Soren Staff of Them Coulee Boys acknowledges that defining their sound can be difficult.
The Eau Claire-based band’s bio on their website lists genres such as Americana, punk, bluegrass and rock ’n’ roll. And as more people experience their high-velocity shows and well-crafted lyrics, the label becomes less important all the time.
Staff said he does think about which descriptions are most accurate, but only up to a point.
“I struggle answering that question because we really want to be a bunch of those things,” he said in a phone interview. “I mean, we really want to sing those pretty folk songs and like playing rock ’n’ roll.”
After he mentioned a few of the names that have cropped up — folk-rock, alt-Americana, alt-folk, the catch-all Americana — he said, “We’re comfortable with whatever you say, to be completely honest.”
A local audience will get another chance to decide for themselves how to describe Them Coulee Boys when the band takes the stage along with two other groups Friday at The Metro. The show is part of what’s billed as the Road to Blue Ox tour, referencing the fifth annual bluegrass-Americana festival in the town of Union outside of Eau Claire.
The tour is led by Pert Near Sandstone, a Minneapolis group that hosts the Blue Ox festival. Them Coulee Boys are joining them on several dates, including the closing set at the Eau Claire show. The band Barbaro will open the concert.
The tour is geared toward just what it sounds like: building up excitement about the event, Staff said. It’s a role they’re happy to play because of their appreciation for the festival.
“We always say it’s our favorite one because of the vibe,” he said, noting that the festival is family friendly and welcoming to partyers too.
One of the highlights, he said, comes after the main stage goes dark for the night.
“After the headliner’s done they have people play out on a stage in a campground till about like 2 in the morning,” he said. “Then people find campfires, and they jam around campfires. I remember one year they had (banjo superstar) Bela Fleck and (Fleck’s longtime bassist) Victor Wooten — two of the very tip top guys around a campfire at 3 in the morning.”
Since the band got rolling in 2013, they’ve run on the strength of two major assets: energy and, as they put it on their website, sincerity.
Energy has been a driving force since the get-go, Staff said, and they’ve kept that going while they’ve grown as musicians in their time together.
“We really want to connect with our audience,” he said. “We want them to clap along and sing along and stuff like that. We’ve made that a part of our shows.”
The sincerity derives from the fact that Staff has always taken a personal and direct, rather than ambiguous, approach to songwriting.
“A lot of my songs are me trying to figure something out about myself, and when I can do that clearly maybe somebody can figure something out about themselves,” he said.
Them Coulee Boys will have some new material for their fans at the Friday night show, as their latest album is expected to be released in August. On North Carolina-based label LoHi Records, the work reflects a change in recording process, Staff said.
For both of their previous two albums, 2016’s “Dancing in the Dim Light” and 2014’s “I Never Lied About Being in Love,” they tracked each instrument individually.
“You get exactly what you want that way, and everybody plays the exact right notes,” he said. “But you kind of lose that live feel.”
With their live performances being such a crucial part of their identity, the band wanted the new disc to capture their live sound. So for the most part they all set up in the same room and played multiple takes, choosing from that selection. While they did some overdubs, “Ninety to 95 percent of it was tracked live,” he said.
Another change comes from fact that they incorporate a full drum kit on each of the songs. “So that’s definitely a step forward for us,” he said.
The audience on Friday night will hear that change, as Them Coulee Boys will perform as a five-piece: Staff, his brother Jens Staff, Beau Janke, Neil Krause and Patrick Phalen IV.
The new album is produced by Dave Simonett, a member of the acoustic band Trampled By Turtles, which will be a Blue Ox headliner this year. They also worked with engineer Nick Tveitbakk.
“Both Dave and (Tveitbakk) kind of just like guided us and gave us pointers and what we needed to do and told us when we needed to, like, ‘Hey, let’s go get a beer,’” Staff said.
When it’s suggested Them Coulee Boys and Trampled By Turtles have some musical similarities, he responded, “Those guys are one of the handful of bands that got me into this kind of sound. They’ve been guys that I’ve looked up to for a really long time.”
In fact, he recalls standing in line for hours so he could be at the front of the stage for their performances.
“So it’s definitely cool someone who was an influence to you and someone you looked up to to now be interested in your work,” he said.
Staff noted that Simonett also plays in the rock band Dead Man Winter, which feature a sound to which he can relate. “I think we kind of straddle both of those sounds,” he said.
Speaking of good working relationships, Staff is happy to be sharing the stage Friday with musicians he likes and respects.
“We’re really good buds with all of them,” he said. “That’s the thing. We really like Barbaro; they’re good friends of ours. (And) Pert Near Sandstone have just turned into big brothers.”
Another special feature of the new album is that it features liner notes from celebrated author Nickolas Butler, a Chippewa Valley resident whose latest novel, “Little Faith,” has received widespread critical praise.
“I’m really happy he wrote this thing for us,” Staff said. “It’s kind of crazy to see somebody that you respect so much and love their work say something about you.”