2655 South Coast Highway 101, Cardiff   »  (760) 942-1860   »  LasOlasMex.com

by Mikey Beats

In this installment of Beats & Eats, I spend a beautiful Friday afternoon on the 101 in Cardiff, where my man Graham Nancarrow and I enjoy ice cold Nicaraguan Toña Cerveza at the Mexican restaurant Las Olas.

Steve and Chris with the magazine join me on this interview, and once again Steve challenges me to a beer pounding contest. As usual, I lose. While the beer flows, so does the food as the waitress lays down a side of beans, chips and salsa. If you know me, you know I always rate a place on their beans and these beans are good! They are presented in a small flour tortilla bowl topped with cotija cheese and a small drizzle of enchilada sauce. I instantly put my face in the small flour tortilla bowl of beans, devouring them and the bowl within a minute like I’m a pie eating contest entrant. It isn’t that I’m hungry or buzzed, it’s the fact that I am Mexican, therefore I am a beaner.

mikey-graham-steveMikey Beats: Graham Nancarrow, you were born and raised in San Diego?

Graham Nancarrow: Yeah, Olivenhain, Encinitas, North County San Diego on a little farm with horses, cows, chickens, goats and peacocks.

Mikey: That’s a real farm. Did you milk cows?

Graham:  No, but we did shoot our cows. I had my friend over one day and he asked my dad where the cow went, and it was funny because my dad said, “Check the freezer.” That was the coolest thing about my dad was that he raised us to think outside the box, like if that cow had grown up on a farm with hundreds of other cows and faced death in a slaughterhouse, how miserable would that cow’s life be? Whereas our cows got to live on this beautiful farm and lived a good life that one day ended.

Mikey: Did you eat your chickens, too?

Graham:  Not really. We mostly used them for eggs. We did have lots of turkeys, and every Thanksgiving we’d have people come over and everyone would get to kill their own turkeys on a stump with two nails and take them home to eat. You’d be surprised what that does to a man. There were some men who would be holding a machete looking for the next one to kill, kinda crazy like. My dad also was a great gardener growing all our vegetables.

Mikey: You were raised on a sustainable farm, that’s wonderful!

Graham:  Well, we had to go to the store for milk and a few things, but yeah, for the most part we did.

Mikey: That is real San Diego country. You are defiantly not faking the funk. Where did you go to high school and what year did you graduate?

Graham:  La Costa Canyon in ’06.

Mikey: ’06? You’re young dude. How’d you get into music and country?

Graham:  I had a punk band in high school called Misled Citizen. I was kinda confused and later I was living in San Francisco when I had heard Hank III, the third Hank Williams. I listened to him and heard all the things he talked about, all the country heroes and all the greats. So I started listening to those heroes and did my research. I realized country music was the closest thing to punk rock that sounded good, so I felt that kind of attitude is in the country blood.

Mikey: Hank III he has that song “Punch, Fight, Fuck.” Classy tune.

Graham:  That’s punk rock and country!

(Laughter.)

Mikey: What were you doing in San Francisco?

Graham:  After high school, I went to San Francisco State and continued with my punk band. We all went up there and signed to a guy’s little record label; he was friends with Rancid. We got Gordy from The Forgotten to sing on our album, and we were doing that for a while. I didn’t do well in school so my parents yanked me out and sent me home. That was a pretty low time. I was devastated because all I thought I was ever going to do was play in that punk band. I figured out that school is not for me.

Mikey: It’s not for everybody. I think I did 10 years of college and I don’t have a bachelor’s degree to show for it.

Graham:  Really? We’re friends. (Laughter.)

Mikey: We’re definitely friends. You came back to San Diego, figured things out, and that’s when you started the act Nancarrow.

Graham:  Yeah, I started with my buddy Joe Weisiger, who got all the best musicians he knew.

Mikey: You have a slide guitarist in the band?

Yeah, Russel Hayden. Legend. Not only does he rip on that thing, but he is a legitimate outlaw and he gives our band a lot of credibility.

Mikey: Yeah, street cred!

Graham:  I don’t even want to talk about any detail, but he’s just a legend. Our drummer’s name is Ron Kerner. Tommy Andrews from White Buffalo was originally on guitar; now we have Buzz Campbell. Then we have Joey Guevarra on keys. He does most of his work with Lady Dottie and the Diamonds. He’s also a killer harmonica player, singer, pianist, and he went to Berkeley School of Music.

Mikey: That is an all-star cast! What do you have right now as far as albums?

Graham:  We put one out independently and then RandM Records picked us up and put out an EP called Heart. What we’re waiting on—it should be any moment now—is the third record. It’ll be a full length with 12 songs. I think we’re gonna call it Simple Things. We were hoping for a December release, but you know how things go: pictures, publishing, etc. Now we are hopefully releasing by February.

Mikey: You currently have a residency in Julian?

Graham:  Yeah, I play solo in Julian. That’s actually how I make a living: playing solo and sometimes as a duo with Russel. He plays with a 1929 Dobro, it’s all original. The strings are the only new things on it. It looks more like a teardrop metal banjo, and it sounds like a twangy cool banjo.

Mikey: There’s a few songs that I listen to of yours. I think they are originals. Like “Smoky Tavern?”

Graham:  Yeah, that’s an original.

Mikey: That’s a really good song. I really appreciate that hook.

Graham:  Thanks, man. I’ve been bringing that to the table a lot lately because I think that was a favorite of a lot of people. I’ve been playing it solo.

Mikey: I can pick winners, my man. Any traveling?

Graham:  I just got back from Australia in September. I played at the Birdsville Races, which is in the middle of the Outback. It takes seven plane stops because they have to drop mail off in every town to get there. Once you get there, it’s a town of 115 people. When the horse races come to town, which was when I was there, 8,000 people fly in on their private planes, drive in across the country on their trucks with bull bars because kangaroos will totally total your car if you don’t have them, ya know? So, we all head out there, all 8,000 people, into one pub, and I was the entertainment for every single night. I’m going back!

