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Photo By Paul Moffett
The Broken Spurs

The Broken Spurs

By Hunter Embry

“The Broken Spurs came and still does come before everything I love. It’s my religion,” says a loosened-up Adam Kramer as he paces around the kitchen of a small Germantown shotgun house.

He’s speaking with intensity. There’s a matter-of-fact-ness in his voice and most would argue it’s well deserved. His band is about to release their first full-length album. They’ve opened for big-name acts at some of the larger shows in town and at the start of the year, The Broken Spurs were asked to open for AC/DC. All it takes is a brief listen of The Broken Spurs to see that a few dreams might have been realized on April 13, 2010.

It’d be easy to sum up the band with their accomplishments of 2010. It’d be easy to call it their big break. And yes, it helped, but there’s more. The Spurs have crossed many roads and weaved their way amongst the ranks of what the Louisville music scene has to offer.

Broken Spurs

Photo By Paul Moffett

Broken Spurs Broken Spurs

Broken Spurs

Photo By Paul Moffett

Broken Spurs Broken Spurs

Broken Spurs

Photo By Paul Moffett

Broken Spurs Broken Spurs

Broken Spurs

Photo By Paul Moffett

Broken Spurs Broken Spurs

Broken Spurs

Photo By Paul Moffett

Broken Spurs Broken Spurs

Over the last several years, the national music scene has seen a resurgence in ‘60s and ‘70s classic rock and new bands that have that same old-school feel. Louisville has followed suit by producing a handful of rock ‘n’ roll bands. The Broken Spurs have led the way, held sturdy by the creative pillars and founding members of the band, Kramer and Benny Clark.

The two are a strange fit to say the least. They come from drastically different backgrounds. Ten years ago, the thought of the Broken Spurs would have been a joke to most.

A taste of Kramer’s pre-Spur life is illustrated in “Natural Disaster” a track from their recent self-titled release.

“I got out of high school and took it to the road. Didn’t want to follow rules or do what I was told. I headed way out West, looking for danger,” Kramer sings in the opening verse.

According to the singer, he quit school in Boston at 16 and hitchhiked to California.

“I bummed around as a kid, listening to music and getting really f**ked-up,” Kramer said, after loudly gulping down the bottom half of his beer. “I was listening to a lot of rock music and also, a lot of thinking man’s music.

Kramer bought his first acoustic guitar after hitchhiking to Louisville at 19.

I learned entire catalogs of people like Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson,” Kramer said. “I had so many chord progressions in my skull and started writing random pages and pages of music.”

From there, Kramer made Louisville home while touring off-and-on for eight years as a solo, folk-styled artist.

“I probably recorded more than 300 songs, but only put out two records, which were very indie rock based.”

Clark, on the other hand, was born and raised in Louisville. When Adam was leaving Boston, Benny was just starting to play in bands. When Adam was indulging out West, Benny claims he and his friends were “straight edge.” When Adam first landed in Louisville and bought his first guitar, Benny was playing his first show at Tewligans (now Cahoots).

When asked about his first introductions with the classic rock that the Broken Spurs borrow from so well, the guitarist responds. “I listened to QMF all the time when I was younger. Even when we first started out, I didn’t even know playing rock ‘n’ roll was possible. I loved it, I just didn’t know.”

While Adam was touring and recording his brand of indie-folk, Benny was on the road with bands like Elliott, Falling Forward and Guilt.

It wasn’t until 2006 that the earliest makings of The Broken Spurs began to surface. According to Kramer, Clark had been touring with a lot of bands.

“I wasn’t into any of it. I’m not a big indie rock fan. I have a hard time relating,” Kramer said with a smirk. “Benny was always a hired gun, but I knew he was the soul of these bands.”

Kramer wanted to get some people together to start a new project and in March of 2006, he decided to call Clark at ear-X-tacy, which is where Clark was and still is employed.

“I invited Benny and some other friends over for 100 beers and some whiskey.”

Clark accepted and the two decided to drop everyone else and work together exclusively. According to Clark, they entertained the idea of doing a strictly acoustic project.

“I even sold all my electric stuff, but that idea lasted about three months.’

Not long after, the two decided to leave their daily routines for an extended amount of time to write songs. In the spring of 2006, the band rented a place in Westport and spent three months crafting songs that would eventually be part of The Broken Spurs’ repertoire and first recordings.

