Magnetic. It’s one of the only words my buddy and I could agree on to describe the feeling of the first time we caught Colorado-based band The Drunken Hearts, live. It was a cold winter afternoon in Avon, Colorado, and like most music lovers who had descended on the small town for the annual WinterWondergrass Festival, we couldn’t deny the pull that drew us into one of the side tents where The Drunken Hearts were just diving into their first set of the day. We were lured by the symphonic sounds of strings blended with electric guitar riffs and heartfelt vocals reminiscent of great country singers from the past. Other hypnotized festivarians wandering the event grounds slowly made their way up to the front of the stage with us, where the musically-induced trance continued through their bodies. The groove bobbed through our bones and burrowed in our boots tapping along with the catchy beats and unique melodies.
Originally formed as a trio in 2010, The Drunken Hearts have grown leaps and bounds in the past five years, managing to make a name for themselves in a state that is rapidly gaining a reputation as a magnet for roots music. Led by lead singer and acoustic guitar player, Andrew McConathy, The Drunken Hearts are now a five-piece, well-synced blend of musical sensibilities.
“We’re sort of a hodgepodge of a lot of different styles and influences,” says electric guitar player, Rob Eaton, Jr. Eaton’s musical genes run deep: His father is Grammy award-winner Rob Eaton from the Grateful Dead tribute band, Dark Star Orchestra. While the younger Eaton cites metal and jam bands as inspiration for his sound, his heady guitar riffs—clean, mesmerizing slices of rock ’n’ roll—would make his dad proud. But the band doesn’t define themselves as a rock band. With the twang Cody Russell brings on the pedal steel, lap steel and banjo, it would be impossible to claim rock as the defining sound of the band. And even though strong bluegrass influences are clearly threaded into their music, The Drunken Hearts don’t consider themselves a bluegrass band either.
“It’s seems pretty obvious to us that we’re not bluegrass,” says McConathy.
“It’s more like ‘ourgrass’,” muses bass player, Jon McCartan.
Rounded out by the dynamic Alex Johnson on the drums, the band members are a virtual grab bag of rock, funk, jazz, jam, blues, electronica, metal, bluegrass, and country genres—all melted together to create a unique sound that the band simply enjoys on stage.
“We’ve stopped trying to define our sound,” said Eaton Jr. “We struggled with that for a little bit. We would go to certain gigs with this idea of how we were supposed to play depending on who were playing for, but it felt forced, and eventually we all decided to just do our thing and go out there and just have fun.”
On May 6, The Drunken Hearts dropped their latest EP—“Love & Thirst”—a six-song realization of a project the band has been working on for over two years. Recorded in studios in Boulder and Denver and produced by Rob Eaton, it’s a fresh take that dips into into the band’s history and gives a glimpse of its bright future. Composed of all original songs, the EP has a lightness to it, even when the tunes lean into dark places.
The Drunken Hearts are also gearing up to hit the road this summer on a national tour that will take them through the midwest and the east coast before returning to the Colorado Front Range they call home to headline Sanitas Brewing Company’s third annual Sanitas Fest on June 18, followed by a big album release party at the Bluebird Theater in Denver on June 30.
Visit thedrunkenhearts.com to download songs from “Love & Thirst” and take a shot at slapping a label on the sound of this up-and-coming band. Or just give in and let the tunes take over.