A Chat with Quaker City Night Hawks' Sam Anderson

With their fourth studio album recently released and another European tour on the horizon, this rock roots trio is on the rise.

As far as local celebrities go, Quaker City Night Hawks, a burgeoning roots rock trio, who also possess some of Fort Worth’s most impressive facial hair, are climbing the list. Sam Anderson, guitarist and vocalist for the group, brushes off this notion. “Our recognition just leads to open bar tabs more than anything else,” he says. But with the release of their new album, QCNH, and a European tour penciled in their calendars, the group might be on the precipice of expanding their audience far beyond the Metroplex.

I sat down with Sam at Sons of Liberty Coffee and had a quick chat over a couple cappuccinos. He admitted his beard has a tendency to catch some of his drink, and, with my lack of self-control, I noticed his sipping strategy led to no cappuccino remnants.

FW: New album release, another European tour coming up, there’s just a lot of buzz around you guys right now.
It’s been great. Kinda been like getting a drink of water out of a fire hydrant a little bit over the last, especially six, seven months. Starting with Europe last fall, that was a month and a half of not a lot of dates off and a completely new thing that we’ve never done before. I think, starting then till about up to current date, it’s been pretty hectic.

FW: You guys are sort of roots rock, I mean, with a modern twist, of course. But how was your music received in Europe?  
Sam: We had no clue going into it ‘cause, like I said, we’d never been there. The first show in Hanover, we were on the road with Blackberry Smoke, and we knew there were going to be people there by the size of the venues that were booked. I don’t think we realized how many people were going to be there, and, also, how many of them were going to be familiar with our music already.

There were people on the first show in Hanover all singing along to the chorus of our song, “The Last Ride of Miguel the Scared,” and it was very jarring. I had to look over at David, and he kind of gave me the “I don’t know what’s going on either, just keep playing it.”

FW: This is kind of a basic question, but what got you into music? What made you decide: This is what I want to do for the rest of my life?
I always kind of liked music. Obviously, this is how every musician’s story starts a lot, but my mother and father were both very into music, and they had good taste in music. Of course, my father is a preacher, and growing up in church, you’re surrounded by church music all the time. I did like that aspect of going to church the best; I liked the singing and stuff like that. We grew up Church of Christ, which is predominantly a cappella music, so there were no instruments, so that was kind of where the singing came from. I was fascinated with that at a young age; then I grabbed a guitar and saw what that would do with it.

FW: I’ve noticed all the Fort Worth musicians whom I’ve interviewed, they seem to have gotten their start in church music. That just seems to be a common thread here.
Yeah. Especially, at the bottom of the Bible Belt down here. It’s definitely a very common thread in people I meet, too.

FW: So, you start your musical journal with a cappella and move to this gritty, grimy, bluesy, roots rock. That’s an interesting transition.
Yeah, it definitely is. Like I mentioned earlier, when doing singer-songwriter stuff, you’re always gonna struggle. That’s kind of what all the singer-songwriters have always written about is struggling, and there’s a reason. It’s because it’s a hard thing to do, and traveling around, sleeping in your car and playing gigs at coffee shops for soup instead of money — it’s a struggle. And I think it wore on me, and I’m sure it wore on David [Matsler], too, and we made a conscious decision: “Let’s do something that people can’t drink soup over.”

FW: Tell me about your new album. What was the inspiration behind it? What’s the sound? How does it differentiate itself from your previous work?
We recorded it here in Fort Worth at Niles City [Sound], at the bottom of Shipping and Receiving, with Josh Block and Austin [Jenkins], and they did a hell of a job. They, obviously, have skins on the wall as far as albums they’ve produced and stuff that they’ve worked on and even bands they’ve been in. So, we knew going into it that it was going to be handled correctly. They have great ideas to go along with stuff that we’ve already implemented.

We holed up for about a week in a little rehearsal studio and just ironed all these songs out. A few we’d been playing on the road, but a few had never really done before. We kind of messed around with and got them to where we thought they were good enough to record. All in all, I think it was about two weeks of recording spread out over a while because we were touring. The guys at Niles City were working on a few other records, and it’s just a super busy time. Jordan Richardson of Son of Stan, he recorded a lot of the vocals and did some additional production — helped us flesh it out.

It’s definitely the biggest net we’ve cast, as far as genre-wise, on an album. That’s always a little bit nerve-wracking.

FW: Is that just not wanting to be put in a box as musicians? Are guys just feeling a bit more experimental? Why the departure?
I think it’s less wanting to get compartmentalized or pigeon-holed into a genre, and more we just listen to that many different kinds of music, and I think that just kind of oozes into the writing. When we’re listening to anything from R&B to ’70s heavy rock to acoustic music, I think that all kind of comes through, maybe a little subconsciously. We’ve never strayed from it. We’re not scared to stretch out a little bit.