“Most of our shows were a triumph of rock, although some nights I might have been checkin’ the clock,” quips Rhett Miller of Dallas’s Old 97’s in the song, “Longer Than You’ve Been Alive.”
Count on an April 6 show at The State Theatre to fall into the former category, as the quartet’s full-tilt blend of country, indie rock and punk will have the audience gleefully hanging on for dear life as they bellow along to “Time Bomb,” “Let’s Get Drunk And Get It On” and other favorites.
While Miller’s meditations on the rock star lifestyle are lively and louche, he is also recognized for his abilities as a storyteller. Miller — a sometimes contributor for “The Atlantic” and kindred spirit of Hollywood’s alternative comedy scene — crafts his cast of femme fatales and lucky losers with strong attention to atmosphere, personality, word choice and wit.
As the band readies their spring plans, including the curation of their own festival — “The Old 97’s County Fair” in Dallas on April 16 — Miller recently fielded questions from the Centre Daily Times.
Q: The character studies in your songs get a lot of praise. What types of “lives” are attractive to you as a composer and a writer? Do you “people watch” at all? Attentive to the different quirks, traits or nuances of people you meet or interact with?
A: I do “people watch” all the time. For me it’s all about moments between people. I love characters, but I think they reveal themselves when put up against other characters. And as far as quirks and nuances, the best rating is all about details. That’s something I learned from fiction and I try and remind myself all the time. It’s hard not to slip into the delivery of platitudes. It’s always way better to tell a story using details and descriptions.
Q: How did the “Old 97’s County Fair” come to fruition? Do you have a dream festival roster should the fair start taking place yearly?
A: We played the (Dallas) HomeGrown Fest last year and really liked (the organizers). We worked out the kinks for the idea of our festival in the months that followed, and I can’t believe it’s actually happening! This year’s lineup is a pretty “dream” lineup. I hope the festival continues and I get to reach out to other artists. I have so many friends I would love to throw some money at and get to hang out with. If I had to pick a hero I think I’d want to work with, I’d probably say Willie Nelson.
Q: You’ve appeared on some of the Earwolf Network’s comedy podcasts — “Comedy Bang Bang” and “How Did This Get Made” — how did those collaborations come about?
A: (“Comedy Bang Bang” co-host) Paul F. Tompkins is a great friend of mine. Paul Scheer (“How Did This Get Made”) and Scott Aukerman (“Comedy Bang Bang”) are super nice and cool, too.
That scene, centered around Largo in Hollywood, is really fun and fertile. Tons of great comics came out of that world and I’ve gotten to know a number of them. Comedians are some of my favorite people. The quickness of their wit, and their bravery ... I look up to them so much. That’s one of the main things I miss about living in Los Angeles. Getting to pal around with all those guys and girls who make people laugh for a job is pretty brilliant. I try and visit as often as I can.
IF YOU GO
- What: Old 97’s
- When: 8 p.m. April 6
- Where: The State Theatre, 130 W. College Ave., State College
- Info: www.thestatetheatre.org