As a member of one of the most successful bands in the world, Chris Shiflett has won Grammys, shared the stage with rock icons like Jimmy Page and Queen, and even played for the president. But ask the Foo Fighters guitarist what he likes about his job, and the answer might surprise you. “I love being on some stretch of road that you don’t know and finding some cool little town and getting a milkshake,” he laughed.
This week, Shiflett returns home to Santa Barbara with his other band, The Dead Peasants, for a concert at SOhO Restaurant & Music Club. The show comes directly on the heels of a nine-month, eight-city recording session with the Foos. As Shiflett explains it, the band’s forthcoming album is the product of a musical tour of sorts. “We recorded every song in a different studio in a different city in the U.S.,” he told us last week from Seattle. “I think part of it was driven by places that were on Dave [Grohl]’s map of musical experiences, and then part of them were just great American cites.”
For Shiflett especially, that love of country runs deep. In addition to his affinity for small towns and old-school Americana, the guitarist and singer has a rather large soft spot for classic country-western music. Since forming The Dead Peasants in 2009, he’s released two albums of honky-tonk-imbued tunes. Last year, the band’s All Hat and No Cattle took Shiflett’s love of the genre one step further, pairing one original song with nine covers of songs by the likes of Buck Owens and Waylon Jennings.
“I’m sentimental about a time period that I didn’t experience, without a doubt,” Shiflett laughed. “I don’t know if it was any better — culturally, I know that it wasn’t — but cars looked better, music sounded better, buildings looked cooler, people had style.”
While the Peasants’ brand of country is “louder and sloppier and a lot Stonesier” than their touchstones, Shiflett admits that shifting from rocker to cowboy crooner presented its own set of challenges, at least at the start.
“Growing up, I played hard rock, heavy metal, glam rock, punk rock,” he said. “When we started The Dead Peasants, playing a Telecaster through an old Fender amp with no distortion was really scary, but now it’s really comfortable.”
As for what his Foo Fighting brethren think of their bandmate’s side gig, Shiflett just laughs. “I remember one time very early on when I was recording something at our studio. I was tracking a pedal-steel part on a very honky-tonk type of song, and Dave came into the control room and looked at me and just said, ‘What the fuck are you doing?’ I’m without a doubt the odd man out in our band.”
Chris Shiflett & The Dead Peasants play SOhO Restaurant & Music Club (1221 State St.) on Thursday, June 5, with Dead Winter Carpenters. The show starts at 9 p.m. Call (805) 962-7776 or visit sohosb.com for tickets and info.