Put on those steel-toe stompin’ boots for Rockford Mules

The Rockford Mules, from left: Joel Habedank, Erik Tasa, Craig Peck and Ryan Rud
Photo by Serah Sauser
The Rockford Mules, from left: Joel Habedank, Erik Tasa, Craig Peck and Ryan Rud.

Rockford Mules guitarist Erik Tasa is required to wear steel-toe construction boots when he’s on his day job as a carpenter. The singer and songwriter should be required to wear them on his night job, too, as he and the other members of the Minneapolis band hammer out their guitar-heavy metal tinged with Southern rock.

“You’re working with your hands,” Tasa says of his job. “You’re exhausting yourself all day; you’re feeding your kids. So, whether or not you want to be there [on the job], some people need you to be there. So when I can actually get down and play some guitar, yeah, a lot of that comes out [in the music].”

Listen here to the father of two young kids (3 years old and 6 months old) unburden himself in the choogling, pounding “Step Aside, Son,” a track off of their new album, “From Devil Spit to Angel Tears.”

The band celebrates the release of the CD this Saturday (July 18) at the Uptown Bar and Café in Minneapolis.

The blue collar ethos extends beyond the nail-bending Tasa. Drummer Joel Habedank (formerly of Motion City Soundtrack) is a truck dispatcher, Ryan Rud (lap steel; guitar) “sprays ChemLawn and occasionally DJs a wedding,” says Tasa, and bassist Craig Peck “is actually the most respectable of us; he’s an English teacher.”

Embarrassed, crooked smile
The group, together since 2005, released its debut, “Crooked Tooth,” a couple of years ago. (You can hear tracks from it here.) That effort is, in hindsight, at times embarrassing, Tasa says. But the group learned in the process of making it and has over the past couple of years forged a collaborative songwriting method members like.

“We jam,” Tasa says. “If something hits that kind of turns all of our heads, we just stop everything and say, ‘Do that again, do that again.’ “

Slowly, songs evolve out of the stop-start practice sessions the mostly married band members (only one of the four is single) hold a couple of times a week.

“It usually takes a little while. The fastest song we’ve written took two days and some of them will take two months because you want it to hit and hit right and you don’t want to rush anything.”

Tasa’s lyrics are added after the music has been finished or nearly so.

“I can really do that in the car or do that anywhere. Just kind of sing the melody, write the words as they come. That’s usually pretty much the last thing. Usually I don’t start out with the intention of writing a song about this — the music just brings something out of me.”

You ain’t got nothin’
A show at the West Bank’s Nomad World Pub brought a certain attitude — an attitude some might call arrogance — boiling out in the form of “Step Aside, Son.”

Rockford Mules were following a local band that had played longer than scheduled. Afterward, rather than hauling butt to get their gear out of the way, preening band members had lounged around.

A Mules roadie told one of that band’s members to “step aside, son,” a line the members of the Mules have laughingly embraced since.

The song is, Tasa says, “a cynical approach to a music scene that seems to be cluttered with a whole lot of clangin’ bells at times.”

The poseurs, pretenders and scenesters “getting all the commotion, all of the attention, you got nothin’,” Tasa says. “It’s pretty much calling a spade a spade, saying, ‘You know what? You ain’t got nothin’; just step aside. Get out of the way.’ It may be arrogant, but it’s also just something we’ve observed, maybe because we’ve played for so long and seen the same attitudes and same BS.”

Rockford Mules lands on the stage at the Uptown Bar and Cafe, 3018 Hennepin Ave., with a steel-toed stomp after Luther the Devil, All the Way Rider and Sweet Sweet Bitches open the 9 p.m. show. Admission is $5.

Upcoming pick

One of the great 1990s country bands was led by former Byrds member Chris Hillman. The Desert Rose Band crafted tight pop songs featuring Hillman’s harmonies with multi-instrumentalist Herb Pedersen.

When you listen to St. Paul’s Mark Stary and The Whiskey Roses, you might well be reminded of Desert Rose.

Whiskey Roses is a bit rowdier and there’s no Pedersen accompanying Stary, but the upbeat country-pop songs have that same high sheen and potential for crossover appeal.

The band plays three or four times a week in upcoming months, so you’ve got opportunities galore to check them out. Frontman Stary plays an acoustic solo show at 7 p.m. Saturday (July 19) at Ingredients Café and Takeaway, 4725 Highway 61, in White Bear Lake. There’s no admission charge.

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