North Shore rock-reggae band Horsemouth will keep the music rolling on Friday, April 1, after the last notes of bluegrass have faded in Squaw Valley. The Auld Dubliner pub in Squaw Village will host the band for a late-night show to kick off the opening day of the three-day WinterWondergrass Tahoe music festival.
Horsemouth is Josh Roelle (guitar, vocals), Steve Goates (bass), Eric Roussel (drums), Brian Buckton (saxophone, vocals), and Chanse Hunwardsen (turntables, vocals). The group’s name is a dual reference, inspired both by a folk saying and a 1978 Jamaican film that featured a number of reggae musicians.
“When you hear the truth, they say, ‘it comes from the horse’s mouth,’ and so ‘Horsemouth,’ ” Roelle said. “Similarly, from the protagonist of a movie made in the seventies called “Rockers,” Leroy “Horsemouth” Wallace.”
The band first formed in 1999, laying a likely claim to the longest-tenured band still active in the Tahoe basin, guitarist Josh Roelle said.
“My brother moved here around October of ’99, and brought a drum set. I already had my guitar and an amp, and we just started jamming with my brother-in-law,” Roelle said. “It was a trio of brothers in an extra bedroom just making noise, trying to copy Peter Tosh and Sublime.”
The band’s sound is in line with the latter band, a blend of island sound and aggressive edge, driven by electric guitar and drums, with a decidedly party-friendly approach.
“We play rock-reggae,” Roelle said. “None of us are good enough musicians to play traditional reggae, so we just bastardize it and made it our own thing. It’s rock and roll that sounds like reggae; it has skankin’ guitar and a backbeat.”
Horsemouth maintains a laid-back air, with its lyrics and attitude deriving directly from the mountain-town-casual environment.
“We write songs about party lifestyle in the mountains and just having fun,” Roelle said with a laugh. “Just being slightly off-color, you know — slightly off-color, fun, loud, bar music. We sing about drink and smoke and hanging out with girls.”
The rock-reggae group plays primarily in North Tahoe, at venues such as Jason’s Beachside Grille, Crystal Bay Casino’s Red Room, and the Auld Dubliner. Horsemouth has one international appearance to its name; the band played a 2011 windsurfing party in Los Barilles, Mexico, on a chance invite from a friend.
Although Horsemouth has been writing original tunes since its inception, the band has yet to produce a full album. It has an EP’s worth of original tunes on its Facebook page. The group hopes to begin work on a record in 2016, however.
“We are planning on recording a record within a year. We have two albums of material, I think more, so we’d really like to get an album out,” Roelle said. “It’s a hobby for most of us. We’re business owners and career professionals, but we’re too far into it not to record an album.”