Codi Binkley is on a roll
Whiskey Thief pedals between gigs
Codi Binkley has a rock ’n’ roll résumé and pedicab promises.
He’s a Whiskey Thief, a Rock Bottom Blues singer, a small-town boy with big-city ambitions, an inveterate entrepreneur with endless ideas who’s been poised this close to that breakthrough moment so long that it feels like he’s been holding his breath for a year.
But he’s 32 now and a dad, and that changes the equation a tad. Co-founding Sonoma’s best-known, home-grown band, working up the venue ladder as far as South by Southwest, playing gigs coast-to-coast, squeezing out 1.8 CDs, being on everyone’s list as the next big rock ’n’ roll thing, could start to mess with your head.
Judging from old history, Codi’s messed with his own head long enough and hard enough to find virtue in a gentler agenda.
Relaxing with a beer at Hopmonk, he appears open, relaxed and worry-free. Outside in the parking lot is the Pedillac electric pedicab he brought us here with, part of a small fleet he employs with a staff of 12 drivers to usher tourists around Wine Country. Everywhere he goes people wave. Everyone knows Codi Binkley and the Whiskey Thieves.
SONOMA: Fatherhood and rock ’n’ roll: How does that work?
Binkley: Well, I’m a single father. My ex and I were together seven-and-a-half years. We’re friends now, we’re best friends. We have a 13-month-old boy, Jaden. He goes back and forth every day.
You know, my parents were country musicians. I was born on a tour bus in Dallas/Fort Worth. I grew up in music.
Codi’s father is Rick Binkley of the band Bad River. He now lives in Texas. Listen to a cut of Rick Binkley singing “Silence on the line,” and if you strip away the country-and-western twang, you can hear Codi’s voice clear as day.
With music in his blood, Codi naturally gravitated toward performing, found himself in Broadway Bound Kids, where someone said, “Hey, you can really sing,” and the rest is music under the bridge.
SONOMA: How much time can you put into music now that you’re a dad?
Binkley: I’ve been doing music professionally for 11 years. I first started the Rock Bottom Blues band in Santa Cruz. The Whiskey Thieves are 6 years old, we do 10 to12 shows a month, usually Friday and Saturday and two Thursdays a month.
It’s really hard to break into music now. It’s all about that first big song.
Whiskey Thieves has pockets of fans all over. We’re very big in Iowa and South Dakota, I don’t know why. Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and Harrisburg, Iowa. They love us.
We travel in a rented 40-foot RV with a trailer. It has pop-out sides, carries everything, it’s really nice.
We’re still working on the next CD, the goal is to have it out by August. There’s two tracks on the Web site right now.
SONOMA: The pedicab business. Is this just a placeholder or a real business?
Binkley: It’s a business, a serious business. We have four cabs, two electric, two pedal-only, 12 drivers, we’re averaging about 30 tours a week, the tours are three hours or five hours, going to three or five wineries. The farthest out we go is Gun Bun. We do Buena Vista, Bart Park, Ravenswood, Sebastiani, we tour around town.
Binkley says the idea was born in a backyard conversation with his partner Dan Schmitt, who’s from Rhode Island where pedicabs are everywhere. “We said we should start that here. The next day we ordered one.”
SONOMA: Where did the bloody-hand logo come from?
Binkley: It’s red paint. We just got kind of belligerent and decided to paint (base player) Zakk’s house with our hands. We painted everything, carpets, walls, surfboards, it was an all-night party.
SONOMA: Where do you eat dinner, go to drink, who do you listen to?
Binkley: I love the Swiss (hotel), I love the people. It’s just where I go. I like to drink at Olde Sonoma Public House. Great place. My favorite singer? Keb’ Mo, yeah, Keb’ Mo’.
From the 2012 summer issue of SONOMA