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Eighty Proof Engine Celebrates Individual Spin On Bluegrass Via ‘The Deep End'

Courtesy photo

Eighty Proof Engine celebrates the release of its adventurous new collection of songs, The Deep End this Saturday, August 25 at The Coneburg Inn in Peabody, Kansas. The band will also perform at Central Standard Brewing in Wichita on Saturday, September 1.

The band's bassist, lyricist and lead vocalist Dustin Nesser recently dropped by the KMUW studios to talk more about the band's history and this new release.

Interview Highlights

Jedd Beaudoin: How did material for this new record start coming together?

Dustin Nesser: A lot of these songs I've been writing for three-four-five years. A lot of them are just finally coming to fruition.

How did Eighty Proof Engine come into being? Were these guys that you knew or did you put out word that you wanted to start something and they answered the call?

I grew up with John Moser being one of my best friends. He always played guitar since he was young. When we got together, right around me graduating high school, we started putting together some music. Just simple stuff on the computer: Him playing guitar, me writing lyrics. I decided since he was playing a guitar that we needed a bass for it. I picked up the electric bass. We actually performed with an electric bass for about the first year of Eighty Proof Engine. Soon upgraded to a doghouse or upright bass.

Had you been a writer before you started writing lyrics or was this something that you did out of necessity?

I always enjoyed reading, writing, even if I wasn't that great at it and I've been writing lyrics probably since middle school. I just kept that going quietly, here and there, until I finally found somebody to make music with me, some good friends that wanted to do something more. I stepped up and learned the bass after high school. I didn't have any training during middle school or high school or anything. I just picked it up when I was 19-20. Most people don't start that late. They start much earlier. Did you feel like you were at a disadvantage by doing that?

Playing the bass, I've got less strings than anybody else in the band, so it's a little simpler. I don't necessarily have to form chords on it, especially the upright. I figured that was my spot. Everybody wanted to be a guitar player when I was growing up. I decided the bass is what would be needed and was fairly simple enough for me to learn after many years of not playing any music, just enjoying it.

You mentioned this transition from the electric bass to the doghouse bass. Upright is its own animal. What was that transition like for you? I liked it. No frets, so you're a little more free. If you make a mistake you're just adding a little flavor to it. It's so much more fun than the electric bass just because you're kind of dancing all around with the thing and slapping the heck out of it.

This album also carries a little bit of dedication with it. You want to talk about that?

It's dedicated to my dad, Doug Nesser. He passed away in 2016. He was always a big fan of our music. He always pushed us to keep doing it, keep playing like we were playing at the Superbowl. He also encouraged me to put the lyrics on the album so that he could read along with anything he couldn't understand. He's not here to see that but we did put the lyrics on the album, every song, all 15 of them.

That's huge when you have a parent who supports endeavor, whether it's painting or making music.

My dad was always a fan of music, mostly classic rock, which is what I grew up on. First and foremost we're fans of music. We just decided that the bluegrass route was the way to go. It has the energy, the drive, we put a little bit of a rock twist on it, a little bit of a classic country feel. It's not traditional bluegrass.

Jedd Beaudoin is the host of Strange Currency. Follow him on Twitter @JeddBeaudoin. To contact KMUW News or to send in a news tip, reach us at news@kmuw.org.

Jedd Beaudoin is host/producer of the nationally syndicated program Strange Currency. He has also served as an arts reporter, a producer of A Musical Life and a founding member of the KMUW Movie Club. As a music journalist, his work has appeared in Pop Matters, Vox, No Depression and Keyboard Magazine.