Since forming over 15 years ago, the Moonshine Bandits have toured across the nation far and wide, released hit music videos and even topped the charts. In June, they returned to their 209 roots to film their latest music video, taking over Stevinson Bar & Grill to give fans a taste of their hometown.
Comprised of Los Banos natives Dusty “Tex” Dahlgren and Brett “Bird” Brooks, the duo formed Moonshine Bandits in 2003, blending the crooning melodies of country music together with the booming beats of hip-hop. Their genre-bending style, known by many simply as “country rap,” has caught the ears of many not only in the 209, but also across the world, amassing over 80 million views on YouTube, charting Billboard simultaneously in both Rap and Country Music, and even earning recognition in publications like Rolling Stone Magazine.
While the lights have been bright over the years for Tex and Bird, they haven’t forgotten where they came from.
“We’ve always represented the Central Valley, we’ve represented blue collar, we’ve represented farmers and dairy boys,” Tex said. “Now that we have a platform and we can reach a lot of people, it’s cool to put the spotlight on the Central Valley and on these little dive bars…it feels good to come back here.”
The music video for the Moonshine Bandits’ new single, “Do It Again,” dropped Aug. 2, and features not only scenes shot in Livingston, but also shots depicting one wild night at Stevinson Bar & Grill — a place where Tex and Bird know the bartenders by name and that reminds the duo of their humble beginnings and dedicated fans.
“It’s just so humbling to see what these people in this area helped propel us to,” Bird said. “Just by them talking…it helped plant a seed to places all across the country.”
Those places include performances at high-profile events like the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, Daytona Beach Bike Week and, on Aug. 4, a show alongside Hank Williams, Jr. at the Ironstone Amphitheatre in Murphy’s.
Their target demographic hasn’t changed much over the years, Tex and Bird said, playing to a niche audience that includes “the little guys,” like Stevinson. Their country rap sound comes from listening to ‘90s hip hop growing up, with a dash of Waylon Jennings and Johnny Cash sprinkled in.
“We’re just a product of our environment,” Tex said. “It was just more about being true to ourselves.”
The moonshine Bandits didn’t have television or radio backing when they first started, instead selling their debut, four-track demo outside of Fantasia Records & Tapes in Los Banos at their career’s beginnings. Eventually they began playing small shows, like one 12 years ago in Manteca that came to mind for Tex.
“There were probably three people in there: my mom, my dad and one other person. We were just in there, starting off,” Tex said. “To go from that to this, it feels really good.”
Their new single “Do It Again,” echoes the sentiments of every hard-working 209 resident.
“The song is just about our lifestyle, and our fans’ lifestyle of going out there and having a good time — not worrying about your job or your nine to five,” Tex said. “It’s really just a good time song.”