Gospel groove

Though they call themselves, “cowboy villains,” Fatbox Ransom sings about God and plays with a Dave Matthews groove

Fatbox Ransom members say that just because they’re all Christians doesn’t make them a Christian band.

Fatbox Ransom members say that just because they’re all Christians doesn’t make them a Christian band.

Photo By David Robert

Fatbox Ransom plays Thursdays at the Reno Jazz Club at 9 p.m. There is a $2 cover. Check out www.fatboxransom.com for more information about the band.

If you walked into the New Oasis on a recent Saturday night, there was a bartender serving spirits at the bar—and then there was Fatbox Ransom, narco-trafficking in groove onstage.

The band members also refer to themselves as “existential cowboy villains” who just happen to be devout Christians. The music of Fatbox Ransom might remind you a little bit of Dave Matthews, who is one of the band’s main influences.

“Matthews definitely, and Toad the Wet Sprocket,” Skinner says.

But as for existential cowboy villains?

“It’s from a Sting song,” explains lead singer Jose Skinner.

On this night, they were the opening act for another rogue gospel outfit, known around these parts as Pufferbilly. Between songs, Skinner introduced the rest of the band: On guitar was the newest member, Jason Cox, using a cigarette lighter for a slide. Eric Jennings was on six-string bass and Nate Ashley was on drums and backup vocals.

Some of the staff appeared relieved by the change of scenery.

“This is better than having punks trashing the place,” a New Oasis employee observed.

For Fatbox, the wildest moment came at the end of the set, when Ashley accidentally knocked down a cymbal, then promptly restored it to its place.

After the show, I asked the religion question first. One might think Christianity and rock ‘n’ roll are too discordant to harmonize effectively.

“We’re not a Christian band, but we are Christians,” Skinner told me. “And because I don’t mention Jesus Christ more, that makes me not Christian enough for my Christian friends, but still too Christian for my non-Christian friends.”

The last song on their set list, “Honey on the Lips,” refers to St. John’s vision in the New Testament book Revelation, in which an angel gives the prophet an edible scroll that was initially tasty, but later led to indigestion. The lyrics might easily be construed as outright Christian, but Skinner defended his assertion that the band does not have a Christian agenda.

“People don’t give P.O.D. or [Lenny] Kravitz a hard time for being spiritual,” Skinner said. “Of course, we don’t want to mention Creed, because in their case, people do.”

Not only is the band influenced by ancient visionaries such as St. John, but by modern ones as well. Cox revealed another visionary influence: Bonsai, the guitarist from Kansas who ingested some bad mescaline but turned it into a visionary trip of his own.

The band is working on an album to be released in 2003, but even were it possible, they say they aren’t looking to sign recording contracts any time soon.

“We don’t want someone holding our hand,” Jennings said. “For example, a label that might take artistic control away from us.”

After their New Oasis show, as I crossed the street with Fatbox Ransom to have breakfast at Rail City, I remembered the white neon cowboy hat glowing brightly in the background during the show, and it occurred to me that maybe these particular cowboy villains aren’t such bad guys after all.