“You can talk about being from the South and being from
North Carolina, but it’s just a commodity these days.
There’s fucking huge corporations down in the South.
It’s not like it was in 1930.” Eric Bachmann is
bemoaning the marginalization of Southern culture. While the
Crooked Fingers frontman certainly didn’t suffer the
pre-industrial days of his native land, he has more credibility
than most. “I was a little kid running around Florida with my
shoes and shirt off, chewing Skoal and listening to Lynyrd
Skynyrd.”

Janna Hutz
I smell varmits. (Courtesy of Merge Records)

Despite his upbringing, it was the lo-fi punk squall of the
Archers of Loaf that put him on the indie map. Bachmann and his
hoarse bellow pioneered a sound that became a staple of college
rock in the mid ’90s. Bachmann’s success with the
Archers will undoubtedly be his legacy, but his work with Crooked
Fingers has been just as substantial.

Trading biting guitar riffs for down-tempo folk picking, Crooked
Fingers shoots for the gruff storytelling of Tom Waits and the
ethereal folk of Nick Drake. “I wanted Archers to sound like
a cacophony of some sort, and these (Crooked Fingers songs) to
sound like an old mountain,” claims Bachmann. “I would
say that the three records I’ve made with Crooked Fingers are
more similar to each other than all the records the Archers made,
but that’s because I’ve stumbled upon something that
interests me.”

That interest stems from a disparate music background that
includes a number of influences. “My mom was a country music
fan and my dad was into things like Blood, Sweat and Tears.
I’m very much influenced by Townes Van Zandt, but I’m
also influenced by the polar opposite, Brian Eno. Hungarian gypsy
music — I love that.”

An eager student of song craft, Bachmann showcased his love on
Reservoir Songs, an EP that saw the Crooked Fingers covering
Prince and Neil Diamond. “I really miss that,” laments
Bachmann, “in the ‘60s when Joan Baez would cover a Bob
Dylan song. It’s all dialogue, it’s all language to me.
It seems like a great thing to do, to cover contemporary people,
but people are too proud to do it. Every cover I do is because I
felt like I’ve learned something from it. You sort of solve
the puzzle.”

Filled with surreal imagery and stories of the down and out,
Red Devil Dawn, Crooked Fingers’ latest offering
further distances Bachmann from the obtuse wordplay that became a
trademark of the Archers. “I feel like things will last
longer when they’re dealing with a specific emotion,”
though he adds that they can “Still be suggestive or obscure.
Making a record is a series of decisions. It’s more
deliberate now.”

Bachmann’s varied music history has led him to a position
few underground musicians know: an influential songwriter with a
varied past, whose skill continues to improve. A former music
major, Bachmann decided early on what his calling was: “I
burnt out on being a performance major. I’d sort of pound on
the piano and try to write songs, and it just sort of hit me.
‘Man, you should be writing songs, that’s what you want
to do.’ That’s the joy you get out of playing music
… just writing stuff.” A decade into his career,
Bachmann’s opinion of his music reveals both his humility and
wit: “I like to think of it as Christian music without all
that Christian bullshit.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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