Snake Oil Salesmen kicked off “Raise the Spectrum” a Night of Autism Awareness on June 30 at The Observatory in Orange County, CA. These three sand alone guys gave onlooking fans a set full of eclectic music, and energetic flair. By the Barricade interviewed Snake Oil Salesmen before their set to learn more about what they had to “sell.” This three piece band included a stand up bass setting them apart form the crowd. The band had a name that infers they are up to some trickery, but instead served up a steady set of solid and diverse rock n roll. Learn more about them in the interview that follows.
Clay Coughlin – Lead Vocals/Guitar
Nick Colliflower – Drums/Vocals
Tristan Cole-Falek – Upright Bass/Vocals
By the Barricade: Snake Oil Salesmen has a very unique style. What other artists inspired your musical direction?
Clay: Leadbelly, David Bowie those are the two for me.
Tristan & Nick: Led Zeppelin.
Tristan: We like all different kinds of music so we couldn’t pick one kind to play so we might be shooting ourselves in the foot. But I think instead it’s just going to be awesome.
Clay: They (Nick and Tristan) are from California and I’m from Oaklahoma so I bring that Southern twang; Southern influence.
By the Barricade: I think they actually still play rock in Oaklahoma as opposed to the alternative stuff that is played here.
Nick: We really want to keep that rock n roll spirit. We like amplification.
By the Barricade: If you could travel back in time to play a show what year would you choose and why?
Clay: I would choose 1961 right before The Beatles came along and monopolized the whole deal and took it over. I would get some of that pre-Beatles fame in.
Tristan: For pure curiosity sake, I wonder what it would be like to play rock music for prehistoric peoples that are beating on trees and rocks and stuff to see if it translates or if it completely makes them say, “Agggggh!”(Screams) and run.
Nick: I like our time. I want to do well in our own time. I am probably the most optimistic.
Tristan: There is no time like the present.
By the Barricade: Can you describe Snake Oil Salesmen’s music in five words or less?
Tristan: No, it’s impossible.
By the Barricade: That works, that’s three.
Nick: I would tend to agree.
Clay: Dirty loud rock and roll.
Tristan: Aggressive blues-based insanity. We try to be full spectrum.
By the Barricade: Is there a particular audience you are trying to reach with your music or in being eclectic are you trying to reach everyone?
Tristan: We are trying to reach people who like all kinds of music like we do.
Nick: Eclectic people.
Clay: There are so many genres now and so many weird creative things that we want to simplify that and make everyone like it.
Tristan: In some ways we are bringing it back to the basics and in other ways we are redeveloping those basics to suit our own diabolical scheme.
Nick: He (Tristan) and I played in the rockabilly scene for a long time and we don’t want to be niched.
Tristan: We are sick of tradition.
By the Barricade: That is impressive. I’m one of those people that like a variety of music. I don’t like every kind of music but it is tough when you mix it up because you don’t know if you are wearing the right thing when you go to a show.
Nick: I don’t worry about any of that.
Clay: I rarely change for a show. I just wear what I wore the night before.
Nick: We don’t have a wardrobe. We do what we do and we play our music and hope people catch on to it.
By the Barricade: So people are accepted whether or not they wear the right band shirts.
Nick: Totally, we’ll take anyone.
Clay: We have do capes for special occasions.
By the Barricade: How did you become a part of today’s event, and/or does autism awareness hold a special significance to you?
Nick: Our neighbor Al is a really awesome guy and is a tattoo artist who works for John (Vasquez), the owner of Golden State Tattoo who is also the co-founder of the foundation.
Clay: His (Al’s) son is autistic and that is why he is involved in it.
Nick: Actually John started the foundation because he was inspired by Al. Al was having such a hard time taking care of his son, Vincent so John thought he might need some help. He wanted to find out if there was some sort of foundation out there and there wasn’t. So John started one up.
By the Barricade: So you have a personal connection with someone who has a child with autism?
Nick: I hear what he deals with everyday. His kid will have rages and screams at the top of his lungs and I hear it all, he has to go through that everyday.
Clay: It’s daily and he is such a great guy. He is our neighbor and he asked if we wanted to do it and we said, “Hell ya! Of course!”
By the Barricade: Any other connection with autism?
By the Barricade: That is one thing that is good about this particular organization, is really taking care of the life situation that these families are in. It is not simple.
Nick: You have to alter your existence to provide the care … you have to alter your existence to have a child anyway but it’s tough.
Clay: I don’t know if it’s coincidence or if it’s just more recognized more now, but it seems like the amount of kids that have autism is extremely more prevalent. It’s something that research needs to put into.
Tristan: It’s definitely more prevalent.
Nick: It’s increasing. Something that research needs to be put into to understand better.
Tristan: There is plenty of research going on, but people are still baffled.
By the Barricade: While they are researching, this organization (We Are The Spark Project) is just here to help people.
Tristan: Right, dealing with the day to day.
By the Barricade: Shifting gears from causes to the hypothetical, here is another one, pretend you are actually snake oil salesmen. Do you have a 10 second pitch for your newest product?
Clay: “Are you happy with your life? No, follow me.” Then I’ll take them to the tent.
All: * Laughing.
Clay: Yep, then take their money. Make them feel real good. We want to make your life better.
By the Barricade: Your first album Jumping The Gun is available on Bandcamp.
Tristan: That is our first initial offering called Jumping the Gun because we were totally jumping the gun with it.
Nick: We were a band for two months when we recorded that.
Tristan: We threw it together as a little demo. It came out good enough to put out there.
Clay: Recording time is so expensive and while working jobs it’s tough to do. We have recorded three tracks since then at Studio 606. It’s the Foo Fighters personal studio. It was an amazing chance to go there and so that is also on the CD that we give out – those three tracks as well.
Tristan: At some point we will put together a full length. When the stars align and such.
Nick: Some of that internet money. We need more fans first.
By the Barricade: Your song about a crazy girlfriend “Swayze” is really catchy. Is that based on Patrick Swayze?
Tristan: Swayze rhymed with crazy.
Clay: It did rhyme with crazy but this girl didn’t know anything about Patrick Swayze. I think it is just that my mother loves Patrick Swayze so much and all of my girlfriends represent my mother. I am man enough to admit that. I made that correlation and it rhymes.
By the Barricade: Is there a celebrity that you think fits the description of the crazy girlfriend?
Nick: She was Keisha-like.
Clay: Actually it wasn’t my girlfriend. It was one of my best friend’s girlfriend. He fell into a really bad relationship at 16 years old and that was a lot of the inspiration… mixed with my girlfriend.
Tristan: Since then my girlfriend has decided to make it her ballad.
All: * Laughing.
Clay: Now it’s all about Tristan’s girlfriend.
Tristan: It has come full circle. I think it is a song that everyone can relate to because we all know that girl that cuts herself to Patrick Swayze.
By the Barricade: Is there anything I didn’t ask you that you wish I did?
Clay: We like to have fun and we all have senses of humor about what we do and it’s not as though we don’t take our music seriously but there are a lot of things about this industry, if you can call it that, is a joke and we like to keep it light and have fun.
Tristan: We are sick of what contemporary music has to offer so our target market is us. Basically we are playing the music that we are waiting to hear, so if you want to hear good music, you might want to give us a try.
By the Barricade: Anything else you want to say to the readers of By the Barricade?
Clay: Buy a t-shirt!