Ever since Hammerlock's formation in the mid-‘90s, reviewers have been finding interesting ways to describe the power trio's Southern-friend sound. Hammerlock has been called everything from a punk version of Lynyrd Skynyrd to a redneck metal band, and the outfit definitely has a distinctive, fresh-sounding way of fusing alternative metal, Southern rock, and punk. Bringing a wide variety of influences to the table, Hammerlock could be described as a raucous, forceful, in-your-face blend of Motörhead, Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Outlaws, and Black Flag -- an unlikely combination, but one that works amazingly well, and one that has earned the threesome a small yet extremely loyal and enthusiastic cult following. Hammerlock hasn't been headlining large sports arenas, but if the group plays a small club, the hardcore fans who show up tend to be incredibly passionate about being there.
Hammerlock was formed in San Francisco in 1995, when the husband-and-wife team of Travis (guitar, vocals) and Liza Kenney (bass, vocals) got the ball rolling. The Kenneys needed a drummer, and the person they ended up hiring was Marco Beltran. From the beginning, Hammerlock went for a redneck image -- the Kenneys thrived on redneck stereotypes, and Travis Kenney loved the stereotype of the hell-raisin', shotgun-totin', whiskey-drinkin' outlaw. San Francisco, of course, isn't exactly known for its surplus of good ol' boys, which may explain why the Kenneys have done well in that city -- Hammerlock is so atypical of Bay Area bands and Northern Californians seemed to love the fact that they dared to be different. But after Hammerlock started to tour and record, they became more than just a local Bay Area attraction; Hammerlock struck a chord with good ol' boys all over the United States. And the fact that Hammerlock's members lived in the Bay Area didn't seem to hurt their good ol' boy (and in Liza's case, good ol' gal) credentials; fans could tell that, like comedian Jeff Foxworthy, they were laughing with rednecks rather than laughing at them. It's all a matter of context; white rapper Eminem can embrace stereotypical images of inner-city hip-hop culture and still command respect in the rap world because it is obvious that he is expressing solidarity and respect -- instead of laughing at Ice-T, Snoop Doggy Dogg, Too Short or Dr. Dre, he is identifying with them. And similarly, Hammerlock's country-fried metal/punk/Southern rock boogie isn't ridiculing rednecks, it is celebrating them and putting them up on a pedestal.
It was in the late ‘90s that Hammerlock started recording. In 1997, the trio signed with Man's Ruin Records (a small independent label based in San Francisco) and recorded the single "Knock Her Out"/"Battlefield." Hammerlock's debut album, American A**hole, was released by Man's Ruin in 1998. That release was followed by Hammerlock's second album, Anthems for Outlaws, in 2000. After that, Hammerlock left Man's Ruin and signed with the Philadelphia-based Steel Cage Records, which released Hammerlock's third album, Barefoot and Pregnant, in 2001. ~ Alex Henderson