According to Kramer, the two had to quit their jobs and he had to sell his motorcycle, but they funded it and that was all that mattered. Much of the material conceived in Westport made it onto Give It Your Blood, the band’s first release.

The actual recordings came from a house on Kentucky Street and were recorded with an 8-track cassette machine with very basic microphones.

“We used small, 15-watt tube amps, a $200 budget, an ounce of blueberry, a sh*t-ton of whiskey and a lot of creativity to make Give It Your Blood,” Kramer said.

The band released the album and it was greeted with positive press reviews. The band even snatched a spot in Spin Magazine as part of the Louisville Rock City piece.

The Broken Spurs did what most bands do when they’ve got something recorded - they took it on the road.

Kramer talks about touring: “Immediately, we started playing out of town. We played an insane amount of shows in an insane amount of bars. That was the cool part about touring,” Kramer pauses as if to figure out how to word his next statement. “We play less frequently now, but the shows are much bigger.”

Throughout this time, Kramer and Clark went through several bassists and drummers.

Shane Poole took over on drums almost immediately after Give It Your Blood was released and was involved in much of the early touring.

“The shows were building at that point and it was a lot of fun,” Poole said. “We drove through a f**king blizzard while trying to get to Indianapolis and Chicago.”

In talking about their first few runs, both Kramer and Poole talked about a few Benny Clark fans.

“People in St. Louis came to the show just to see Benny, because they knew about him from when he played in Elliott,” Poole said. “I think he was a little freaked-out.”

During those months, The Broken Spurs also did a photo shoot with the Velocity and Poole comments on the evening.

“Let it be noted that it was my drum case that we used to smuggle a 12-pack of beer into the Courier Journal,” Poole said with a deep, grumbling laugh. “I think there’s even some beer cans that made it into a photo or two.”

Poole went on to play with Scotty Lust & The Two Timers, while several other bassists and drummers moved in and out of the Broken Spurs lineup.

After being asked about how many members have been in The Broken Spurs total over the last five years, Kramer thought for a second, started laughing and then started using his fingers to tally 9 members in the band.

“There for a while it was frustrating,” Kramer said. “Benny and I, I can’t describe it. I found my match, but we were constantly getting new members and having to keep going back over and teaching the first recordings.

The Spurs found a sort of stability in 19-year-old Chris Croxton, who still lives on a soy farm in Madison, Indiana, which is an hour-and-twenty minutes away from the Highlands, which is where the Spurs practice.

Kramer elaborated.

“Everything changed when Chris joined the band. The dude's all soul,” said Kramer. “He’s absolutely manic about playing. All he does is kill sh*t and play drums.”

When asked about driving to more than an hour, to-and-from practice, three times a week and if he’s entertained the idea of moving to Louisville, Croxton explained, “there’s just not enough trees.”

Immediately Adam and Benny started to heckle Croxton with redneck accents.

“Cause there ain’t no sh*t to kill around here,” Kramer said before bringing up Croxton’s first gig.

“It was sort of an initiation. We did a couple shows in New York and stayed in a Hasidic Jewish neighborhood,” Kramer said. “Being from Madison, Chris had never seen a Hasidic Jew before and they were all being assholes cause we weren’t Jewish like them.”

Something sparked in Clark's mind and he interrupted with a story about his pervert cat that hangs around the bathroom watching Clark get in and out of the shower. The group continued to laugh for several minutes before Croxton spoke more about his first show.

“Thank God I made it out alive,” Croxton said, while shaking his head. “Adam promised not to get f**ked up on the way down there. Fifteen minutes into the ride, he cracks open a beer.”

Adam responded by yelling, “You wanted to bring your mom!”

After more random conversations erupt about the nutritious value of sodium, treble and volume knobs on the guitar and taking acid on the roof in New York, while hanging with the Australian chicks, Clark recounts the first performance with Croxton.

“We had just met him like a week before. Needless to say, the show was rough.”

Croxton replied, “Yeah and there was a hole in the snare.”

Croxton eventually got used to his new band mates and has been a part of the Spurs for more than two years. While Adam and Benny never stopped writing, most of their new album was written in ’09, but progress on the record came to a halt when Benny got a call asking if the Broken Spurs would be interested in opening for AC/DC.

