When Nesmith went solo and began to lean toward country-rock, Lenker continued to buy his albums, which included lists of important country albums. Through Nesmith's recommendations, Lenker bought Patsy Cline's and Loretta Lynn's greatest hits records and eventually got turned on to rockabilly queen Wanda Jackson and the Collins Kids, "these teenagers with the most incredible high voices singing tight, tight harmony." The rockabilly musical style and family harmonies are also a big part of the Bumpkins' music today.
Right now Lenker said, "We're able to play at the big clubs, and in fact we opened for Wanda Jackson last week, which was a big thrill for me."
Sounding happy with the band's progress, where does Lenker hope the band will be in a few years? "Ideally, touring Europe, selling records, touring here." But then she reconsidered. "I've never wanted to be like, 'The career runs my life,'" she said.
Lenker said the band hoped "a reputable record company will sign us and help us arrange tours" so that the band can progress "in a controlled fashion, touring, making records, making videos, making a living from it."
Unfortunately, Boston is not the best location for a country band, according to Lenker. "I don't think you could pick a worse place to play country," she said. "In places like Europe or down South, maybe the West or California, we might have better luck."
For now, though, the band seems to be stuck playing clubs in Massachusetts, although Lenker said with an optimistic sense of humor, "I'm trying to spread out all the way to Providence."
She realized, too, that the band can never make it on "new country" radio, nor does she wish for that type of success. "I hate modern country with a passion. It sucks," she whispered so that her kids can't hear her swear, but her emotion for the subject comes across loud and clear.
"Not one person in the band likes modern country," she said. "It's humorless. It's not even country...It all sounds the same...There's a slim chance that we might slime onto the Grand Ole Opry someday, but I doubt it."
If they don't want to be a modern country band, then what do the Bumpkins consider themselves? "I see us as alternative country, but that's not quite right either," Lenker said. "We usually play in alternative country clubs," like Junior Brown and the Austin Lounge Lizards, two similar acts she named. Other people have called their music "crazed, kinda rockabilly country, psychobilly, psychobilly country," Lenker said with a laugh. In her opinion, though, "It's very country. We love country music, but our own version of it."
"Why not stress the original? Why try to blend in?" Lenker said. "We're just gonna do the stuff we like."