Jason Alan Price was an itinerant guitar-slinger with a country song in his heart and the Devil’s music in his soul when he met pretty Polly on the streets of Los Angeles round about 2004. A Wichita girl with Hollywood stars in her eyes, Polly knew she wasn’t in Kansas anymore when Jason, covered in tattoos and pierced in places most sane folk would rather not think about, pulled out his battered old six-string and burst into song.
But Polly was made of sterner stuff than most midwestern good-girl naifs; she gave as good as she got, drawing on a deep well of childhood church singings and bluegrass fests, matching Jason’s wild-child mixture of gutbucket country and pugnacious punk rock note for plangent note.
“When he pulled out that guitar, we started doing show and tell right there on the sidewalk,” says Polly, aka Polly Punkneck, aka one half of roving cowpunk outfit of the same surname.
For his part, Jason was already sold on the pretty girl with the big voice and the spunk to stand toe-to-toe with a painted stranger, her being barely off the bus in the streets of big-city L.A. He asked her to join his then six-piece outfit the Punknecks, and the rest is rock ‘n’ roll history, or so they say.
It still took another minute for the Punknecks to find their footing, though. Strange as it seems now, Polly was only a backup singer in that early incarnation of the band, and frontman Jason didn’t even play his guitar on stage. But when Jason suggested the band take to the road sometime in mid-2005, Polly was the lone member to call his bluff. “I was the only one who said, ‘Let’s do this,'” she says with a chuckle. “With only two of us left, we had to make some adjustments.”
Twelve years, more than 12 band members and at least 10 road cars later, the Punknecks are perhaps the hardest-touring outfit in rock ‘n’ roll, logging up to 250 club dates every year. And if Polly’s siren singing is the band’s best asset, then Jason’s roughneck authenticity is the juice that makes the Punknecks’ motor run hot.
“Jason understands the classic Nashville country scene so well, but he also has the rebelliousness of punk and metal,” Polly says. “That’s what makes the band. He’s a natural born entertainer. He can walk into a room full of strangers and have every one of them buying him beer and whiskey before he’s done.”
One of the downsides to the band’s hellbent touring sked is that making time for the studio is often a bit of a chore. The ‘necks recorded their first record, “Outlaw Country” in 2006, hauling a motley collection of microphones and old guitars into a San Diego beach house along with 30 bottles of vino and 10 cases of beer, in a mad race to lay down eight country-punk classics on an old analog tape machine by the time the booze ran dry.
“That’s still a lot of people’s favorite album of ours, probably because we just did not give a fuck,” says Jason. “I put a Walmart grocery bag over a pillow and used it as a snare drum, real MacGyver kind of stuff.”
Now, though, after releasing a mere five albums in 13 years, Jason and Polly are preparing to enter the studio for a reckoning, of sorts, a marathon session wherein the ‘necks will reap a rich harvest from years of songwriting reserves. “We’ve got plenty of ammunition, maybe a couple hundred songs,” he says. “We want to put together maybe three or four truly epic albums, get ahead of the game for a change.
“We like to have a little more recording quality now, too, and work with people who know how to listen. That early, crazy stuff we did was great for what it was. But the older I get, the more important the quality of the sound is to me.”
First, though, there’s the necessary business of finishing up the current run for record number five, “Road to Nowhere,” on which the band has been touring for the past three years. “We invested a lot of money and time into that one, so we decided we weren’t going to stop selling it until everyone’s got it,” Jason says. “Now, I think just about everyone’s got it that’s going to.”
The Punknecks will play Preservation Pub Monday, July 17 at 9 p.m.