Song debut: Wood Chickens, "Skunk Ape"

Hear the title track from the Madison band's cryptozoological new EP.

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Whenever I throw on some Wood Chickens, the Madison trio's communal, all-together-now vocals, psycho-stomp-down rhythms, and sheer sense of vitality make for a bracing union of country and punk. The band's new EP, Skunk Ape, which Kitschy Manitou Records is releasing as a vinyl 7-inch this Friday, epitomizes these tendencies, encouraging some sort of pogo-hoedown activated by the energy of the record. Wood Chickens will be celebrating the release with a show on Friday, February 10 at Mickey's Tavern.

The title track kicks off the EP, introducing the southern cryptozoology phenomenon with a dual attempt to educate those of us ignorant to the Sasquatch-like creature and summon Skunk Ape itself out of hiding. Guitarist and vocalist Alex Reilly foretells the possible dilemma that might arise upon awakening the Skunk Ape:

"The song is written from the point of view of a human whose land is currently being inhabited by the Skunk Ape and it's about the internal and external struggles surrounding the event," Reilly says.

"Skunk Ape" will also serve as the single for the upcoming Wood Chickens LP Countrycide, due out this spring on Big Neck Records. While the 7-inch definitely veers more in the direction of relatively straightforward country, albeit at jacked-up tempos, Reilly anticipates much more of a punk/hardcore attitude on the LP, paired with abstract filler sounds and B-movie samples to string the songs together. That said, Reilly thinks punk and country are essentially the same thing once you strip them of casual listeners' often frustrating assumptions.

"You can buy a bag of chili cheese Fritos and get a free download of Garth Brook's new single," Reilly says. "I can't tell you exactly what the symbolism is, but something about that really irks me. I guess you can say I play country music to prove that Garth Brooks doesn't have a dang country music bone in his body."

The 7-inch also features a cover of "Rollin' In My Sweet Baby's Arms," a traditional country song popularized by Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs and interpreted by many others. Reilly notes the importance of keeping these traditional songs alive, and Wood Chickens restore them with the integrity they deserve, reclaiming them from the glamour-pumped mainstream industry.

"Country music was born from feelings of frustration, sadness, and darkness," Reilly says. "No more songs about sexy tractors."

We've got an advance stream of "Skunk Ape" below.