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Rollin' and Tumblin' - Bremerton's Mike Herrera brings it all back home

Mike Herrera is pictured in the stairway of his Bremerton recording studio earlier this month where his band Tumbledown records. The country punk band will head to Japan and Mexico in the new year, but always enjoy playing at home in Bremerton. - Kristin Okinaka/staff photo
Mike Herrera is pictured in the stairway of his Bremerton recording studio earlier this month where his band Tumbledown records. The country punk band will head to Japan and Mexico in the new year, but always enjoy playing at home in Bremerton.
— image credit: Kristin Okinaka/staff photo

Driving back from Montana at the end of November, the band hit the season’s first snow storm.

Other drivers slipped by the tour van carrying Tumbledown. They kept a tire on the rumble strips of State Highway 3 in Gorst to avoid sliding on snow and ice, but once at Montgomery Avenue in Bremerton, they couldn’t avoid putting chains on the tires any longer.

“A normal 15-hour drive turned into 24 hours,” said Mike Herrera, front man of Tumbledown. “And Montgomery in Bremerton was the worst.”

The process was a series of jumping in and out of the vehicle multiple times in order to re-warm their hands to put the chains on. It was another homecoming for the latest incarnation of one of Bremerton’s most famous sons.

Singer-songwriter Herrera, 34, is perhaps best known for heading punk band MxPx, which he started while he was a student at Central Kitsap High School. He’s now been in the music business for 18 years and released a second album with Tumbledown titled “Empty Bottle” in October. Tumbledown formed in the fall of 2007 and have completed eight tours, taking them to cities including Denver, San Antonio, Portland and of course, back home to Bremerton.

Although Herrera sports the tattoos and other hallmarks of punk rock, a style of music often associated with Bremerton, his transition to country is in tune with his West Sound roots, he said.

As a kid, Herrera of Bremerton would pretend to perform in front of a huge crowd of people and sing to Huey Lewis in his bedroom. Other kids may have dreamed of becoming a professional athlete. He knew he chose the right gig.

“I probably picked the right one by not becoming a basketball player. I was never good enough at sports,” Herrera joked. “If it wasn’t for entertaining, I don’t know what I’d do.”

“Growing up here in some ways was like growing up anywhere,” Herrera said earlier this month at his Bremerton recording studio, Money Trench. “Back then, there weren’t skate parks. At my house, we barely had pavement. You played where you could.”

And it was the same for his music. He made his own scene. With MxPx, Herrera said the band promoted themselves as much as possible by starting out playing in churches and community centers.

Herrera has grown a lot since then — “I don’t like doing shots because I’m old. I like to sip whiskey and vodka.” — and, so has Tumbledown. He attests the different sound from MxPx to writing all their songs on an acoustic guitar and wanting to try something different — it just turned into country.

But by no means is it traditional country.

“It’s punk-infused country,” Herrera said. “It’s edgy, outlaw country, about drinking and failed relationships — everything I go through.”

Along with Herrera on lead vocals and rhythm guitar, Tumbledown includes bassist Marshall Trotland, 29, drummer Harley Trotland, 25, and lead guitarist Jack Parker, 33. The musicians were part of Bremerton’s Rocky Point All Stars, joining Herrera after hanging out together in Bremerton bars.

From there, everything fell into place. The lead singer of Rocky Point All Stars moved away “so that gave us the green light,” said Herrera. “Everything happened in a good way.”

The band’s name came from a biography of American folk icon Woody Guthrie. A line in the book that refers to a “tumbledown kind of town” stuck with him.

The band has gone through a lot of growing pains, Herrera said, adding that they started out as an acoustic band and had a fiddle in their first performance. The first few tours he admitted they had drank too much before taking the stage, but now said they take it “more serious” while still having fun.

On the road, the band frequently listens to Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers or an audio version of the movie, “The Big Lebowski,” which they all know by heart.

Tumbledown doesn’t have any roadies or staff on hand to sell merchandise at concerts. They do everything themselves.

“He’s the hardest working guy I’ve met,” said Parker, adding that not only is Herrera the front man of the band, he’s also the tour manager and is responsible for scheduling. “He always gives a hundred and ten thousand percent.”

And as the common saying goes: give and you shall receive. At the end of November, the band played a packed show at the Manette Saloon in East Bremerton.

“Everyone seemed to know each other,” said Tiffany Thomas, bartender at the saloon. “It had an old-time feel, like a reunion. Everyone was excited to see each other.” She added that they had to turn people away at the door because they were full to capacity.

Herrera and Parker are set to jet off to Tokyo in the new year to promote the latest album. At the end of January, the entire band will pack up the van and head south of the border to play several shows in Mexico.

“It’s good to get away, but it’s good to play in our hometown and see our friends and family,” Herrera said. “It’s great to come back and have a party.”

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