‘Mastodon’ guitarist goes ‘West’

By Alex Stedman

Brent Hinds is best known for shredding guitar in the heavy metal band Mastodon, but his side project, West End Motel, presents a whole new sound. The Atlanta-based band, which has been described as country/punk, is the product of a 20-year friendship between guitarist Hinds and vocalist Tom Cheshire.

The group also includes Mike Shina, piano/guitar; Ben Thrower, acoustic guitar/background vocals; Stiff Penalty, bass guitar and Mark Carbone, drums/percussion. The outfit produced its debut album “Don’t Shiver, You’re a Winner” in 2010, and its sophomore album “Only Time Can Tell,” which has remnants of indie rock and Southern guitar, was released Oct. 30.

Hinds and Cheshire took a break to talk to The Chronicle about the band’s origins, goals and musical preferences.

The Chronicle: You met each other more than two decades ago. How did West End Motel develop?

Tom Cheshire: We lived in the western part of [Atlanta], and we used to hang out late at night. We wrote songs, and basically we just loved the name and wanted to have a bunch of people play with us.

How did you find the rest of the band members?

TC: Well, [Hinds] had been playing with Stiff Penalty and then I brought in a few folks, and then it turned into the conglomerate of losers and hobos that we are.

Why do you describe the band as a “conglomerate of losers, poets and hobo-sexuals?”

TC: We wanted to have each of us bring a little bit of something to the table. Variety is the spice of life, and we root for the underdogs. A lot of the songs come from a real honest place, and we wanted to write songs that a homeless person could relate to but also housewives.

What’s it like collaborating when you’re writing songs?

TC: Brent and I have been writing together so long that it’s just a very great understanding. He carries the guitar with him everywhere, so a lot of times as he’s walking in, he’s writing a song, and he might start a sentence, and I’ll finish it.

What’s the vibe you’re trying to create with the new album?

TC: I’ve always been a fan of sad songs. I’d rather be happy in life but even if I feel happiness, I don’t think I write happy songs. But we want it to be a juxtaposition. People enjoy it, and they are happy, dancing to it and enjoying it. I think it has some sadness to it, but we also want people toe-tapping. But with that said, we don’t take ourselves seriously at all. We have no problem mocking ourselves.

There are some light-hearted tracks on the album, like “El Myr,” which is about a burrito joint. Did you try to inject some humor into the album?

TC: Exactly. That’s a place that we go to, and we were friends with the owners. We just wanted to pay homage to a place that we go to that’s basically West Motel’s office now. We had fun with that and also with the song “Burn It Down.” We just had fun, and we wanted to write a song that people could dance to.

Brent, why did you start West End Motel? It’s very different from Mastodon.

Brent Hinds: I don’t like metal, so I don’t even know why I’m playing in Mastodon.

Is this the kind of music you’ve always wanted to play?

BH: Without a doubt. It’s hard to play anything but metal with the guys in Mastodon. I just like all types of music. Some people are very opinionated about music, but I’m not one of them.

Would you say you have a more relaxed approach to music?

BH: I would say I have a more relaxed approach to everything.

For more on West End Motel, visit Facebook.com/WestEndMotel.