Trading Good Times and Great Tunes with Huntington's The Horse Traders

Jun 10, 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 Tyler Childers to Ona, Bud Carroll to Coyotes in Boxes 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 Horse Traders, a four-piece Americana alt-rock band out of Huntington, West Virginia. While they may not be trading horses, the band is known for trading good times and great tunes, especially with their new four-song EP I Don't Mind. We sat down with The Horse Traders in our Charleston studios to talk about their musical journey, their love of #WVmusic and, of course, '90s Britpop.

Warning: This podcast-y chat does contain a few expletives. Listener discretion is advised.

The Horse Traders' newest release is I Don't Mind. Hear more #WVmusic on 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 and subscribe to our RSS / podcast feeds!

Interview Highlights:

On The Horse Traders’ musical origins:

Patrick Stanley (guitar, vocals): I decided I wanted to be in Oasis when I was 12 or 13, so I learned four chords on a guitar I found in the basement of our house. Two or three chords’ worth of improvement, here I am in The Horse Traders.

Travis Egnor (guitar, steel guitar): I got my first guitar when I was 5. No one really understood why. We didn’t have any music in our family, other than we had a big console record player filled with records and 8-tracks. It was a little bit of everything. One of my favorite songs was called “Cherry Baby,” some disco song, but I liked it just because it was on orange vinyl. There was some cool stuff in there, like some Stevie Wonder, Hank Jr. and Alice Cooper. It was a mix of two uncles, my dad and my mom’s music. I ended up listening to a little bit of everything.

Jeremy “Wood” Roberts (drums): I grew up in a super Christian household with not a lot of cool music in it. But “Hee Haw,” “Austin City Limits” and, believe it or not, “The Lawrence Welk Show” was some of the first stuff I got into. The “Grand Ole Opry” too.

I started playing drums in school, but I thought it was kind of lame, so I played guitar. I found rock n’ roll and MTV, and it got a lot more fun.

The Horse Traders' name comes former member Frank Miller and refers to Travis Egnor & Jeremy "Wood" Roberts' constant buying, selling, and trading of items.
Credit Anthony Michael Davis

Brandon Mooney (bass): My parents had really good tastes. My dad was really into Creedence Clearwater Revival, which oddly enough he played bass when he was younger. He played in a Jimi Hendrix cover band when he was in high school. My mom was real into Michael Jackson, Beach Boys, Prince, stuff like that.

When I was a little kid I use to do concerts for my mom and sister in our living room with a hair brush, white glove and a little leather jacket. I did Michael Jackson concerts; it was pretty weird. I was a weird kid. Weird adult, even weirder kid.

Going into high school, a buddy offered to sell me an acoustic guitar for $40, and I thought it’d help me get girls, and I was really into Dave Matthews. What I found out was you could play all the Dave Matthew you want in high school, but that doesn’t make you know how to speak to people without that guitar in your hands. I learned how to be a huge Dave Matthews fan and to play music that actually meant something for a change, like The Horse Traders’ stuff currently.

On the formation of The Horse Traders:

Travis: I always say it’s a continuation of another band that Wood and I were in, but it’s so completely different now that it’s even hard to say that. Wood and I were in another band called Dead Leaves with a couple of guys that lived in Nebraska, and that was really difficult to keep going. So when we decided that just wasn’t going to work out, we decided to start another band and got together with our good friend Frank Miller and started The Horse Traders. There’s a few of those songs that we touch on every now and then, but it’s mostly different now.

As The Horse Traders, we had decided that we wanted to back up some other songwriters, so that’s how we got to playing with Patrick. Frank had some health issues and wasn’t able to continue touring and playing on the regular, so we decided to get ahold of Patrick and see if he wanted to be a Horse Trader.

Patrick: I owned a very small amount of instruments and musical equipment before I met Travis and Wood, but to be a Horse Trader means that nothing that you own is as valuable as the thing you’re about to own, and you should trade things, even if you love them more than you’ll love anything else.

On the differences between Huntington and Charleston’s music scenes:

Wood: I started playing in Huntington when I was 16 or 17, and we had played Charleston a bunch because it was closer. It was always a treat to come to Huntington because the venues were always nicer, the crowds were always better and there was better food to eat. There’s a larger concentration of artistic people in Huntington then there seems to be anywhere else in the state that’s close to our age range.

