Armed with rocket launchers and a flying muscle car, the Quaker City Night Hawks battle an super-sized, villainous vulture in the video for “Mockingbird.” Released today, the animated clip recasts the Ft. Worth-based musicians as a pack of superheroes, protecting the inhabitants of some Tatooine-ish planet with equal parts Bible Belt boogie and Seventies country-rock.
“I’m really into the Sci-Fi Network show Firefly,” explains singer David Matsler. “I was watching it the day I wrote the song, just digging into the idea of a futuristic, dystopian world as viewed by some southern-type character. That’s where ‘Mockingbird’ came from. Those high harmonies in the chorus almost gives it a bluegrass feel, but that guitar riff is pure hard rock. We really like having all of those influences involved.”
Already road warriors in Texas, where they’ve spent the better half of a decade carving out a sound that owes more to hairy homeland heroes like ZZ Top than clean-cut Lone Stars like George Strait, Quaker City Night Hawks made their national debut last month with the release of their full-length El Astronauta. It’s a cinematic album, referencing NASA space travel one minute and border politics the next. Directed by Charlie Terrell and illustrated by Charlo Nocete, the “Mockingbird” video adds its own inspiration to the mix, nodding to the 1981 film Heavy Metal along the way.
“I’m a big fan of Harper Lee,” says Terrell, who named his daughter after the author. “I immediately thought of To Kill a Mockingbird when I heard the song title, but once I saw the album cover, I started thinking about Heavy Metal, too. I came up with this futuristic storyline that combined the two, mixed into a pot with a Sergio Leone western-type thing.”
The former son-in-law of Gram Parsons, Terrell released his own string of albums in the Nineties, beginning with a short-lived band — Terrell, named after its frontman — that logged several years on the roster of Irving Azoff’s Giant Records. Now a videographer for Top 40 artists like Rihanna and Rascal Flatts, he says he relishes the opportunity to work with an act like Quaker City Night Hawks, whose songs fly in the face of mainstream rules.
“They’re not the kind of country band that actually sounds like an Eighties pop group, singing about barns and trucks,” he explains. “These guys are like ZZ Top. They’ve got that Texas blues thing, and I love the fact that we have some young guys coming out right now, doing that Southern rock-country thing.”