Heavy Wood is kind of all over the map when it comes to sound. They incorporate elements of 1970s classic blues-rock rhythms as well as fast country tunes that chug along like something off an early Old 97's album. They throw in feisty fingerpicking and old-world Gypsy raucousness. The band members are also from literally all over the map. Guitarist/singer Nate Kantner hails from Bozeman, lived in Seattle and now makes his home in Perugia with the other bandmates. Guitarist/singer Roberto Cavallo grew up in Faggiano, in the southeast of Italy, and drummer Matteo Flori comes from Abbadia San Salvatore in the Tuscany region. For that reason, Italian influences like classical, spaghetti western and tarantella mesh with American hard rock. On their website, Cavallo describes their sound as: "Imagine Ennio Morricone getting drunk with AC/DC, when Eugene from Gogol Bordello shows up."
Kantner says the fusion came naturally when he met Cavallo during a jam session four years ago.
"That's what happens when me and Roberto make a band," Kantner says. "That's the baby that comes out."
Kantner fell in love with Italy when he spent a semester in Florence 10 years ago for a study abroad program. The Italian life lured him back constantly until he ended up settling in Perugia, which is where he met Cavallo and, eventually, other musicians, including Flori.
One of their most influential decisions for Heavy Wood happened in 2014 when they found themselves without a bass player. Cavallo had been tinkering with his seven-string guitar and he ended up modifying it so it could produce the sound of a bass and gave him almost the same range as a piano. It has two outputs, making it basically a guitar and bass all in one. He calls his invention "The Drawk."
- Heavy Wood features Roberto Cavallo on “The Drawk.”
"I don't know if there are many guitar players who could [play] it," Kantner says. "Roberto is good so he can do it. I wouldn't have a chance to be able to play that thing. If I hold it in my hand I don't even know what to do," he says, laughing. "I just sit there and hold it until he gets back."
When it comes to rock music, according to Kantner, the Italian scene is fractured and it tips heavily toward an imported mainstream sound.
"We don't fit into what's trending now, but that's to be expected," Kantner says. "Italian music is having an identity crisis and it has for the last 30 years. When [bands] make music now it's like they are not Italian. They're playing what they saw once or twice removed on YouTube. They don't think anyone else is interested in their roots and that's a shame. Hopefully, we can change that."
Still, the band has played some spectacular shows in Italy, including on the edge of the Mediterranean. Over the last week, they've been touring Montana, which they're also excited about. (One of their newest songs, "Montana Man," notes the flannel- and beard-wearing trends that have spread across the ocean to Italy.) However their blend of music translates to Montana crowds, the band, judging from YouTube videos, takes its stage antics seriously. And maybe that's what matter most.
"People will say, 'What kind of music are these guys? They need to make up their minds,'" Kantner says. "But we don't really care. The thing that ties our songs together is that we are high energy. I don't want people to check out when they come to our show. Get ready for some activity. Get ready for some sports."
Heavy Wood play the VFW Thu., June 30, at 9 PM along with Beatzlevox, Lego Hundy, Pender and Steeples and Stalin. $2. $5 for those 18 to 20.