‘If you let great players create, you end up with much better music’ A pre-Twangfest interview with Deano Waco of Deano & the Purvs

flickr.com/photos/seanbirm/6249510799 / Sean Birmingham

Hailing from Chicago and Austin, Deano & the Purvs meet in the tough-to-define middle of loud rock ‘n’ roll and hard country.

The band features members of the Waco Brothers — Dean Schlabowske (guitar/vocals), Joe Camarillo (drums) and Alan Doughty (bass) — along with Bill Anderson (acoustic guitar), Pete Stiles (mandolin) and Jo Walston (vocals) of the Meat Purveyors. The musicians are no strangers to Twangfest; they’ve all played the festival in St. Louis and the SXSW day parties on numerous occasions. But this year’s Twangfest marks Deano and the Purvs first official appearance as a band on a stage in St. Louis. They’ll be at the Blueberry Hill Duck Room for Night Two of Twangfest 16 on June 7.

Last week, I caught up with Deano by email to learn what he’s been up to.

Rick Wood: How and when did you guys meet up?

Deano: I first met the Meat Purveyors in Austin at SXSW in 1995. Cherilyn [diMond] used to have a day party at her house, and she invited Jon [Langford], Tracey [Dear] and I to come by and play a few Wacos tunes. We did, saw TMP [Texas Meat Purveyors] and were predictably blown away. Jon then recommended that Rob Miller sign them to Bloodshot and he did. Insurgent country history made at a backyard BBQ!

Whose idea was it to put this band together?

About six years ago, again at SXSW, I asked Pete [Stiles] to fill in for a missing Jon Rauhouse at Dollar Store’s Yard Dog gig. The idea was hatched over that drunken evening but took a couple years to come together.

Given your scattered locations and schedules, is it hard to coordinate a string of tour dates?

We’re not interested in lengthy touring. The idea of the Purvs is to go where we’re wanted, not tour for the sake of touring. I pay for all of the recording and so far, we’ve just given the music away. There’s no record company to placate. In a sense, I suppose there’s no ambition either! But writing, recording and performing good songs for a small number of people that truly appreciate what we do is ambitious enough.

Where is this current tour taking you? Who are you playing with?

We’re playing just three shows. After Twangfest, we play a house concert in Milwaukee, then at Fitzgerald’s in fabulous Berwyn, just outside Chicago. Both the St. Louis and Chicago shows are with Kelly Hogan, who’s out supporting her fantastic new album and has poached Wacos/Purvs drummer Joe Camarillo for her all star band!

Lots of people in St. Louis know the Waco Brothers and the Meat Purveyors from previous Twangfest lineups. What can they expect from this current band?

Expect the muscular backbone of the Waco’s with the sexy technique of TMP! Seriously, my writing is in a similar vein for both the Purvs and the Wacos…I think fans of either TMP or the Wacos will come away happy.


Are the songs written by one person or collaboratively?

I write the lyrics and chord patterns, but the songs are arranged by the rest of the band. I’ve learned over the years that if you let great players create, you end up with much better music than if you tell them what to play.

Do you guys do any Wacos or Meat Purveyors songs?

We’ll be playing one TMP song, “Hanged Man,” Other than that, it’s all Purvs, baby!

Any new musical projects in the works for you?

I’ve been writing some garage/soul influenced stuff and finding some players for a new band. I’ve also collaborated on a few songs with a local playwright, Charles Kouri.

My favorite song of yours is “Harm’s Way.” I’m not exactly sure what it’s about, but I love the melody and general sense of aplomb it conveys. What can you tell me about it?

I’m not sure why I write so many songs about this type of character….the guy who doesn’t mean to hurt anyone, doesn’t mean to mess things up but invariably does. Maybe I’ll have a word with my shrink about that….

I heard somewhere that you’re also pretty knowledgeable about wine. How do you keep up on this interest?

I’ve been selling wine for 22 years. I currently own a wine shop, Cellar Rat, in Chicago’s Wicker Park/Bucktown neighborhood. Keeping up on music is harder than keeping up on wine, since wine is the “real” job!

Do you have a favorite memory of a particular gig or venue in St. Louis?

This isn’t necessarily a great memory but it’s a vivid one. We played an outdoor fest downtown during Mardi Gras. As part of the fest, the Blue Angels or some similar fighter jet unit were strafing the stage as we played. We made some typical lefty political jokes about this from the stage. A group of vets thought we were being anti-American in some way, started yelling back, and before you knew it there was this mini-riot going on in the crowd. The stage was quite high, so we had this birds eye view of these violent waves going through the crowd. The folks at the Spaghetti Factory could not have been pleased! I realized at that point that you don’t mess with St. Louis….

88.1 KDHX welcomes Deano & the Purvs to Twangfest 16 on Thursday, June 7 at the Blueberry Hill Duck Room.

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