Bands tour with other bands. Some follow a festival circuit. And there are fans (often in vintage VW microbuses) who tail certain bands. But, as actor/screenwriter Andy Stuckey puts it, "No bands that I know of have ever been on the road with a movie they did the soundtrack for. And no movies that I know of have gone on the road with a band."
Stuckey, who stars in the Southern-fried indie comedy Skiptracers, is launching that potential trend with the tandem film screening and Langhorne Slim concert, both happening in Asheville next Wednesday.
Slim was hand-picked for the soundtrack, along with N.Y.'s The Defibrillators and N.C.'s Avett Brothers. "About five years ago I was living in Williamsburg [Brooklyn] near a venue called Galapagos," Stuckey recalls. "One night the Avett Brothers were playing with Langhorne Slim. I just wandered in."
Stuckey and his longtime buddies/collaborators Harris Mendheim and Brian Saliba had started work on Skiptracers, which features the misadventures of a family of bail bondsmen in small-town Alabama. "The Defibrillators [who will perform in tandem with Skiptracers screenings at other locations] are good friends of mine and I knew I wanted them to be a part of it. After I saw the Avetts and Langhorne, I thought 'This could be a good fit.'"
Actually, it's a surprising fit. Slim (who borrows his stage name from his hometown of Langhorne, Pa.), is neither a Southerner nor a writer of quirk-comic anthems. His songs (performed with his backing band The War Eagles) are finely-wrought folk rockers with intricate lyrics and excellently layered instrumentation. (Slim's next album, due out in September, was recorded with Chris Funk of The Decemberists and features strings for the first time.)
"It was three or four years ago and I was excited that someone was asking me to get involved with something that I thought was cool," says Slim. He didn't worry about the comedy aspect, though being a Northern band on a Southern soundtrack was cause for pause.
"I've never really grasped that concept. I understand some people identify themselves as Southern rock or whatever [but] I don't view myself as, 'Now that I live in California I've got a West Coast sound,'" the musician says. "I want to make songs for the universe."
Slim adds, "After seeing the film, I think it works."
One Slim song on the score which has been making the round via YouTube is the raucous "Cinderella." It's perfectly paired with the bombastic characters of Skiptracers, such as Stuckey's Rusty who the actor describes as "an imbecile, to say the least. Rusty is the quintessential redneck screw-up. If you're from the South you've met a guy like this."
This movie is based loosely on both the town of Dothan, Ala. (where Stuckey, Mendheim and Saliba grew up) and a family the filmmakers knew. Though Skiptracers was conceived while the trio lived in New York City, it's not South-deriding.
"A meteorite did actually hit a woman in Alabama; a preacher actually did get beat up at a eulogy for insulting the dead," Stuckey points out. "We embellished it in certain way — we were not too careful, like, 'Oh, we might look like we're making fun of that meth-head.'"
Stuckey and Mendheim have a history of irreverence. After embarking on careers in TV, they decided to make the documentary Mullet Men, in which Stuckey trained for and competed in a fish-throwing contest on the Florida/Alabama border. "We documented it, we met characters along the way, and then for some ungodly reason I won the mullet toss," Stucky recalls. "It was a fun, lucky experience." That spurred them to write their own script — the story of a different type of "mullet man."
That's right; for his role as Rusty, Stuckey rocked the iconic hairstyle. "I had really long hair before we shot the movie," the actor relates. "We were down there for pre-production and I was helping out the 40 Pee Wee Football kids we cast, going over stuff we were going to be doing and meeting their parents. One day I get my hair cut and it went from being 'Oh it's Andy, the nice guy,' to 'Who is this creep talking to our kids?'"
He adds, "I really think everyone, at some point in their life, should have a mullet for a day or two. It really does change your attitude. You become way more aggressive, you're a lot jerkier, you walk around like a rooster bobbing your head everywhere and questioning everything."
Anything for art. Stuckey believes that so many great stories come from small Southern towns, but all too often the rich cultural nuances are dumbed down for the big screen. "Sweet Home Alabama: No," he says of the Reese Witherspoon vehicle. "That is a turd of a movie. We set out with a goal not make a turd of a Southern movie."
The final touch was the soundtrack, which will soon be available and does include some Alabama-based artists. But for now, music fans can get their fix by listening to the songs in the theater. Or at the artist's shows. Or better yet, both. On the very same night.
who: Skiptracers and Langhorne Slim
what: Southern comedy film about an Alabama bail-bonding family; folk-rocker who performs on the soundtrack
where: Skiptracers screens at The Fine Arts Theatre; Langhorne Slim and The War Eagles (with The Low Anthem) play at The Grey Eagle
when: Wednesday, Aug. 12 (Skiptracers: 7 p.m., $8. www.fineartstheatre.com; Langhorne Slim: 8:30 p.m., $10 advance/$12 day of show. www.thegreyeagle.com)