By Ask Elkins for Tom Tom Magazine
The Ex-Bombers play dirtbag spy jazz or beatnik punk, depending on who describes it. Both descriptors hint at the pair’s decidedly avant and seedy approach to making pop music.
The duo started in 2010 in Columbia, MO before moving to their current residence in Charleston, IL (home of Eastern Illinois University). Keri Cousins provides the rhythm for the pair on a small Rogers drumset as well as her vocals. Scott Walus plays a weathered Hagstrom 8- string bass (EADG octaves) and shares vocals. They play dark but catchy songs using only these instruments, without distortion of digital trickery. I sat down with Keri before a Cavetone meeting to ask a few questions about her experience in music.
Full Name: Keri Elizabeth Cousins Age: 26
Hometown: Geneseo, IL
Lives In: Charleston, IL
Past Bands: Pat Boone’s Farm
Current Bands: The Ex-Bombers
Day Job: drummer
Kit Setup: Rogers 60’s red sparkle, kick, snare, hi-hat, crash, ride
Let’s start at the beginning, what got you into music, and drums specifically?
Well, I have been “musical” all my life, I was actually training to be an opera singer when nodes on my vocal chords ended that plan and I took up with a musician and he suggested I try my hand at bass guitar.
So how did that lead to drums?
Well, frankly, I sucked! I was all about the rhythm when I played bass and not about the melody. After struggling through it in this other band “Pat Boone’s Farm” it was acknowledged that I should try my hand at drums. It was a “A-Ha!” moment. It felt more natural than bass ever did.
Who was it that encouraged you to play?
Scott Walus, who is now my only partner in The Ex-Bombers. I have no problem admitting that I wouldn’t have played in a band without his encouragement. I think men have to realize that they play a big role in women in music. Scott is actually a professor at Eastern Illinois University and he wrote a dissertation that touches on women, sexual orientation, race, in a straight white male world that is rock and roll. It was eye opening to me going around the country with him while he interviewed musicians and found that the general consensus was that most men had never thought of encouraging people different than themselves (women, other skin color, gay/bi/ lesbian) to be involved in rock and roll. Men kinda suck. (laughs) just kidding! But seriously guys have to understand that they hold a lot of the power here and should help women to make music not hinder them. Ladies too! I want to do everything I can to encourage women to make more music!! Like my achilles heel is songwriting, I’m not a song writer, but I love when I meet a woman who is. Who just gets it and can turn her thoughts and feelings into a beautiful awesome song.
So you want to see more women in bands.
Hell yes! Yes yes yes! I have to say it’s gotten better in the past two years I have noticed a big difference. It used to be we’d play shows and I was the only women in a band. Now we play, and there are women in every band. That makes me happy. I don’t know who to thank for that.
Is their a reason why you are a two piece?
Well, you mean besides the obvious that two can stow away much easier than five? (laughs) no, its more than that. If you’ve ever been in a five piece band, hell even a three piece band, you know it’s impossible to get your schedules together to play out of town. With Scott and I it’s much more simple. Give us a time and place and we can be there.
Do you feel like the band is lacking sonically without guitar?
You know what? That’s the number one comment I get after a show, people are always surprised to find that just drums and bass can take up so much space and sound like a full band. We’re heavy, ya know, we’re kind of a heavy Sabbath-y band and we pride ourselves on being able to make good music without digital effects or screaming guitar.
Is that why you record all analogue?
Their are many reasons why we choose to be a part of Cavetone Records and record and release only vinyl. The biggest reason might be because it seriously sounds better! I can’t un-hear certain songs now. I always know when a radio station is playing a horrible MP3 of an old song from the 60’s because it sounds like garbage. It sounds like digital garbage and I can’t stand it. I mean, I will have to change the station. Don’t get me wrong, if you record something digital it sounds good in MP3 form. But something from 1965 recorded to tape sounds like crap when it’s been digitized. Makes me cringe thinking about it.
So how to fans hear your music if you can’t just download an MP3?
The crazy old fashioned way, come to a show. Come to a show, hear us live, go home with a record and a shot glass. Come out, come out to see live music, it’s dying. I know it sounds dramatic to say that but it is. I see it everywhere. Look I know there are some bad bands out there, but their are awesome bands too! I have been turned on to some killer groups just going out and seeing live music. Bands that I never would have heard of otherwise. I am a huge advocate for going out your front door and having a few drinks and dancing to some original music. It’s fun, it’s fun to get dressed up and go out and meet people and hear new things!
Any particular bands we should look for?
Oh jeez, off the top of my head…? The Pack AD, awesome canadian female duo, they slept on my floor once…The ACB’s are my version of a boy band from Missouri, The Demerits from Chicago, two chicks and a dude make fun dance tunes. Our label mates Malt Liquor and Cedar Plank Salmon are cool. Oh! And The Post Mortems are a band we played with a few weeks ago in Moline IL, I am diggn’ on them right now. Band crush for sure.
So what’s next for you? for The Ex-Bombers?
Next? Well, more shows! This summer has been pretty heavy. We’ve had something just about every weekend. We have a 7” split being released this October w/ Malt Liquor. I think we’re still touring strong until winter hits and then we hibernate. We are basically locking ourselves in the studio and not coming out until the second record is finished. Well for that and pizza, we’ll come out for pizza and old school nintendo games.
Any teasers for us?
Yeah, “Oh….wow” (laughs) That’s all you’re getting. Okay but seriously I am excited for the second record because it’s a lot more me! (laughs) I’m not that really self centered. What I mean is in the past years we’ve played out so much I’ve gotten better as a musician and I have a larger role in the second record. I hope it’s as well received as the first one was.
Any parting words for girls reading this that want to play in a band?
My biggest obstacle was myself. I was afraid of putting myself out there. I was terrified of being laughed at, I had convinced myself that what I was wasn’t good enough. And guess what? None of it turned out to be true. Now people are intimated of me! Which I find hysterical. Me? You’re scared to talk to me? That cracks me up but I love it. So that’s my advice, hold that head of your so fuckn’ high and enjoy yourself. I played a lot of shows badly but I put this big stupid grin on my face and had a blast doing it. Not everything is going to be perfect. Trust me on that one. But if you can have a good time and enjoy a moment it will be worth it. And if you can’t enjoy your failure maybe you should take up knitting.
The Ex-Bombers enjoy playing songs from these records, meeting interesting people, drinking absinthe, and lurking through antique malls (preferably all in the same day). For booking, press, rights, merchandise, and general correspondence, please contact email@example.com