When big rigs attack

Truck Fight hammers down beer-and-pork–product fueled non-Americana for after the apocalypse

Nelson, Finch and diesel-soaked melancholia at Luna’s last Thursday night.

Nelson, Finch and diesel-soaked melancholia at Luna’s last Thursday night.

Photo By Andrew Nixon

Truck Fight was influenced by the musical relationship between James Finch Jr. and Noah Nelson and bacon. “We get drunk and we write and eat bacon,” Nelson said a while ago, revealing cherished secrets of the pair’s creative process. Truck Fight, in other words, is a meat byproduct.

It began when Finch and Nelson would get together to barbecue various meats and drink various beers before bumming rides to shows from various local artists, like Anton Barbeau or Two Sheds. Fortified by boozy anticipation, Truck Fight became Finch and Nelson’s “meat preamble.”

In their way, both members are local musical celebrities. Finch is a member of Jackpot and Prairie Dog; Nelson captained the late Las Pesadillas, and his solo act is a “surrogate Pesadillas thing.” Their bands are among the most popular in the Midtown music scene—lofty statesmen of acoustic- and eclectic-intensive local rock and often referenced by upstart songwriters and performers who seek to emulate them.

The Truck Fight sound is like Tom Waits reading Shel Silverstein in the dark back corner of a brothel. Or, as the duo’s MySpace page describes it, like “trucks fighting.” While Finch’s vocals crawl through dust and broken twigs, Nelson’s soar above, if somewhat timorously. When performing live, Finch and Nelson often play only acoustic guitars. Sometimes Finch dabbles with a keyboard or perhaps an electric guitar for snippets of the melody. Together they make themselves at home in Truck Fight’s tales of the downtrodden.

Although both men clearly relish their often-absurd lyrics, Finch writes most of them. “There’s something wrong about the songs that gives me pleasure,” he said. He described the “pseudo-interesting” story he wrote for one song, a Mad Max meets Red Headed Stranger thing about a man living in a “shit-hole town where everybody is eating thorns … but on his way to kill the woman, he gets bored. He had to travel from some weird post-apocalyptic American Midwestern era all the way to China to kill, but he gets bored somewhere near Utah.” For clarification, sort of, he added, “It’s basically me ripping things off from pop culture and trying to pass them off as my own.” Nelson made clear his appreciation of the Mad Max allusion.

Whether passing the down time in Finch’s apartment over jam jars filled with beer or lounging post-show in the Fox & Goose parking lot on the tail gate of a pickup truck that probably isn’t theirs, Finch and Nelson dominate the conversation. Wildly, they sling their quips and barbs, one-upping each other, and anybody else, with one-liners.

For example, recently it was suggested that Truck Fight’s songs have a Western resonance. “No, but Mad Max!” was Finch’s snapped reply, followed by laughter. Then came an inquiry about possible literary influences. “We’re into Twain—the tall tales, the absurdity,” Nelson said. “A lot of the lyrics are incredibly hilarious, but they’re in somber settings.” Black comedy, he calls it.

Some songs, though, like “Letter from the Valley,” do have a Western-American quality, with lines reminiscent of John Steinbeck: “Men sit on their heels by their wall / spitting blood in the dust. … They live on warm beer and salted crust.” Finch assured that he and Nelson share a distaste for “Americana” music, and that they’re “fucking the ballad” with songs like “The Mutilator Show,” whose lyrics include lines like this: “Tracks through the snow / a blizzard’s a blow / The snark in the park is a lark in the dark with a bark.”

So, could Truck Fight tunes be called something like saloon songs? But it was too late; they were off and running. “This steak you made is very sweet. No, but Mad Max!” Nelson cried. “Sounds like a good argument for a senator to use,” Finch chimed in. “You passed bill A.B. 3355. No, but Mad Max!”