining rock concerts 30 to 40 years ago, and a lot of modern rock would just be banned without a place to play.

"I think we're mainstream rock. That's what I'd I like to think," Andrew said. "A lot of people think we're Texas country, but that's because we're in East Texas. Down South it's called Americana. You listen to it, and we are little more cleaned up and have a little better sound.

"I wouldn't say pop. You look at the industry and see what it's become, and we play a hell of lot better music. It's just a raw natural sound. We are just wild and crazy rock 'n' roll rebels."

Matt said the band's sound is somewhere in Texas music stretching from Pantera to ZZ Top. He said It depends on a person's taste and how they classify genres.

"But I think that's why we've done well. You usually have to battle with typical bar cover bands, but somehow we've been able to do our own thing from the beginning," Andrew said. "You don't see many bands who take it seriously. Sometimes the crowds don't care what's going on or what's playing, but we usually draw good crowds and it's a freaking rock 'n' roll show."

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