Deeply literary in the Southern tradition and walking the line between wildly unhinged and coolly calculated, Slim Cessna’s Auto Club has been making eerie and compelling music since its namesake, then late of The Denver Gentlemen, formed the collective in 1992. The SCAC catalog is an impressive one, in both quality and quantity, but fans and group alike would mostly agree that “Cipher,” their fourth album, released in 2008, is in many ways its best. In fact, nearly a decade later, Cessna himself says the songs resonate now more than they ever did.
Reissued this June 2, “Cipher” is now available as a double-vinyl LP as the first release on the band’s own record label, SCACUNINCORPORATED. The group, who’s current lineup features Cessna, longtime co-conspirators Munly Munly and Lord Dwight Pentacost as well as newer converts Rebecca Vera, Andrew Warner and Ian O’Dougherty, in 2016 also released its first studio album in five years, “The Commandments According to SCAC.”
In between a slew of European dates and a Midwest tour which will kick off in late July, we chatted with Cessna over email about “Cipher’s” staying power, the SCAC live experience and what to expect next from the fledgling label.
Re-releasing “Cipher” gave you an opportunity to look back at that era of the band, about a decade ago. What type of memories did that bring back for you?
I remember having a sore throat and trouble singing. Bob offered me Scotch, and I sang like an angel straight from heaven — though I understand it was all in my head.
How do you think the album has aged?
I think it’s more relevant now than ever. We should have released it today, but we were so impatient.
What role does “Cipher” play in the SCAC discography?
Cipher marks the first time we truly allowed ourselves to let go. We didn’t care about being a country band anymore — or any genre. It was all about the songs and allowing them to be what they were supposed to be. The album is conceptual where everything has it’s place, but each song is an individual as a well.
Are you playing more “Cipher” songs on your current tour? Have you changed their arrangements over the years, or do you stay faithful to the album versions?
We always throw a few Cipher songs in every show. I think people would be upset with us if we didn’t.
Turning to “The Commandments According to SCAC”: Why was there a five-year hiatus before that album?
We always do that. We don’t like to rush things because we want it to be perfect. That hasn’t happened yet.
What was your approach to the making of that album?
Both Cipher and The Commandments are from Munly. He had an idea, wrote all the songs, brought them to the band, then we all screwed them up. I think eventually Munly learns to re-love his songs after we destroy them.
How would you describe your live show to those who haven’t seen it?
It’s part routine and part spontaneous. Organized chaos. We try to be spontaneous at least. Sometimes it’s hard because of our dance moves. Then my knees hurt because I’m old now. We also play each show as if it’s our last. Often times our best shows are for our smallest audiences.
Your band is a tough one to categorize. What artists do you consider to be your peers or kindred spirits?
Kid Congo and The Pink Monkey Birds. That’s about it.
How do you feel about the label “Gothic Americana?” How would you define that term?
I think that’s OK. Munly’s words are like great American literature. They can be dark but also hopeful and sometimes humorous. I think that’s what we try to do with the music as well.
Tell me about the formation of your record label SCACUNINCORPORATED. What is your intent for the label? What releases should we be looking forward to?
We needed to try something — anything. It felt like we were treading water. A new DBUK album is being recorded right now. Editor’s Note: DBUK (Denver Broncos, UK) is a side project featuring Cessna, Munly, Pentacost and Vera.
When can we expect new original material from SCAC?
Yes, but maybe another four years.
What music were you exposed to as a youngster? Did any particular artists or albums have a major impact on you?
I loved Slim Whitman the most. I’m still trying to get his yodel right.
What are some of the most memorable live shows you’ve been to?
The best show I ever saw was The Mercy Seat in Boston in 1987. They were a gospel band with Gordon Gano on guitar. We will never be that good.
Outside of SCAC, what other projects are you working on right now?