Limestone Cowboys find their niche

Heirs apparent to Khaki Snack’s Clark Hall throne have no grievance with a good time

Zwiep’s auxiliary percussion skills also include a mean beat on the wooden block/train whistle.
Zwiep’s auxiliary percussion skills also include a mean beat on the wooden block/train whistle.

In all chance meetings, the relationships that follow are equally subject to odd twists of fate. In the case of Derek Zwiep, Dave Richardson and Steve McCann, it was a hazy, winding chain of events that culminated in the creation of Queen’s very own quasi-joke band, The Cowboys.

The band originated as the love child of Richardson and his friend Dave Langin. The pair came together to have some fun with satire, instruments and a mutual disdain for country music.

“[Langin and I] were joking for a couple months—I couldn’t play any instruments at the time—to
make a band and we were going to make fun of country music so, we got drunk one afternoon and wrote a song,” Richardson said. Following their booze-inspired beginning, Richardson’s roommate, Zwiep, and his lab partner, McCann, replaced Langin. After Richardson quit and then rejoined
the band, The Cowboys solidified in their current mold.

Since then, The Cowboys have been able to find their musical niche with their provocative style, experimenting with subject matter from castration to imaginary animals, and styles from rap and
emo to country and polka.

“The Castrati Song” was typically created by chance.

“I was walking home one day, singing in a high voice in my head,” Richardson said, “and I thought it would be funny to make a song about getting your balls cut off.”

Much of the material follows the same absurdist formula, and impromptu jams during sound check also inspire many songs. Zwiep said the band’s songwriting process takes about five minutes, but here are limitations to this approach. “We found we can’t force things … I happen to think music is a living thing. I think the music controls us more than we control the music,” Zweip said.

Nevertheless, The Cowboys don’t want you to take them too seriously.

“The expectation sometimes when people come is that we’re way more serious than we are and, like, we’ll play it like we’re rockstars, but we’re not … Being serious has never been part of the band,” Richardson said.

Often, band members will make up lyrics on stage, adding to the unpredictability of a Cowboys
performance. Although what happens on stage can’t necessarily be foreseen, one can be certain that
the band will always try to draw in the crowd.

“[The show is] a living, breathing creature that’s fed by alcohol,” Richardson said, explaining that
audience participation keeps said creature alive and happy.

The Cowboys try to appeal to their audience by showing how ridiculous and funny things in life actually are. Above the toilet humour, the group also tries to focus on more sophisticated, satirical comedy.

While the lyrics are sometimes coarse, they’re key to getting the point across.

“When we’re writing songs now, we try to focus not just on the music, we focus on the style, the satirical style,” Zweip said. “We try to branch out into as many genres as possible … and make fun of Jack Johnson … we push for satire, a lot.”

Aside from “eleventeen”-yearold emo kids, The Cowboys also draw attention to the unoriginality of both Bedouin Soundclash andThe Police in “Fuck The Police” and perform a ludicrously mournful cover of the Black Eyed Peas’ “My Humps,” among other targets.

The trio intends to keep their set in a performance atmosphere.

“We have no intention to pay for recording,” Zwiep said. “We’re a live band, we’re a performance band. We’re not really into the idea of cutting CDs.” The performance aspect of the band is apparent in their staging.

One can expect various instruments ranging from the tuba to a child-sized drum kit, all of which add a new sound and a theatrical element. Still, these strange and varied instruments are not the emphasis. For the band, musicianship is not only about tonality and lyricism, it’s about the audience.

“Our basic number one goal is making sure that people have a good time,” Zwiep said. “If we were to describe ourselves, I would say we’re more focused on the comedy and performance, but now the music is starting to take shape.”
The Cowboys’ tradition of crowd involvement has been getting attention around the music scene. After taking over Khaki Snack’s Monday night residency at Clark Hall Pub, The Cowboys have become somewhat of an institution on campus.

One particularly noteworthy part of their act is the “Airing of Grievances,” which allows the band and audience members to get up and rant about things that bother them. “I thought it would be funny for us to yell at people who weren’t paying attention and air our grievances against them,” Richardson said.

“It gives people a chance to get things off their chest in front of a crowd,” Zwiep said. This growing cowboys tradition has gained recognition from Queen’s Players, which chose to adopt their song as their closing number in their fall production.

“We were very flattered by that,” Zwiep said, “and that was the day we realized, we maybe write decent songs sometimes.” The Cowboys experience is certainly a personal one. It’s unexpected, crude and wildly entertaining. With their emphasis on the audience and theatrical elements, a Monday night with the band is one to remember.

“We want people to come, drink and have a really great time on a Monday and at least be entertained by what’s going on,” Zwiep said. “We just want people to enjoy [the music] the same way we do
because we’re just there having a good time.”

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