Travis: He’s right. It’s amazing how different Huntington and Charleston, being as close together as they are. But the two are not similar; they’re very different. I feel a lot more comradery and support in Huntington, even though I know several bands from Charleston that I like a lot and are friends with. It seems like there’s a certain line that doesn’t get crossed in Charleston versus Huntington. The other bands we play with in Huntington are literally some of our best friends.

Brandon: I agree. Charleston seems more detached in that sense. For the most part, they’re all just bands that know each other, not bands that hang out with each other.

Patrick: It’s less stratified in Huntington. Mountain Stage and a bunch of other awesome musical things in Charleston are more established, but Huntington’s still trying to shake around to find out what the scene’s going to look like, which makes everybody a player.

On the future of #WVmusic:

Travis: It’s going so well. Now if we’re talking about Huntington, I’d suggest more of the same. It’d probably help to bring in some bigger, similar artists. I thought it was great when Jason Isbell came last year and played the Paramount Arts Center in Ashland, but there wasn’t a local opener for it. That’s really important because when you put a local opener on a show like that, not only is that local opener going to get their music to a larger audience, but it’ll get to the bigger artist they’re opening for. Eventually people are going to say, “Holy crap, there’s some serious stuff going on in West Virginia.”

The Horse Traders celebrated their first anniversary as a new line-up in the spring of 2016.
Credit Anthony Michael Davis

Patrick: A perfect example is Lucero and Tyler Childers. Ben Nichols has played with him multiple times. Last time at the V Club he said, “I hate having to come up here after Tyler Childers,” which is crazy for him to say. That’s great. That’s an unreal thing for us to have in this tiny little place, where someone one who means a lot to a lot of people comes in and says, “This local boy, it’s really hard to come in and play after this guy.”

Travis: When you’ve got bands like Ona and Tyler Childers and Tim Lancaster and just some really amazing artists, eventually if you put them in front of the right people, they’re going to take notice.

Patrick: That’s the thing with the musical secret of any place in the history of recorded music: it’s this amazing secret, then it gets exposed, it’s still cool for fifteen minutes and then it’s over. We’re lucky enough to be a part of the time when it’s getting cool, and hopefully we’re going to be around when it’s the really cool thing to be a part of and see some of the aftermath of that. A scene is great until it’s discovered, and then it exists in this moment. Then once everyone knows about it, it’s over. I guess we’re lucky to be around in a time when we’re struggling to make it known.

The Horse Traders - I Don't Mind from brainwrap on Vimeo.

On #WVmusic recommendations:

Travis: Most of the stuff I listen to anymore is the people that we know.

Patrick: On a daily basis, I still listen to one Tyler Childers song.

Brandon: Go listen to anything that John R. Miller touches. And Tim Lancaster is great. And I’m super excited for the new record from Brandon Mitchell and his group The Disappearing Man. We didn’t talk about how important Nathan Thomas is to all things Huntington music.

Patrick: Yeah, let’s talk about that. One of the best things about the Huntington scene is we have local radio enforcement to back it up. That’s easy to overlook sometimes, and it’s easy to be like, “I forgot to listen to WMUL today,” but the fact that we have somebody who is so passionate about bringing local music to college ears, and Huntington ears is unbelievably refreshing. It’s great to have that shoulder to lean on and that person and influence.

On advice to anyone wanting to get into music:

Wood: Go to college.

The Horse Traders latest release is a four-song EP titled I Don't Mind.
Credit Courtesy of The Horse Traders

Travis: Don’t have crazy, lofty expectations. Go into it with your whole head and your whole heart. Do it as good as you can, as often as you can. Play with everybody. Don’t just decide that you’re a punk musician and just do punk. Don’t just decide that you’re a country musician and just play country. Play everything with everybody. It will make you such a more well-rounded musician, and you’ll meet tons of people and have much more fun.

Patrick: Finish writing your songs even if they’re bad, because they’ll eventually be good.

Music featured in this #WVmusic chat:

The Horse Traders- “Hey Carolina”

The Horse Traders- “I Don’t Mind”

The Horse Traders- “Mark Twain”

The Horse Traders- “Even Mountains Can Fall”