Quaker city night hawks discuss new album, musical paths fort worth star-telegram maharashtra electricity e bill payment


As Anderson says this, his bandmates David Matsler (vocals, guitars, songwriting) and Aaron Haynes are already on the road, along with a new bass player, 22-year-old Maxwell Smith of Dallas, readying for a tour that has taken up much of February and will lead up to show at Fort Worth’s Shipping and Receiving Bar on March 1, the day the album is released. (If you want a preview, there will be a listening party at 8 p.m. Wednesday at Fort Worth Live, 306 Houston St. in downtown Fort Worth.)

But this is Quaker City Night Hawks, a group known for combining elements of Southern rock, psychedelia and old-school soul in their musical stew gas 1940, and it’s almost impossible to write about them without making reference to previous groups. On their fourth album, “QCNH,” there’s a folky road song called “Colorado” whose lyrics mention staring into a fire and thinking about life while on mushrooms; at the other extreme is “Hunter’s Moon,” which would not have sounded too out of place on a Black Sabbath or Iron Maiden album. The other eight cuts inspire something like “ZZ Top Meets Pink Floyd Meets Sam and Dave.”

“My mom plays guitar and sings and writes music,” Matsler, who grew up a couple of hours north in Amarillo, says in a later phone interview. “Both my granddads played the piano, so we always had instruments around the house. At a young age, you’re naturally inclined to play them both because they make noise and because your family’s doing it and they’re having fun. And you can kind of experiment with how fun music can be.”

By the time he was 13, he’d become more serious about guitar, and he spent his high school years practicing. He was also writing, before he was out of middle school. “ Looking back on it, it’s funny to call it ‘writing,’ but at the same time, it was the beginning of that essence of just sitting there with nothing and kind of fiddling around on the guitar until you get something,” Matsler says. “Even in high school, I was doing originals.”

By the time he was in his early 20s, he was trying to get gigs, playing a lot of acoustic shows at coffee shops and bars, selling CDs that he’d burned off his home computer. He performed a lot of covers, but he’d occasionally slip in an original. “When you’re playing at a chicken restaurant or a Chili’s or something out on the patio, you’ve got to play ‘Margaritaville’ or whatever,” he says. “And maybe you’d sneak in one of your songs. The best compliment gas vs diesel mpg ever would be that nobody left or jumped up and said, ‘Hey, what are you playing!?’ They all actually clapped [at that one I wrote] that’s not a Van Morrison song.”

In Lubbock, a mutual friend introduced Anderson to Matsler, and they became friends long before they started performing together. They’d pass around music that they liked — by the ‘90s, Anderson had developed an affinity for RB acts such as Babyface and Boyz II Men, and both liked the ‘70s music they heard on classic-rock radio — and performing together became a natural progression.

Anderson returned to Fort Worth and Matsler moved to Austin, but they would still find ways to perform together. Matsler wasn’t digging Austin, and he came up to Fort Worth, moving into a house Anderson shared with other musicians. “When you’re in that close proximity with company that’s doing the same thing as you,” Anderson says, “It’s kinda hard not to combine forces gas after eating red meat.”

“He was probably 15 to 20 years older than me,” Haynes says. “There was a drum set at my grandparents’ house, and it was a thing that when I was super-little, they wouldn’t let me touch. Then I finally got to the point where I was banging on the pots and pans doing the cliched stuff that you’d hear about. Then they’d let me hit on that drum set every now and then. It just made sense to me.”

He joined the Night Hawks shortly before the release of their third studio album, “El Astronauta,” in 2016. But he goes way back before that with Anderson as part of a band called Sam Anderson and the Thrift Store Troubadours. “It’s a great name if you’re Sam,” Haynes says wryly during a phone interview. “If you’re one of the Thrift Store Troubadours, you’re kinda out to dry.”

Haynes says this was around 2005, when the center of the burgeoning Fort Worth music scene was the now-defunct Moon Bar on West Berry Street. He says he can’t recall where he and Anderson actually met, but he says that he can almost guarantee that it was at a bar. “We were probably in our early 20s, and we only hung around other musicians,” Haynes says. “So it was just this scene of, ‘Somebody has an idea to start a band,’ and if there were enough people around at that moment, they’d start a band.”

Musicians would play shows for beer and gas money. Haynes says that there were nights that they’d play two shows at the Moon and then play another show at the nearby Cellar. “It wasn’t anything like it is now, where the music scene is a little more fertile,” he says. “It was more difficult static electricity jokes back then to book things, so if we found a bar that would let us go, that was our place, and we lived and died there.”

According to an epic story in Lone Star Music Magazine, Anderson was inspired by Mark Twain to come up with the Quaker City Night Hawks name, an allusion to the U.S.S. Quaker City, which the author journeyed on in his book “Innocents Abroad.” He formed the band with Matsler, adding original bassist Adams and original drummer Matt Mabe, who signed on, according to the LSM Magazine story, after Anderson told him “I have this idea for a band: ZZ Top but with John Bonham on drums.”

They gigged continually in Fort Worth, playing bars, festivals, the Near Southside’s First Friday on the Green series, and more before releasing their debut, “¡Torquila Torquila!” to critical acclaim in 2011. Anderson says he thinks the band misfired a bit with its second album, 2013’s “Honcho,” but that it came into its own with “El Astronauta,” released in 2016.

“With the recent success we’d experienced, we were definitely getting pigeonholed pretty hard into the Texas country-music scene,” Anderson says. “Whether we knew it or not, we were trying to absorb ourselves into being a rock band on that scene. [With ‘El Astronauta’], it was like, ‘[expletive] that scene and [expletive] trying to be absorbed into it.’ “

The band has received some national attention: “Cold Blues,” a “¡Torquila! Torquila!” track, was featured in the TV biker drama “Sons of Anarchy,” and Rolling Stone reported on videos from “El Astronauta” and has done several reports 1 electricity unit is equal to how many kwh about the development of “QCNH.” They have also toured relentlessly, opening for Chris Stapleton (“Suit in the Back,” which is getting some airplay on KKXT/91.7 FM, is about an incident that happened on the Stapleton tour) and others, and recently doing their first spin through Europe. On the current tour, they’ve been pushing the “QCNH” stuff pretty heavily — and although it can be pretty risky to lean hard on new material, they say the response has been good.

That seems like a path that the Night Hawks could follow. Public-radio station KXT is also playing “Better in the Morning,” the lead track from “QCNH,” but although the album is a mix of the adventurous and the accessible, even the most accessible stuff might have a tough time getting onto modern commercial radio. But anything from the album would be a fit for a musical-guest slot on, say, “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” or “The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon.”

“We’d love to be on ‘SNL’ and do some late shows,” Anderson says. “I don’t think there’s ever been an actual mark that we set out to hit. I think the mark was, ‘We’d like to do this for a living.’ So whatever we can do to make this work as a living, anything to make this a viable career option where I’m not delivering pizzas.” (Which he did, for Perrotti’s Pizza in Fort Worth frictional electricity examples.)

Haynes is a little bit more emphatic: “Once you have a record that you really believe in, you have to be able to get it out in front of a lot of people,” he says. “There’s so much [bad] music out there today, and there’s a lot of great music, and it’s really hard to get your stuff in front of people. But we’ve done that for the past couple of years, and now we have a record that we really believe in.”

Matsler’s take: “It’s funny, because we’ve blown through goals. That’s the problem with goals: When I started it was like, once this happened, that’s it. You pretty much sit back and relax. We’ve blown through a lot of goals int he past couple of years. It’s time for us to come up with some new goals, I guess, but it’s pretty cool to have met a lot of my personal ones.”