Inside the Countrified World of Shepherdstown's The 29ers

Jun 19, 2016

Since the show began almost two years ago, A Change of Tune has highlighted some of the best up-and-coming artists out of these West Virginia hills with podcast-y chats ranging from Bishops to Rozwell Kid, The Sea The Sea to Bud Carroll and beyond.

But those interviews have been a bit infrequent, and since West Virginia Day is coming up (not to mention A Change of Tune’s second birthday), we thought we’d do something special: 30 days, 30 brand new #WVmusic interviews that range from Morgantown alt-rockers and Parkersburg singer-songwriters to West Virginia music venues and regional artist management and beyond, all of which contribute to this state’s wild and wonderful music scene.

And today, we are chatting with The 29ers, a country-tinged rock band based in Shepherdstown, West Virginia. The band's five members have only been performing in this configuration for a short period of time, yet they've released a rock’n good EP and are already planning a forthcoming follow-up release. With that said, let’s get to know the men behind The 29ers (namely Matt Metz, Martin Metz, Matt Kline, Chris Chilcoat, and Eric Watland).

The 29ers gave the crowd some countrified rock feels at this 2015 Shepherdstown Opera House show.
Credit Courtesy of The 29ers

How did The 29ers start playing music together (when, where, why, etc.)?

The band started a year ago after Matt Kline and Matt Metz played an acoustic set together. After that, they decided to flesh out their songs with more (and louder) instruments. They now share lead singing and songwriting duties for The 29ers.

Kline and Metz have actually played in multiple bands and genres together for over 10 years. They made up half of the folk string band The Fox Hunt, which spent 8 years touring around much of the United States, as well as parts of Ireland, Scotland, and Japan. Prior to that, they played with Chilcoat in the instrumental post-punk/metal band The Red Oranges, which garnered a reputation for complex song structures and frenetic live shows.

Their harmonizing vocals and guitars are now complemented by Chris Chilcoat on drums, Martin Metz on bass, and Eric Watland on keyboards.

Where does The 29ers' name come from?

The number 29 holds several different meanings of varying importance to the band members. Most importantly is the fact that a score of 29 in Cribbage is the perfect hand!

How has the band’s sound changed over time (if at all)?

Our music started off quiet and acoustic. Then we switched to electric guitars and it got really loud. Now we realize you can play electric guitars at a lower volume.

Where does the band play in and around West Virginia (venues, festivals, etc.)?

We primarily play around the Shepherdstown area, but we have also played 123 Pleasant Street in Morgantown and The V Club in Huntington a few times.

Matt Kline (left) and Bud Carroll (right) work through The 29ers' debut EP.
Credit Courtesy of The 29ers

What’s been the highlight of the band’s musical journey?

Recording our debut EP with Bud Carroll was priceless. Getting to hang out with someone that talented and who we've admired for a long time was incredible. We recorded that 4-song EP over a long weekend of 10-hour days.

What’s it like making music in West Virginia?

It’s special. There are (and have been) such great music communities, specifically in Shepherdstown, Morgantown, and Huntington. There's a large number of insanely talented folks in this state and a kind of instant camaraderie between West Virginia bands.

Do you feel held back by being in West Virginia? Or does it feel like a musically-supportive place?

West Virginia has always been supportive of our music, 100%. Different places in West Virginia are close to other good music towns, so it's never felt isolated or limiting in that way. Because of the support of those music communities, it's now a great time to be a band in West Virginia.

What, in your opinion, needs to happen in the West Virginia music scene for it to move forward?

More of the same. Great folks like Bud Carroll will keep making great records, Ian Thornton will keep finding and promoting great bands/artists, and the bands in West Virginia will keep playing and supporting each other, swapping shows, and encouraging a wide array of music. The Huntington Music and Arts Festival is a perfect example of a community coming together to support local West Virginia musicians.

What’s the band’s advice to anyone starting to make music?

Make sure to practice as much as you can and write songs every day. And be nice to everyone you meet! Other bands, venue owners, sound guys, bartenders, concert goers, everyone. You'll get back what you give, so showing appreciation to the folks you meet will come back to you big time.

The 29ers' latest release is the 4-song Inherent Buzz EP. The band will return to the studio soon to record a follow-up record, which is tentatively titled Spanish Panther. Keep an eye on their social media and website for more music and summer tour dates. To hear more #WVmusic, tune in to A Change of Tune, airing Saturday nights at 10 on West Virginia Public Broadcasting. And for more #WVmusic chats, make sure to go to wvpublic.org/wvmusic.