Reckless Kelly may not seem like the best choice for a band name at first glance, but when you realize it's the name of an 1800s Australian outlaw and hear the band's music, you think, "It's perfect." The band is constantly getting the "you're too country for rock" or "too rock for country" labels shoved in its face, but like the outlaw they're named after, the band members don't care.
"There are a lot of Americana stations around the country now that play our kind of stuff," says guitarist Cody Braun, who formed the band with his brother, Willy, 12 years ago. "Trying to fit into one format or another -- we gave up on that about three records ago. It's too hard to shape our stuff into what would fit in the country mainstream without completely changing it. It's not alternative rock, either. We're happy doing what we're doing."
Braun also points out that the band wasn't named after the 1993 Yahoo Serious movie of the same name. "It's a terrible, terrible movie," he says with a laugh. "Once we got past that, we knew we'd be fine. We had rememebered Reckless Kelly from school. We originally thought he was a Chicago gangster, but when we found out who he really was, it was a perfect fit."
The band may have started in Oregon as The Prairie Mutts, but its sound has been steeped in Texas, where the boys have called home since 1996. "We were only in Oregon for nine months, mostly just practicing," Braun says from his Austin home. "We did mostly acoustic stuff when we first got (to Texas). Just being around Texas musicians inspired some friendly competition."
It's clear that times have changed in the Lone Star State, too. In 2003, The Dixie Chicks performed a concert in London and criticized President George W. Bush for the war in Iraq, saying they were ashamed he was from Texas and received a ton of backlash from fans and radio stations.
On Reckless Kelly's new album, Bulletproof (released on North Carolina's Yep Roc label), they've included an anti-war song, "American Blood." The song includes lyrics about how "George" is sitting "at home with his feet on his desk" while "the boys" are "a million miles away with American blood on their hands." Braun says most people have been supportive of the track, and it's also led to a page on the band's Web site dedicated to soldiers.
"When (the song) first came out, there were a few people that didn't quite listen to the song all the way through and only heard what they wanted to. They were mad," he says. "Most of those have kind of changed their minds since then. I'm sure there are some that still don't agree with what we're saying, but we're not out to prove any points. It's a song that Willy wrote about what's been on everyone's mind for the last seven years."
Braun says it has been a positive thing to have on the album. The band felt it was a strong song and didn't have hesitation to include it. "It was a totally different time back then (with the Dixie Chicks)," Braun says. "Now everyone is seeing that maybe the Dixie Chicks were right," he adds with a laugh.
As for how the band has changed in the last 12 years, Bruan says a lot of it just has to do with playing a lot of music together and getting better as a band. He says it's hard to know just how much they've changed because he doesn't listen to the band's old records -- something that is about to change.
"Our original bass player is coming back for this run in February," Braun says. "We're probably going to be playing some of the older stuff and I'll need to refresh my memory."
Jimmy McFeeley has left the group, and the band had a friend, Adam Odor, filling in on bass in the interim. Chris Schelske, the original bass player, has been living in Oregon for the last few years after tiring of the road and leaving on good terms. "We told (Chris) if he ever wanted to come back, we'd give him a shot," Braun says. "We'll see what happens. We'll feel it out and hope for the best." Schelske has played with the band a handful of times over the years since leaving, mostly at gigs in Oregon.
As for being in a band with his brother, Braun says it's always worked out well. He stays out of his brother's way when it comes to songwriting. The two originally started performing together at a young age with their father's band, Muzzie Braun and the Boys, that even got them on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.
"My dad taught us how to do everything -- playing, putting on a show, road managing. All aspects of the biz that we use pretty much every day," he says. "It's been surprisingly good -- my brother and I have been best friends since we were kids. It balances out. He may be the lead singer, but I'm still the big brother. We can still give each other plenty of shit when it needs to be handed out."
Reckless Kelly will perform at the Neighborhood Theatre at 8 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 12. Sons of Bill is opening. Tickets are $12 in advance and $15 on the day of the show.