Great music in the country and kinda-country genres isn’t just for those of us here in the southern states. There are tunes brewing in Brisbane, as the Dead Beat Daddios prove. I interviewed Hugh Daddio by email recently and can thoroughly recommend you check out the Daddios’ album, Dashboard Elvis, which is – amazingly – available for free download here.

Who are the Dead Beat Daddios?

Hugh Martin (guitar and vocals), Jim Carden (drums and vocals), Mal McBeath (bass and vocals)

Who is the dead-beatest of the Daddios
Geographically, that would be Jim (our drummer), whose child support obligations span three states. Although Hugh’s wanton sending of eBay rarities while unemployed has given his DBD stocks a boost lately.

What are your respective musical backgrounds?
Patchy, questionable and chequered. More specifically, each of us has played with a variety of mainly Melbourne bands, including but not limited to: The Warner Brothers, Overnight Jones, The T-Bones, as well as various separate outfits with Joe Camilliri, Paul Cumming, Lisa Miller and Neil Murray.
4. How did you (as a band) choose rockabilly as your ‘thing’? 
It chose us. Three-piece rockabilly is the quintessential rock ‘n’ roll. We don’t have quiffs, leopard skin shoes and hotrod tats, and we actually all have different roots preferences. Mal still pines for Slade. Jim is hoping Stevie Ray Vaughan will emerge from a Texan desert, and Hugh has formed his own queue for The Band’s Last last Waltz tour. So I guess country and blues are probably the common threads.
Is there a songwriter-Daddioin-chief? 
We share songwriting. It tends to be whomever brings something to the session who’ll get it on to a list. But we’re very democratic. We’ve also been playing a number of songs by our old friend Paul Cumming (of Shuffling Hungarians, Swingin Sidewalks, Bootless and Unhorsed etc). Paul has an oeuvre of tunes that we love and really enjoy playing alongside our own.
Your band bio suggests that you are squeezing in Daddio duties around normal life-type things like jobs and families – how often do you get to rehearse and play?
We have a ratio of about 3 rehearsals per gig. Which isn’t bad. Often rehearsals are in the lounge room or the garage complete with kids singing back-up vocals and shaking percussion instruments. We had a bit of a layoff over summer and are looking forward to getting back to live gigs shortly. We have another recording in the pipeline and that’s always a good reason to get back on the road.

Given that you need time to rehearse and play, when do you then squeeze in songwriting and general band-type duties, like promotion?
Songwriting, fairly frequently. We tend to be habitual songwriters, as much as a way of making sense of things as having fun.
Promotion? Not very often. We’re the first to admit we’re bad at that. It probably comes from being perennial band members. We’ve all played in some notable local outfits but not out the front of them. So now as the Daddios we find we have three front men – which works okay because we all sing – but no single individual as a focus. Which lets us each pass the buck on promotional duties.
What music do you listen to for inspiration/reference/fun?
Jim is a big Rodney Crowell fan; Hugh loves everything by Wilco, and Mal loves funk.
In reality though, we all listen to a very wide range of stuff. The main criteria is that it is melodic, has something to say lyrically and it grrooves. If it hits all those elements chances are we’ll like it.
What’s ahead for the Dead Beat Daddios?
The new recording is a focus at the moment. We’re all running side projects as well – Hugh is playing in Melbourne band The Dufranes, Mal is producing some Brisbane-based artists and Jim doing as much surfing as he can. But the lure of the Daddios is a strong one.
The story of Dashboard Elvis
The album is about some of the (not so grand) obsessions that blokes have, and the consequences of those obsessions; the decisions that have to be made, or that are made for us, and the dynamics of relationships we live with as a result.
The first track is a statement about one such grand obsession – and it is spectacular. He’s building a belly tank racer (see album cover for actual vehicle). But as a result our character (call him BT Man) gets a letter telling him his wife/girlfriend is dumping him. In fact she writes the letter because he’s in the garage or road testing so much that she can’t even get his attention to have a face to face conversation.
So, he finally realises that he has to talk to her and they sit down to discuss their situation. But her lines are ‘already rehearsed’. Her mind is made up. Which leads our character to some serious self-flagellation, but he eventually resigns himself to recognising he stuffed up and he just can’t get angry with her about that.
His next move is to put the house up for sale. Another opportunity for some reflection on life’s vagaries.
But as with all stories, it’s not so easy. And after coming this far he regresses at the next stage and takes to stalking her on the telephone.
Eventually (before the police get involved) he realises this is a foolish approach, so he resolves to meet someone new. And because he’s on the rebound his new conquest is a real boozy floozy. But right now our man doesn’t care if she has to get drunk to love him, he’s happy to open her another bottle and fill her glass.
So that takes us to the the halfway mark of the album. (Or the end of side one in vinyl terms.)
The second half of Dashboard Elvis is sung mostly in a different voice and introduces a couple of different themes. ‘Map 58’ is a flashback, looking back to the beginning of that former relationship with the summery glow that new things bring.
‘Flatline’ explores another male emotional shortcoming, but the listener begins to suspect that flatlining is a strategy rather than purely a limitation, and this adds to the layers of subtlety in the emotional picture being drawn across the 12 tracks.
Track 9 takes us on an excursion into another grand obsession (fishing, big game hunting etc), and the sounds and smells of the swamp add an extra aspect to the way our character often thinks of the relationships he finds himself in (or out of).
But he’s nothing if not an optimist. So, despite the clumsy attempts at finding new love, he’s still looking. And he finds a country girl who is perfect … if only they could sort out their geographical positionings.
Eventually they do sort out their geo-spatial situation. He was once ‘Lost’, but now he’s found. So to speak. He has a new relationship, and a new lease on life.
And we close the album with a reminder that BT Man has evolved and is now walking upright in emotional terms. But he knows plenty of dudes who play at love like they play at chess, making moves and taking score. In fact he was probably a dude like that once himself, but as an older wiser Daddio he knows that it isn’t sustainable.

Dashboard Elvis is available for download from: