By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
George Reagan and Tony Barsotti's Lower Greenville house is a true rock and roll home: slightly decrepit band stickers (Hagfish and Tripping Daisy) stuck to the front door, posters (for Mercury Rev and the Beastie Boys and the like) tacked to walls, a back room filled with Barsotti's drum kit and guitars and mikes. Every spare nook and cranny is filled with something collected or borrowed, whether it is a month-early advance vinyl copy of the new Tripping Daisy album or a see-through gold lame shirt given to Reagan by a member of the band Motocaster.
In the bathroom shelves, where most people keep towels and sheets, Reagan--Hagfish's charming and suave frontman, author of such lyrics as "eat my box while I work"--has stashed a couple dozen skin mags with titles like Ass Fuck Fantasy. And in the kitchen, a parrot noisily squawks from atop its tree-limb perch, which it often leaves in order to take a dump on the couch that sits next to the sink.
"Just don't yell or make any sudden moves," Reagan cautions half-seriously.
It is a clubhouse, a grown-up's version of a treehouse, where boys hold secret meetings and girls fear to tread. The members of Hagfish often congregate here--bassist Doni Blair is married and lives close by with his wife Shelly, and Doni's brother Zach (the band's guitarist) also lives near--to listen to records they've just bought, to write songs, to hang out, sometimes even to sleep.
A month before these four men are to make the leap from local darlings to national question marks, they gather here to discuss their hectic past and tenuous future--to consider what has been and what might be. It was not long ago that Zachariah and Donivan Blair were outcast kids growing up in Sherman, looking less like clean-cut and cheery would-be punks and more like country-boy rockers. (Zach keeps in his wallet one unsavory and nearly unrecognizable ID photo in which he sports shoulder-length curly locks).
Hooked on bands like the Ramones and the Descendants--which marked them as outcasts in the small town--the brothers began Hagfish several years ago almost as an escape. They would drive down to Dallas with their drummer , play their short, sharp songs, then drive home.
Reagan began his musical career a decade ago, when he was 16, attending Lewisville High School, and playing in a band called Aspirin Damage with Nick Brisco (who would later front Fever in the Funkhouse and now has Pluto) and Bryan Wakeland (now Tripping Daisy's drummer). "At that time," Reagan says, "Nick was a good as Bruce Springsteen, and he basically taught me the necessities and inspired me to make a song out of my brain and play it on a guitar. That was school for me, being with Nick and Bryan."
Reagan hooked up with the Blair brothers after Hagfish had gone through several lineup changes and still had no singer--a problem since the band was scheduled to open for All, members of which had once been in the heroic Descendants. Reagan stumbled across the band at their rented rehearsal space, complimented the then-drummer's All tattoo on his leg, and offered his talents as a singer and songwriter.
"He opened us up to a lot of shit," Doni says of Reagan. "We were really close-minded before, and the band took off after that." From there, the band went through one more drummer, Scott Carter, who was fired in late 1993 during the recording of the band's debut on Dragon Street, Buick Men. Barsotti, who had been in the glam-rock band Cool Christine, had become close friends with Zach and was brought in.
"George was skeptical at first about firing Scott," Zach says. "He said, 'All right, fuck it, you guys handle it.'"
"It was the way they wanted to throw him out of the band," Reagan explains.
"No, it was because we wanted to throw him out of the band," Zach says.
"Yeah, but it was without very much politeness: 'Get the fuck out,'" Reagan says, smiling.
Interviewing Hagfish is like stepping into a conversation that began long time ago. They have the sort of arguments that occur only between friends--they disagree but there is never dissension, they raise their voices but never shout at each other. The band agrees, for instance, on limiting the live show to less than an hour, but Zach and Tony disagree on the merits of an encore: Tony believes you should leave the crowd begging for more, Zach believes in giving them what they want.
Right now, the discussion involves what will likely become the national media's tendency to lump Hagfish in with bands like Green Day and the Offspring (assuming, of course, the national media concerns itself with Hagfish at all). It is a justifiable fear: when Green Day's Dookie became a surprise hit of 1994 for Warner Bros. Records, followed by the Offspring's success on a minor indie (Epitaph), locals complained how Hagfish had missed the boat; Buick Men, grumbled some, was at least as good as both the Green Day and Offspring albums--just as punk, just as pop, just as much fun.
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