Mikey: How did you line that up?

Graham:  Well, my dad passed away in December …

Mikey: I am sorry to hear about that.

Graham:  No, no worries man. One of his favorite nurses from treatment was a ukulele playing Filipino man. He would come in and play for my dad when he was sick. We stayed in touch and he brought the daughter of another one of his patients to one of my shows. She’s from Australia and was the cook at that pub in the middle of nowhere. She hit me up two days later and was like, “We’re getting you out here.” Not only was everything taken care of, but I’ve never been treated like a king in my life! In another country, I thought they’d call me Yank and give me shit, but they love American country music, more then we do. I swear to God, it’s crazy.

Mikey: They relate to the punching, the fighting, the fucking and you experienced that first hand?

Graham:  Yeah, there was this one guy named Slim Dusty, who is essentially like the Hank Williams of Australia. He’s dead now, but he’s just so rad. It’s all like American country music with an accent, but instead of talking about American shit, they’d talk about dingos, kangaroos and ranching cattle. It’s cool. I had no idea, besides Keith Urban, that country existed out there. I teamed up with a guy out there named Mick Lindsay.

Mikey: Of course his name is Mick.

Graham:  Yeah, so we played together and had a great time. These Outback folks are way different than the city folks.

Mikey: Same deal here.

(The waitress lays down our food.)

The first thing I notice about the food here is that there are several different types of beans: refried, ranchero style beans and mashed black beans. I can appreciate the variety! We ordered the chili relleno carnitas burrito plate with rice and ranchero style pinto beans. It’s a wet-style burrito topped with enchilada sauce and cilantro. I never thought of pairing a chili relleno with a meat in a burrito, but they give the option of carnitas, seafood, chicken or carne asada. Graham, what did you get?

Graham:  The classic combo. It’s a chicken taco, cheese enchilada, black beans and rice.

Mikey: That’s what a country boy orders, I guess. On to the carne asada plate that comes with rice and grilled onions, it’s a whole steak carne asada—not cut up—keeping it super juicy as I cut into it with my fork. There’s also some guacamole, salsa and a cabbage coleslaw with an avocado vinaigrette. Everything is looking really fresh. The table hot sauce that they call “Papatio” is really freaking spicy.

(Steve, who prides himself on his beer chugging capabilities and his leather-like, flame-resistant palate, takes a generous dose of the hot sauce—and then starts hyperventilating, as do I.)

Mikey: You’re sweating, dude.

Steve: I know!

(I start fanning my tongue with my hand.)

Mikey: I’m going to move on to the grilled mahi fish taco and hope it cools me down. It looks like a standard fish taco with grilled fish and cabbage on a corn tortilla. There is a light white saucy type of pico de gallo on it that they call their yogurt salsa. Let’s not get complicated with fish tacos; keep it simple as this is. It’s a home run. Likewise with the battered fish taco: It is simple and delicious with pollock fish lightly batter fried. Back to the Beats, what’s your website?

It’s www.nancarrow.com and www.grahamnancarrow.com. Also, my Twitter is @nancarrowmusic while my Insta and Facebook are @Grahamnancarrow.

Mikey: Any shows coming up?

Graham:  Yeah, we have the full band playing at The Belly Up on Friday, Feb. 20, when we will be opening up for Paul Thorn.

Mikey: San Diego is not known for country music. Are there other country acts like yourself that are in your age group?

Graham:  Jake Loban, one of my very best friends who used to be in a local punk band too, ended up in the same genre of outlaw country as us with The Bender Band.

Mikey: This isn’t a new story about a punk rock band that has turned to country. Are there any other bands that have influenced you?

Graham:  Social Distortion really opened up that sort of punk goes gangster country vibe to me. They talk about Buck Owens kinda like how Hank III drops names in his songs and then I would go listen to that band.

Mikey: Have you done any work with KSON, San Diego’s main country station?

Graham:  Actually, yeah, they put me on the radio a couple times and I also played CountryFest out at the East County (Lakeside) Rodeo.

Mikey: You are doing everything with the band on your own with booking and marketing. Can you touch on that struggle?

Yeah man, I actually had a hard time where I was making all these calls and sending out all these e-mails, but no one called me back. I kind of took a step back and was like, “How am I ever going to make a living to of this?!” But then all these things sort of fell into place as I just started and went with it.

Mikey: It’s frustrating, especially being in a band in San Diego because the scene has such a short attention span that it is so easy to play yourself out, especially in a genre like country. You have to keep grinding. Some people may or may not know your father Loren Nancarrow, but he was a much loved local newscaster as well as highly respected figure in the community. Can you talk about his influence on your musical career?

Graham:  I have a song coming out about it on my next album called “Elvis.” He took me on a live shot out in Olivenhain one day, I was like 6, and there were outside speakers on this barn we were next to. Elvis’ “Hound Dog” was blaring and that Christmas, he got me Elvis’ greatest hits and I listened to it nonstop. He played great artists for me like CCR [Creedence Clearwater Revival] and all the old rock ‘n’ roll. What’s funny is I used to listen to a Bastard Sons of Johnny Cash CD he had in his truck, and now we are on the same record label.

Mikey: It’s amazing how that came around with a band you listened to when you were a kid. Don’t stop grinding, my dude. I have it easy as a DJ; I can make good money playing other people’s music, but there is a ceiling to how much money I can make. With original artists like yourself, it’s hard to make a living at first, but there is almost no limit to the money you can make. It may be one in a million artists who make it, but you have as good a shot as the best do.

Graham:  I won’t stop. I can’t stop.