It’s been 11 years since Mike West and Katie Euliss issued their first album as Truckstop Honeymoon; each successive recording has offered a glimpse into the couple’s life and musical evolution. West says that the latest Truckstop release, The Madness of Happiness, is one more example of the diverse musical influences the trio—which is rounded out by drummer Colin Mahoney—has. The songs are at times more aggressive and yet never far away from traditional roots music.
“I think there’s some really provocative, basically folk songs, in there. Kind of sad and exposed,” West said. “It goes between these quirky little punk/country things and to some really folk tunes.”
West adds that he and Euliss never discuss a record’s direction or lyrics themes. Those, he says, seem to come naturally. In the case of the group’s new record, the couple didn’t have to look farther than their home life.
“The Madness of Happiness is kind of self-evident in a way," he said. "It’s about the strange, contradictory thing of having a long-term love affair with someone and the craziness that goes with it. But underlying it all is just crazy, hopeless devotion to each other.”
West has had a connection with Wichita since long before he and Euliss formed Truckstop Honeymoon. The city was a regular stop on his tours as a solo artist and when the couple became refugees after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Wichita nearly became their home base. Some of this was owed to their friendship with late Split Lip Rayfield guitarist Kirk Rundstrom. Although West and Euliss settled in Lawrence, the former Louisiana resident says that this city is one that holds many close ties for him and for his family.
“There’s people in Wichita which we do actually think of as family because there’s people in Wichita who, in the hardest times of our lives, just stepped forward and really took care of us," he said. "And Wichita has a very strong element of people we just trust and when everything goes wrong are the people I would go to for help.”
The couple’s struggles after Katrina were documented in the film Won’t Let The Angels Take You Away and via albums such as Great Big Family and Steamboat in a Cornfield. West says that nearly a decade on he and Euliss are more than happy with their adopted home.
“We go back and tour in Louisiana. We go back about twice a year," he said. "In a sense that’s really helped in getting over the grief associated with that sudden move and that sudden loss. And just recognizing how much we value and how much we’ve grown attached to what we kind of accidentally landed into in Kansas.”
Truckstop Honeymoon performs Thursday evening at the Wichita Art Museum. The new album The Madness of Happiness is out now.