The Indy is interviewing The Loners, guitarist frontman Eddie Taylor and drummer Chris Jones, at a local used book and record store where Jones makes a few beans and gets to indulge his passions for '60s punk and garage music. There's a lesser-known '60s band--all snarling guitars and bratty attitude--playing in the background; a single by legendary '90s raw Detroit garage heroes The Gories rests on the countertop. These guys don't just conjure up an explosive, primal sound, they capture the purity--the "I've got a fuzzbox and I'm going to use it" innocence--of the best of the '60s underground. Both musicians have an encyclopedic knowledge of the genre, rattling off labels like Minneapolis' '60s garage label SOMA as well as Dunwich, the legendary Chicago imprint that put out combos like The Shadows of Knight.
This is music to rev your eight-cylinder muscle-car engine to--music to live fast and die young to. And Taylor, a guy who's ridden out more music fads than the average Joe (speaking of which, Taylor was part of Raleigh's alt-country big guns Big Joe) has returned to rock's primal teen concerns. Like the classic teen angel/dead man's curve characters of early rock myth, more than one of Taylor's young rebels ends up "with a tombstone to call my own."
Jones, at 29, is a vet of the local music scene (so is his dad, who plays bass in various jazz groups around the Triangle). He did a year-and-a-half stint with Raleigh punk pioneers Picasso Trigger, as well as playing in The Cherry Valence, Vanilla Trainwreck and The Chickens, easily one of the most notorious acts to grace local stages.
"We drank as much as we could at practice, so when we played we could drink more," he says, slightly sheepishly. "We were entirely self-destructive and took the Flipper [seminal West Coast punks] creed a little too seriously, as far as what Flipper said: "We suffered for our music, now it's your turn."
Their crowning moment involved a surgical glove filled with feathers that was painted like a chicken. The "bird" was then placed onstage in front of a fan so that at a key moment in the show, Jones, who'd stuck nails to his shoe, could stomp the glove and send a rain of feathers everywhere. Add to that a faux suicide bid by the singer, who started hacking his chest with a knife, liberating scads of feathers he'd had taped to his chest under his shirt. More bags of feathers were produced, only to be sucked into the exhaust fan and the club's soundboard. Even though this happened years ago, the club owner still shoots Jones a look whenever they cross paths.
Kentucky native Taylor lived here and there, settling in Tucson for five years, home of the Giant Sand/Friends of Dean Martinez folks, before relocating with his wife to Raleigh. Cutting his teeth on a mix of West Coast punk and rockabilly (a match made in rock heaven--just look at X's Billy Zoom), Taylor's played everything from heavy metal (his heavy band was called Necropsy) to alt-country, although garage music remained his passion.
The two met at Kings, where Jones does sound, and found they shared musical tastes.
"He found out I played the drums. I hadn't played in three or four years," Jones recalls.
"He hated rock and roll as much as I did," says Taylor, laughing. "But loved it at the same time."
The two got together and worked up a set of obscure vintage garage nuggets just for kicks. Early Loners sets were almost entirely covers and instrumentals, but as the crowds grew, so did their original repertoire.
They didn't really expect The Loners to catch on. "People started to get into it," Taylor says. "We kept waiting to have that show where nobody shows up--and we figured that would be around the second or third one."
Instead, The Loners' unbridled performances started turning heads. One thing is the duo's full sound: Taylor uses two amps, one with a 15-inch speaker for low end and a clear sound and another set wide open for max distortion and rip. The Loners don't need no stinkin' bass to command the stage, and Taylor's vocals--all snarl and punk attitude--ride the sound. But Taylor can do justice to a classic pop song too--check out the track "Psycho Girl" and forever hold your peace.
The band's eponymous debut disc captures the band in all its live kinetic glory--probably because a major chunk of it (six songs) was put on tape live. Recorded on a borrowed Tascam 8-track, half of the vocal tracks were recorded live running the vocal mic through the house PA at Kings. Taylor's overdriven vocals have just the right amount of distortion, not to mention piss and vinegar. The Loners cranked through six songs in five hours, allowing themselves no more than two takes of each track. Greg Elkins, who also mastered the disc, recorded the rest of the tracks at The Cherry Valence's practice pad. "The whole thing was recorded and mixed in two five-hour sessions," Jones says.
The duo's ambitions for their tape were humble. "Originally the plan was to do these recordings ourselves and burn them on Chris' CD burner. If we had five at a show we'd sell those five," Taylor says. The Loners were picked up by Mouthful of Bees, a new local label started by Jennifer Thornburg. (Look for the label to release The Shames' debut album any day now.)
Lyrically, Taylor tackles the classic rock subjects and somehow pulls it off without seeming dated or retro. At 41, after being recently diagnosed with Hepatitis C (an uninsured musician, he's in a treatment program at UNC) Taylor's got plenty of "real" material to dig from. But rock, he believes, isn't about trying to bare your soul to the world.
"I like goofy songwriting," he admits. "We're not motivated for the wrong reasons. I'm really tired of serious rockers--I'm too old for that. There's a certain amount of the '60s stuff that is pure in the sense that, granted, some of it is politically incorrect, but not for its time. And there's an innocence about it, and I can hear it and I feel it and I really like it. A lot of people say, 'Ah, it's stupid,' but you're not getting it if that's what you think."