When asked about his favorite show aside from AC/DC, Kramer replied, “there is no aside from that.”

“There’s before AC/DC and after AC/DC. We were always trying to get better, but after that show, everything changed,” Kramer said. “Our minds, our goals, our footing on stage.”

Kramer pauses for a moment.

“After that, shows got insane. The Broken Spurs is a machine now. Every member is a part of this working machine. It’s like war. We will never stop – unless one of us quits, of course.”

Kramer begins to laugh and attempts to lighten the mood after taking such a serious tone.

“I’m sorry man, that must’ve been so much sh*t.”

“We’re always focusing on more. Spending money constantly on newer gear that is cleaner and shows our every mistake,” Kramer said. “For me, it’s the end all, be all. It’s a dream come true.”

With heightened goals and a new motivation, The Broken Spurs returned to the album they’d been working on for more than a year.

According to Kramer, the band started recording the new album by itself.

“We did pre-production, started demoing and began picking and choosing songs before we decided to just record with Kevin (Ratterman).”

Benny elaborated.

At first, we were going to record the album ourselves because of the money it would cost to go somewhere else, but then it became about time.”

Adam talked about recording with Ratterman, who runs the Funeral Home recording studio in Louisville and played drums in Elliott with Clark.

“The dude’s got an insane work-ethic. He’s into so much music, so many styles,” Kramer pauses in thought. “Everything Kevin touches, turns to gold.”

As far as Kramer’s reasons for choosing to record with Ratterman, he claims that the band just wanted everything to sound better, more realistic (than the low-fi recordings on Give It Your Blood).

Kramer isn’t the only one who thinks well of the new record.

Jeffrey Lee Puckett, Music Editor at The Courier-Journal, gave his thoughts about Ratterman’s recording.

“I loved the energy of Give It Your Blood, but the new album delivers in ways that it couldn’t,” Puckett commented. “The sonics are big and nasty, capturing the band’s dynamic swings, but you can also hear the subtleties in the arrangements that sometimes get lost in the mayhem of a live show.

With a new album on digital shelves everywhere and some DIY packaging plans, The Broken Spurs have also enlisted the help of a new bass player, Billy Lease, the former bassist for the intellectual, college-rock band Cabin.

Lease had just released an album with Cabin that had taken almost two years to record, played big shows around Louisville and recently finished a two-week tour of New England.

A month prior to Lease joining the Spurs, Cabin and The Broken Spurs played the 2010 Highlands Fest.

Lease talked about his recent split and formation.

“It’s crazy. There’s no bad blood between me and the guys from Cabin and the Broken Spurs definitely wasn’t planned or anything.”

The bassist claimed he hadn’t planned to stop playing music, but initially, he wanted to lay low.

“Kramer Facebook-ed me after seeing me play with Cabin and hearing from Ratterman that I was quitting the band,” Lease said. “We jammed, I thought about it for a few days and told ‘em I was in.”

As for the Cabin record, Lease claims he was proud of the record because of everyone involved.

“I was looking to get into something heavier anyway, I just didn’t know when or with who,” Lease said. “The Broken Spurs just make rock ‘n’ roll music and honestly, it’s a little more me.”

As for his new band mates, Lease commented on each.

“Adam’s intense and a great vocalist, Chris is southern as sh*t and a Hoosier, but he’s a cool dude and being a bass player too, Benny is really easy to communicate with when writing.”

Lease’s first show with the Spurs was in Lexington with Wax Fang, who has a solid draw in the city.

“We got wasted, Wax Fang was great and there was an awesome crowd,” Lease said with enthusiasm. “I think the chemistry in the band is there and because the first show was a success, I was happy.”

Lease learned the whole new record in six practices and his new band mates had insights to offer.

According to Clark, who played bass on the new release, “everything’s a lot better with Billy.”

Adam elaborated: “He’s a very talented and very creative musician, I feel he’s genuinely happy, now.”

The Spurs already have another album's worth of material and according to Lease, it may be out by late spring, early summer.

“We’ve been working on ten new songs, but we’d like to have 20-30 and pick from the best. We’re writing quickly and that’s good.”

When asked what he sees for the future of the Broken Spurs, Kramer responded with: “I see us on a huge stage with bright lights. Giving a thousand percent of our blood, bones and sweat. I see us dying for the one thing we’re all deeply in love with.