Polka. Tex-Mex. Southern soul. New Orleans funk. They’re all part of Semi-Twang’s new album, The Why and the What For, which explores the far corners of American roots-rock.
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On “Dark Out,” the band mixes bar-band boogie with saxophone solos and Nashville-worthy guitar licks. There’s a lot going on… but luckily, we’ve got frontman John Sieger to break it down for us.
“It’s one of my many rewrites of Doug Sahm’s ‘She’s About A Mover,’” he explains. “[‘Dark Out’] is really a Tex-Mex song, based on a polka rhythm often heard in these parts. Until recently, Milwaukee had a concertina bar where polka jams happened regularly. And all the polka is saying is that oom-pah equals boom-chuck, the universe is binary, two beats, down and up. And it’s a beautiful thing… until your girl leaves you.”
“Then all your chords become dominant sevenths, a wonderful trick brought to you by generations of African-Americans. That makes things both bluer and more rockin’. Polka plus dominant sevenths make rock and roll — if you need further proof, spin ‘She’s A Woman’ by the Beatles. One thing in ‘Dark Out’ that I’m very proud of is the odd sequence of chords. Figure them out; they’re not impossible, just crazy. So there you have it: a crazy, blue Tex-mex with a bad-ass bari, Kenosha-inspired slab of rock-polka-soul. Should go down well with some fine Milwaukee beer!”
Hey, we’ll drink to that. Even when it isn’t dark out.