By Chyrisse Tabone, Rock At Night Tampa
On a balmy Saturday evening, deep in rural Homosassa, Florida, Rock At Night magazine met up with rockabilly blues band Switchblade Billi at their ranch house for a private party and interview. While sitting in the home studio, we spoke with the threesome about how the band formed, their experience cutting the upcoming self-titled EP Provisions for Bad Decisions, which includes their upcoming debut single “Florida.” The conversation with vocalist/guitarist David Chaffin, bassist/vocalist Jason “Loobie” Luebbert, and drummer/vocalist Ross Reed, began with raucous laughter as Chaffin described how he met Luebbert at 17 while sneaking into bars in Kansas City. Between doing shots and watching Luebbert perform in a band, they later teamed up and formed a blues band called KC Sauce. Time passed, Chaffin married, relocated to Homoassasa, Florida, and settled into a normal working life. His music was put on the back burner for seven years. Luebbert later found himself in Florida, crossed paths with his old musical comrade, but life was still too busy for musical pursuits.
The year 2020 brought the world time to pause and gave everyone time to reflect. Luebbert often bought lottery tickets and happened to purchase one for Chaffin on his birthday—and Chaffin won a hot $500. Feeling lucky, he bought an amp, pedals, and rekindled his love for music.
After Chaffin placed an ad for a drummer on Facebook, Tennessee-born and bred Reed answered and decided to jam with him. The self-proclaimed progressive metal head felt an immediate connection to Chaffin and the blues. He felt the two “had something great here.”
Reed continued his thoughts saying, “I’m from a town in Western Tennessee called Dyersburg, that nobody’s going to know about. And, these two guys are from Kansas City. Somehow, some way, we meet up in Citrus County [Florida] of all places, and we’re like ‘let’s form a band.’”
The band started out with the name “Boiled Peanuts” since it refers to a popular snack in the South, but later the name evolved into its moniker “Switchblade Billi”. As Chaffin added, “That’s the power of beer. It finally just rolled out.”
Reed explained, “We like that old school kind of mentality. The kind of greaser, classic car image for the band.” He continued adding that past metal bands he was involved with manufactured an image but Chaffin, Luebbert, and Reed wanted something “true and genuine—nothing fake.”
The band settled on the name “Switchblade Billi” because it “screams edgy” but also “old school”. One conjures images of a retro 50s “Rebel Without a Cause” vibe and roots-oriented rockabilly. The band also loves the idea of a backstory related to the band’s name. The band has created a femme fatale or “black widow” character named “Billi” and plan to show her adventures on album covers in the future.
Reed further explained the band’s sound saying, “We want that old school sound with a sense of modernization. We’re not playing with old dilapidated equipment. We’re trying to stay with modern stuff. We want to bring back an older sound into the 21st Century and say ‘this stuff is still in existence.’
“It’s all about sitting around with drinks with your friends, caring about your family, and enjoying the finer things in life—which is why we all moved to Florida in the first place!”
Chaffin explained he does most of the writing lyrically and the creates the main riffs; however, a lot of the songs he wrote with Loobie “back in the day.” He and Luebbert “clear out a case of beer and then come up with an idea.”
Chaffin said, “Tequila man was written during Cinco de Mayo. We were three sheets to the wind. And, we said ‘Let’s write a song about tequila.’
I’m a tequila man. Man, I like tequila. It’s so good. I’m a tequila man.
“It was so stupid and so simple. We wrote this jingle with it. Even though it was stupid at the time, you can really shape it after that.”
When the band reformed, Chaffin and Luebbert wanted to venture out from their standard blues songs. Chaffin explained, “When Ross came over he was like, ‘I’m a metal drummer’ and I was like ‘Oh, shit, we don’t have a lot of options in Citrus County. It’s like either that or the cow in the pasture with the cow bell.
“Ross is really technical and he comes up with these cool hits and we feed off of each other really well.”
The band recorded their EP at Cleartrack Studios in Clearwater, Florida. Luebbert described the recording experience saying, “It’s a real nice studio. The nicest I’ve ever been in. It really wasn’t typical of what we’ve done before. Like we’d lay down a track and everybody comes over and re-records it. That’s one of the good things about this band. There’s not a lot of distortion on anything. What you are hearing in the recording is the raw amplifiers, no effects. We recorded it in one take.”
The EP was recorded on analog using 24-track tape according to Reed and “the whole album was recorded without a metronome except ‘Florida’ because we intended to make a music video for it and it need to be synched up.” He continued, “When people listen to the album, they can hear the ebb and flow of us as musicians. That’s when I can confidently say that we played that as a band, in the same room, in one take.
“When you do analog you can’t just say ‘I don’t like this fill’ and tweak and take a short cut. We said, we’re going to go in there and do it again, 100 percent. And that’s what we did and we produced an album that we all unequivocally say we are proud of.”
With the songs “Tequila Man” and “Florida”, does Switchblade Billi consider themselves to be a party band?
Chaffin answered, “We are definitely a band that parties.”
The band loves to play live, have fun, and create a “happy vibe”; however, their recent songs have become more thoughtful lyrically. The band has written autobiographical songs like “I Quit My Job” which has a country feel.
Says Reed, “We want to create music that makes people think and is inspirational, that a person can forge ahead, even when ‘the chips are down.’ We are a real band of real guys and talking to real people out there…mid-western guys that write with their heart and sing with their soul. Coming to a live show, you are going to see raw personality.
“Music goes deeper than even lyrics or the show. It’s the way you are feeling and the way you are portraying it to a crowd. Can you make a crowd feel at home and think about what you are playing? And I think modern music has lost that in a lot of ways. It’s so produced…kind of generic. I think people are ready for a change, especially with all that’s going on in the world. People may want to get back to their roots. They may not even know it.
The band truly wants people to enjoy the energy they give—and receive—from a live audience. They do not care where people come from, their politics, religion, or creed, but to say “let’s get together and listen to good music that comes from the heart.” Truly expressing his and the band’s heartfelt message, said Reed:
We want to see you. We want you to come out and hang with us, have a drink at the bar, and after it’s all said and done, let’s talk about anything and everything. We are just three guys and we want everybody to just realize you’re people and we are just people. Let’s hang out and do the best we can and try to move forward and whatever struggles that we may be going through.
Dave Chaffin/Lead vocals and guitar
Jason “Loobie” Luebbert/Bass and vocals
Ross Reed/Drums and vocals
Rock At Night’s theme song is “Get On Down If You Feel Up To It” by Billy “Bass” Alford