St. Louis’s Bo and the Locomotive have meshed indie rock and folk into an immersive sound that no longer stays within the confines of either genre. Having shifted from the bedroom to the studio, the five-piece has maintained the lyrical integrity and melodic intensity of frontman Bo Jackson’s early solo pop songs while filling it out with a dense instrumental arrangement on their upcoming sophomore LP, It’s All Down Here From Here.
“Pistol” is immediately warm, a folk rock jam with tinges of country. It feels like a testament to Bo and the Locomotive’s maturation since their debut On My Way, Jackson’s vocals coming in richly and without hesitation, in between threads of bright organ, electric guitar, and resonant piano. But the pungent lyrics cleverly counter the warmth in the instrumentation—if this is a love song, it’s equally about vengeance. It’s a steady tune that insinuates itself with the repetition of slowly unraveling lines like “There’s something in your eyes that draws me towards you like a pistol to the guy that’s been doing you wrong.”
It’s All Down Here From Here is due out January 27. Hear “Pistol” below, and scroll down for a conversation with Bo Jackson about what’s gone into Bo and the Locomotive and the new record.
What’s the story behind Bo and the Locomotive?
I was in an experimental indie rock noise band (if you will) a few years back and we toured from time to time in the Midwest. We had a tour booked, and a month or so before the tour, the band broke up. I had been writing and recording my own songs in my bedroom during that time and for years even before that. I didn’t want to cancel the tour dates I had booked for the noise band, and I didn’t want to go play them alone. So I kind of just emailed all the venues and told them I’d be coming but it’d be a bit different than what they were expecting. I asked my buddy Steve to play drums (he had never played drums) and we went on that tour as a two piece. Turned out people really liked it and we got invited back everywhere we went. Now there are five of us and Steve is good at the drums.
The title of the new album, It’s All Down Here From Here, seems a bit tongue-in-cheek, but it’s also kind of perplexing. Where does that title come from?
The title developed on a tour a couple years back. Our old keyboard player said it by accident one morning while getting into the van to drive to the next city and we kept saying it as kind of a daily mantra after that. It kind of took on its own meaning the more we said it. To me it’s like, everything is right here in front of you, what are you gonna do with it… you are alive right NOW.
You’ve called your sound “mid-fi bedroom pop,” and you’ve obviously got a great inclination towards pop music, but you also seem to draw plenty from folk and country influences. Who are you inspired by?
The whole mid-fi bedroom pop thing goes back to the days of me recording in my room… these subdued, mostly acoustic, very raw and personal, care free songs that still had this warm catchy quality and having to upload them onto Myspace and pick a genre. None of the normal ones seemed right so I made up my own. Most of those early songs were inspired by stuff like Built to Spill and Modest Mouse, Flaming Lips, Sparklehorse. The folk and country influences I think are newer additions to my songwriting. I didn’t listen to a lot of that music back then. But I’m always trying to recreate the vibe of those bedroom songs, even now with a full band.
This is your second full-length, and your first studio album, after the self-recorded On My Way. You’ve also expanded from Bo’s solo project to a full band. How have these changes affected your approach to making music?
I think having a full band has made me simplify things. When I used to record by myself I would tend to over compensate for the lack of instruments around me by adding so many parts and layers that it would get muddy. I still record demos for new songs and stuff by myself, but I keep it simple, just some chords usually. Sometimes I’ll have a certain beat in my head or bass line, but now when we’re writing songs I will bring a half written or partially written song to band practice and the other guys will try different things over it until we all agree on something we like, sometimes it’s obvious other times it takes a while.
The cover art for It’s All Down Here From Here is gorgeous. Is that a real place?
Not that I know of. But I’d like to live there if it is. From what I understand it’s some 19th century painting that Daniel Murphy (the amazing album cover wizard) doctored up and sent over to us.
What’s next for the band?
Once the album comes out, picking up on the touring. I’m also writing new songs again, so we’ll probably do some writing and demoing for the next album in the near future. Steve has also been writing this Bo and the Locomotive sitcom for a few years now, maybe we’ll finally get around to filming that.