AVON LAKE — There’s a good chance Greg Miller’s Avon Lake neighbors may think he’s a double agent. Every now and then, the WEWS-TV senior account executive disappears for weeks on end.
It turns out the only thing clandestine about Miller is this rock ’n’ roller is one of the leaders of The Whiskey Daredevils, described as the last cowpunk band standing not only in Northeast Ohio but also stateside.
As for those trips, and there’s been roughly 10, that’s nothing more than Miller (vocals), Leo P. Love (drums), Rebecca “Sugar” Wildman (bass) and new member Hex Mattos (guitar) traveling overseas to play for its growing fan base in Germany and Belgium.
In fact, the quartet recently returned from a European jaunt. So how exactly does a Cleveland-based band whose members all have day jobs get an overseas following?
“We built an infrastructure there where we had a label, then we had a booking agent and it just sort of clicked,” said Miller, a Philadelphia native who has called Lorain County home for nearly 20 years. “People liked us.
“Europe is different than the United States in that people really have a sense of creative arts much more than they do here. In the United States, we view people who are performing artists as some sort of huckster, whereas over there it’s treated with much more respect. It’s fun to tour in that environment.”
Formed from the ashes of late 1990s/early 2000 garage-trash rock act The Cowslingers, The Whiskey Daredevils channel classic country, punk rock, rockabilly, surf and ’60s garage into a cowpunk sound heard on more than a dozen albums.
The latest effort is “American Songbook,” which includes Miller favorites the surf-instrumental “101.1 Gram Man Bracelet” and the rockabilly “Last Train to Berlin.” The band will be playing new tunes at its Grog Shop gig Friday.
“For this particular album, I definitely wanted to do a return to American music themes,” Miller said. “I’m talking like real solidly based in American roots and traditional American songs, but then, as usual, tweak them with punk rock and garage energy. Just make them go in unexpected places from where a traditional song would go.
“I find so many roots-rock bands can be really boring, because they try imitate something that happened before. What I always find interesting is to take the form and then twist it in an unexpected way.”
As for Miller’s Avon Lake neighbors, the singer said he’ll go to his grave believing classic rock-loving fans would enjoy The Whiskey Daredevils if they would give the act a chance.
“I always run into the same problem with the band,” Miller said. “You talk to people who don’t know anything about anything and they go, ‘Oh, you have a band.’ To them, bands either play Quicken Loans Arena or a wedding reception they went to. They don’t know there’s a whole world that exists in which bands go to different cities in a circuit just like an arena rock circuit would be.
“I’ll tell them, ‘We’re sort of like if Johnny Cash and The Ramones made a band together.’ And sometimes you get that nod where people go, ‘Oh, OK. I get it,’ And you’re like, ‘I don’t think you do.’ But when you get down to it, we’re a straight ahead rock band. We just play rock ’n’ roll music.”