It’s a Monday night, and Joe Blow, from the longstanding Dallas punk band Dog Company, is by an old jukebox toward the back of Dan’s Silverleaf in Denton, admiring the selection of classic country and rockabilly songs.
“I grew up Southern Baptist,” Blow says. “My parents really didn’t listen to a lot of music, but I can remember when I was little, whatever station it was at the time, on Sunday mornings would play ’50s rock ‘n’ roll. I loved it because that’s the only time my parents would listen to music on the radio — Buddy Holly, early Elvis and stuff. I really dug all that.”
Blow says that you can hear those memories in the galloping strum of his rhythm guitar on any Dog Company release. If they were played acoustically, the songs would be indistinguishable from anything strummed by one of Sun Records’ working class icons of the ’50s.
Underneath Blow’s army-green jacket, lined tastefully with punk pins and patches, he wears a black shirt with white block letters that read simply “Charles Bronson,” a shirt Blow made for himself using supplies he gathered from Hobby Lobby.
“I always wanted a shirt that had his name, but I didn’t want his face,” Blow says. “I don’t know, man. I guess I just like tough guys, especially old school tough guys, like Charles Bronson [from the Deathwish franchise] and Franco Nero [from the original Django].”
Founded in 2004, Dog Company is a band that takes a lot of influence from the earliest days of punk rock in England and America as well as ’70s-era British oi! punk — a subculture concerned with keeping punk working-class and saving it from art school kids who were making it trendy.
Blow will be the first to tell you that he is a total dork who loves old horror movies and books about World War II and that he is not at all like the tough guys, the barroom heroes and suburban rebels bands like Cock Sparrer and The Business sang about.
“I don’t get in fights, my dad’s not a fighter, but tough guys have always appealed to me since I was a kid,” he says. “I like those kinds of movies and the swagger of a tough guy, as long as he’s not a jerk about it. You know, there’s a way to be like a macho man and not an ass.”
With the release of their fifth full-length album, From Chosen Sides to Battle Lines, last December, Blow and the rest of Dog Company wanted to put their best boot forward in showcasing what it means to be tough, working-class punks acting as their brothers’ keeper.
“Onstage, I’m not necessarily trying to be a tough guy, I’m just tapping into the lyrics that I wrote … and expressing how the lyrical content makes me feel like, just the lyrical content,” Blow says. “I think I’m angry. There’s anger involved in what I write about. So, it just comes off that way.”
From Chosen Sides to Battle Lines is an album steeped in punk rock revolution played with the kind of mid-tempo restraint that can only come with an older, wiser perspective. It includes songs like “Working Man’s Blues,” which Blow wrote in 10 minutes after returning home from a day working the warehouse floor without any help from a boss who sat upstairs on the computer while promising he was there to help, and “Empty Words” about to politicians’ “empty hearts,”
“I like really fast music, but I feel like certain songs lose the feeling if it’s too fast,” Blow says. “With this record, what we wanted to do is just kind of keep it at mid-tempo and still have a tough sound.”
For someone who claims not to be a tough guy, Blow has a lot of street cred from his history in the Dallas punk scene, which he has been a part of since the mid-’80s. Blow first played with a band called Actions Without Logic for nine months before the band fizzled out, giving way to Riot Squad, which would eventually be renamed The Staggers.
“I don’t know what I would do if I wasn’t playing shows or writing songs. I took a year off in probably 2002-2003, and my wife was like, ‘You need to start playing in a band again. You’re cranky, and you’re bored.’” – Dog Company singer Joe Blow
Blow’s fondest memories of that time took place at Red Blood Club and Club Clearview, but those memories are often tainted by the violence he saw perpetrated by members of The Hammerskins.
“They were just Nazi skinheads,” Blow remembers, distinguishing them from traditional, apolitical skinheads who are still a part of the working-class punk scene, though in small numbers. “I mean, I’m sure that they had a platform, and they had agendas, but I don’t like talking about that stuff because it makes me really angry. It makes me sad, too. There’s a lot of people that got hurt and a lot of people that could have done something with their lives.”
At 49, Blow says he is really old in punk-rock years, but he has no intention of leaving behind the music that has served him as he built a life and a family.
“If I can keep on, I’m going to do it,” Blow says. “I don’t know what I would do if I wasn’t playing shows or writing songs. I took a year off in probably 2002-2003, and my wife was like, ‘You need to start playing in a band again. You’re cranky, and you’re bored.’”
Punk rock and poetry may not pay the bills, but even if Dog Company were to make it big, Blow says that he would have a hard time leaving behind his working-class roots.
“It’s so ingrained in me,” he says. “I’ve been a punk rock musician for so long working with my hands, I like doing the physical work. I wouldn’t want someone loading my gear on stage. I wouldn’t want someone changing the strings on my guitar. That’s my job. That’s what I look forward to.”