Scott Biram has a name for the rough, punkish and entirely bar fight-ready country-rock he's been making for nearly a decade: "overproduced lo-fi." It's tougher than it sounds.
"I mix a lot of junky old stuff with new state-of-the-art (equipment), trying to perfect this thing," he said, with a ready Texas laugh. "I put an $8 Radio Shack mic on a $2,000 mic pre-amp. It's kind of an oxymoron, but I'm determined to figure this out."
Biram is what the music-writer people call "outlaw country," the kind of guy who's less interested in crooning things than barking them blues-style into a Radio Shack thing. His sound is mean and unshaven, with a lot of bullet mic and echo that owes as much to hellhound blues and trashy White Stripes splash as it does Johnny Cash or Hank Williams. There's a song on his album called "Killed A Chicken Last Night." The video for "I Want My Mojo Back" appears to have been shot partly in a junkyard.
But trucker hat and mustache aside, there's a lot going on underneath Biram's aggressive and exhaust-smelling exterior. "A lot of my songs are inspired by the road," he said. "I'm not using a bunch of flowery language and stuff like that. I'd probably be pretty bad if I tried to be poetic," he laughed.
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By his account, Biram's played The Jinx in Savannah five or six times. "I'm on the road 200 days a year," he said. "I've pretty much hit everywhere several times by now."
Biram has warm memories of his trips here. "It's a really pretty town, as long as you stay out of the alleys," he said. "It feels like a family affair at The Jinx. Before if I wanted to book a show it had to be on a weekend, because no one would show up on a Wednesday or whatever. But it's gotten to where I can pack the place any day."
It doesn't take a lot of work to sense that gypsy soul in his music; the rugged stomping on his latest, "Bad Ingredients," could have emanated from basically anywhere down South. He's a native of Austin, Texas, but you can hear blues from New Orleans, humid front-porch soul from the Gulf Coast, country from Alabama, and messy, liquor-fired trouble from any place that has bars in it.
The record had a surprisingly speedy birth. "I'd been in Europe for a month, came home, and went into the studio to record one more song," Biram said. "I started looking at my computer at some files of some experimental stuff I'd done -- middle of the night, on a whim stuff -- and I got on a roll."
Biram fleshed out the songs, finished them off, mixed them down, and before he knew it he'd gone from having a seven-song backbone of an album to a 23-song potential monster. "I was like, uh, this is kind of a problem," he said.
The rush of songs, he said, was an outgrowth of his increasing comfort with what he calls "real studio equipment" -- the stuff he uses to make overproduced lo-fi.
"There are so many ways you can go with recording these days, it's kind of endless," he said. "I kind of have to make myself stop after a while on a song. I was a painting major in college, and one of the things I learned is that sometimes you just have to stop, or you can just keep painting forever."