This piece was originally published in the Summer 2016 issue of Our Jackson Home: The Magazine.
Rain falls steadily against the sidewalk, bouncing back up almost as soon as it brushes the ground, and all I have for a shield is my military-green rain jacket as I hurry into Alba. Throwing off my hood, I spota guy in a sharp polka-dotted button-up and a girl with cool eyeliner sitting in the corner of the coffee shop. Together, local artists Hunter Cross and Cameron Briley combine their talents as The Skeleton Krew, an original band with a 60s-inspired, blues-rock vibe. But before they sold out of their band’s black-and-white baseball tees at their Outsiders Exposition concert, they performed with a different sound under a different name: The Killing Flower. I take a seat with Hunter and Cameron to talk about The Skeleton Krew’s origins, the Jackson music scene, and what’s next in store for their growing careers.
How did you guys get started playing music together?
Hunter: Well, I’ve been playing music since I was fourteen. I’ve played music here in Jackson and spent some time in the Nashville area a few years back.
Cameron: I got my start when I was fourteen as well. I’ve only been playing guitar or bass for four and a half years now, probably, but I’ve been playing and reading music since sixth grade. I’ve had a lot of time with music in general.
Hunter: And we met three and a half years ago, and (turns to Cameron) you had a bass in your hand, and we started talking music.
Cameron: Actually it was two and a half years ago, and I couldn’t play [the bass], so I just pretended to play it (laughs).
Hunter: I was in a band already, but I wanted to start trying something new, so I approached her about forming a band. I had to talk her into it.
Cameron: It took him over a year to talk me into it. . . . He tricked me.
Hunter: Did I trick you? Well, it worked!
(Laughing) That’s a good way to get started.
Hunter: I never really had consistent members. Back then it was all hard-core stuff, and that was not us. It was kind of hard to get gigs, hard to find an audience, but now I think things are changing. We just changed our name; we were called The Killing Flower.
How did you decide that your name needed to change?
Hunter: When we started the band, it was more folky, acoustic guitar-driven music. And it just kind of evolved into what it is now, which is more rock and roll. I guess our heavier influences come through a bit.
Yeah, I can see that. You kinda have a blues-rock Led Zeppelin thing now.
Hunter: Yeah, we’re big fans.
Who else would you say is an inspiration for you?
Hunter: We just got out of the car listening to Beck. . . . I could list influences all day. Bob Dylan is a big influence.
Cameron: The Doors, Captain Beefheart.
Hunter: T-Rex. . . . There’s so many. . . . And the seminal bands of the 60s and 70s, like The Velvet Underground.
Fashion-wise, you guys also have a really cool thing going.
Hunter: If I didn’t have a musical bone in my body, I probably would’ve went into fashion. I like the weird, more avant-garde side of it.
Cameron: As far as fashion for me goes, I like the 1920s, Art Deco, Edwardian, Victorian . . . anything like that, and then I just modernize it and add a dash of the late 60s. It’s just mood-dependent.
Something else I was wondering about, especially in connection with your song “Evil,” is your songwriting. I was wondering how you go about with your songwriting process?
Hunter: In a lot of ways, everything musically has already been done. But to me it’s almost like something I can say that I did. I like poetry, so I try to fit that into a song . . . whether it’s stream of consciousness, fragments of dreams, or something like that. Anything to paint a picture. I don’t want a song to just be a song; I want you to visualize it as you listen to it.
What do you guys think about Jackson’s music scene right now? What are some things you think are good about it already, and what are some things you’d like to see change?
Hunter: I can definitely see an interest in new music. Five years ago I would’ve hesitated to say that. There’s an interest in going to local shows now, and I’d like to think we’ve had a hand in that. People thought that they had to go to Memphis or Nashville to hear a band. I’ve given people the benefit of the doubt in the sense that we’ve had to educate them, to let them know it’s okay to come to a local show and support bands. We’re not all like some . . . you know . . .
Cameron: We’re not all punk kids handing out acid. That’s not what any of our friends are about!
Did you guys think that parents would be wary, with the younger music scene, of that kind of atmosphere?
Hunter: I think so. But it’s okay. . . . Mom and Dad, you can bring your kids to this. We try to look for alternatives [to playing in bars]. That had a big hand in starting The Outsiders.
What’s next in store for you guys?
Hunter: We’re looking at when and where we’re going to have the next Outsiders show. That’s going to be a continuing [series]. Long-term, I guess we’re saving up to record some more. We found some people in Franklin who really get where we’re coming from musically. . . . We still believe in recording studios. When you get serious, I think that’s necessary.