by Jane Roser
“It’s like The Replacements meets Whiskeytown.” Philly native and Bastards of Earle founder Todd Zamostien is describing his band’s sound since the recent addition of a bassist (Brett Riley) and drummer (Bart Riley). Inspired by such musical legends as Gram Parsons, Townes Van Zandt and of course, The Replacements and Steve Earle (who the band’s name is a homage to), Zamostien’s life changed when he first heard Uncle Tupelo and Whiskeytown.
“I was a 90’s alternative kid, but these bands spoke to me, they had the type of songwriting that I loved. Alt-country music is stripped down at it’s core and, at it’s heart it, values a great song and honest lyrics.
Growing up in Northeast Philly, Zamostien’s uncle, Neil Drucker, owned the now defunct, but much beloved record label The Record Cellar. Drucker showcased local Philly artists such as Buzz Zeemer and one of my favorite bands, The Low Road (in fact, I remember exactly when The Low Road began and I went to every show until I left Philly). “He showed me how great local Philly bands are and I listen to these bands as much as any other band out there. My uncle was a huge influence on me because of his love of music.”
Zamostien’s dad used to sing him “Little Rock ‘n’ Roller” as a lullaby and when was 10 years old, his dad took him to see Steve Earle at Chestnut Cabaret as a birthday present. “These two drunk guys put me up on a table and Steve Earle saw me and called me up onstage. We sang “Little Rock ‘n’ Roller at the show’s finale. I got to meet him afterwards and he gave me his sweaty headband, which I still have. Then about 10 years ago, I went to see him play at the TLA and waited outside his tour bus after the show. I ran into [his son] Justin Townes Earle, who was touring with him and told him my story, how great that memory was. He had a whole different take on that song [unfortunately, not as fond a memory since he had a rough childhood].”
Zamostien is also the lead guitarist for the critically acclaimed Philly rock band North Lawrence Midnight Singers, whose last album was named by the Philadelphia Inquirer as one of the Top 10 Best Local Albums of 2010. “I’ve been the lead guitarist for six years now and we’re actually recording our third album right now.”
But, starting the Bastards of Earle was something Zamostien wanted to personally accomplish, “I wanted to get back to writing songs and have an outlet for my music. I’ve been playing acoustically now for five or six months and I’d like to see the songs in bigger arrangements.”
Zamostien is currently creating a full band and continues to write more songs, “it’s not the meaning, but the way that words can be put together that can be so great,” he explains. “I’m inspired by authors-I’m a huge Charles Bukowski fan-and Elvis Costello, guys who use crazy words at times, but put them together to create beautiful, clever lyrics.”
Zamostien’s single, “Downtown Girl”, was inspired by “the kind of girl that you shouldn’t fall in love with, but you do anyway because there’s just something about that person that you can’t stay away from no matter how bad they are for you.” The official music video was filmed around Philadelphia by Josh Mallory of Noise Soul Cinema. “We went to Rittenhouse Square and the Magic Gardens, partly for the visuals, but because it’s also so uniquely Philadelphia. We met people walking around and put them in the video. I feel bad, though, because I never got the name of the girl who played the Downtown Girl to let her know the video was up.”
Coming up next for Zamostien is a bit of a break from Bastards of Earle so he can concentrate on making the new North Lawrence Midnight Singers album and then come back with his full band ready to rock and roll. He’d love to start with regional tours and then maybe one day make it to Europe where there is a decent Americana/alt-country music following.
“I remember as a kid I saw Stevie Ray Vaughan on “Austin City Limits” covering Jimi Hendrix’s “Voodoo Chile” and I was hooked; he was a big, early influence. Lately I’ve been listening to Chuck Prophet, whose Temple Beautiful was my favorite album last year and Jason Isbell, whose Southeastern is my favorite album this year. They make it look so effortless and are wizards at what they do.”
With the current resurgence and interest that Americana and alt-country music has been seeing lately, having so many diverse artists to discover is just fabulous and Bastards of Earle joining that team is just the icing on the cake.