Bearoté Uses Satire and Funk-Folk Melodies to Address Personal Loss On “Memphis TN

You have to be living under a rock to not have noticed that the greatest threat to the American public these past few years hasn’t come from ISIS, immigration policies, the hyperbolic ‘media’, or the increasingly polarized political climate. Rather, the most diabolical and deadliest threat originates from a deluge of cheap, and readily available heroin, that has percolated into every socioeconomical class, ruining lives and killing addicts indiscriminately.  All the while being criminally underreported by the media.

Despite the rising body count, the stigma around addiction has stifled conversations around seeking solutions, and instead focused on shifting blame from Big Pharma, to lawmakers, to the addicts themselves. While the crisis is being co-opted by opportunists for political gain; addicts are dying, families are suffering, and drug traffickers are cashing in.

Barrett O’Donnell and his newly formed band, Bearoté, wrote “Memphis TN” as a response to the epidemic and also a personal tragedy. The name Bearoté is derived from an old Native American story where mythical coyote-bear hybrids would always be born in litters of three. The strongest two bearotés of the litter would then cannibalize the third, not out of pure brutality, but as to gain the third’s guidance in the spirit world. Barrett and his brother Thaddeus, along with bandmates Cale Kiffin and Hans Bohlmann, wrote “Memphis TN” after losing the third O’Donnell brother, Daniel, to a heroin overdose in 2012. The bearoté legend says that while the third bearoté no longer inhabits the physical world, he becomes a spiritual guide to the remaining two, protecting them while also pushing them towards enlightenment. Whereas Daniel may not maintain a physical presence on Earth, Barrett and Thaddeus have never ‘lost’ their brother, since Daniel’s presence reigns over them guiding them toward a higher earthly purpose and spiritual significance.

The song opens with distorted newscast soundbytes of opiate epidemic reports playing over a wonky, folk-styled melody. The lackadaisial progression has an intoxicated feel, while Barrett’s woozy yet comical vocals detail the brothers move to the ill-fated and drug-infested Memphis.

“If you dont want to have to deal with them heavy-hitting thugs/ Just cruise on out to the suburbs, find a highschool kid for your drugs/ Heroin and cocaine and methamphetamine/ It really ain’t that all hard to find for a Shelby county school teen”

The song, despite its playful analogies, has a melancholic undercurrent that tugs heart strings and has a gravitating effect . The guitar sounds of Cale and Thad intertwine seamlessly, while Barrett’s vocals oscillate between completely aloof to a focused and angry conviction. “Memphis TN” is the first single from the band’s upcoming yet-to-be-named debut album that was recorded by Sam Whips Allison in Bandera, TX as well as Austin.

It’s out of bottomless pain that some of the world’s best art is born, and the opiate edpidemic has created a surplus of agony that the O’Donnell brothers know all too well. Bearoté has already aligned itself with  institutions that offer resources to battle addiction, including the Austin-based Infinite Recovery. Bearoté has begun playing more live shows around the Austin area and it’s evident that the spirit of the third brother is guiding this band in a positive direction.

“Memphis TN” is  available for free on


-Lee Ackerley

Similar Posts