By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
The pair journeyed to the United States from Germany in 1989; on their way to Los Angeles to form a band, they stopped in Dallas for longer than expected. They tried to convince neighbor Eric to write and perform with them for a while before he agreed to an informal jam. "He hated the band he was in before," says Rachael. "So he was never going to be in a band again."
"It just kinda happened," says Cristina, but Rachael objects: "That's why I moved to the States," she maintains. "That's why we came back. To get a band together."
"It was just a bunch of drunk talk," says Eric.
"Well, that was my ultimate goal," Rachael insists. "I don't know what your ultimate goal was!"
An acquaintance of Eric's, Harden joined Pervis in 1991 after guitarist Mike Scaccia left Rigor Mortis for Ministry. "We just got together to jam, pass the time, and keep up on our licks," Harden says of Pervis.
"He was just available," says Eric. "I was living next door, and it just fucking happened."
Rachael finally surrenders, exasperated: "All right," she says. "So it just happened, then. It was magic!"
"They haven't officially told me I'm in the band." says latecomer Les, who heard about Pervis from a friend in 1992. "Back then, we were the speed-of-light thing, and I had never done anything like that before, ya know? It was just fun. The next thing I know, wham bam, it's four years later."
"Next thing you know," Eric interjects, "they were combing each other's hair."
"My idea of a bass player is the anchor guy, ya know?" says Husker DY and Minutemen fan Les. "My dad had an acoustic guitar, and I tried to mess around with that. I was like, 'Man, six strings. Fuck this!' Then I saw a bass. 'Four strings--it's gotta be easier!'"
"Air guitar was my first instrument in the fourth or fifth grade," says Eric. "My mother and father were hippy-dippy...stereo always blaring. I picked up on the music jumping off the sofa with a tennis racket." After getting an acoustic guitar in 1981, Eric took the one month of weekly lessons his family could afford. "I just wanted to play whatever was on the radio. After that, it was mostly going to arena shows--all the Texxas Jams--and watching every little thing through binoculars."
"My Mom, uh, made me play drums when I was young," Harden says in his slow, garbled drawl. "I'd come home from school, and I'd have to practice for a half-hour before I could go out and play. It was like torture for me. Then I started getting into rock--Rush, KISS, and punk."
"Why'd she want you to be a drummer?" Cristina asks.
"I don't know," Harden half-whispers. "You'd have to ask her. It started out her making me, then it slowly turned into she can't get me to stop."
While uniformly metallic, the 10 songs on NeckOrNothing are otherwise diverse and showcase Pervis' melodic development and the singers' vocal strength. The songs run the gamut from hard funk ("Another Ted?" whose narrator notes "Now I have to worry/Serial psycho in my yard") to speed metal ("No Cop-No Stop") and slow bluesy rock ("I'm Choking on the Monster"). "Owed to an 18-wheeler" is alternately droneful and riffy while the artful "In Stitches" is a near-ballad in 12/8 ("What is the reason for my creation/the purpose of my being here?"). "Dying Superstition" is grungy cow punk; "Grapes of Wrath" is dirgy gloom-and-doom.
While Rachael writes most of the lyrics, she and Cristina compose melodies and arrangements in collaboration, often to jams the band previously recorded. "I guess I've written [the lyrics to] one song," Cristina says of "Vitamin C" ("So pretty and white/all lined up so tight/Does anyone here have a brain?/Gather around/There's snow on the ground/I'll never see the sun shine"). "I hate it. It's like homework to me."
The new material is "calmer and more singing," says Cristina. "It's slowing down."
"That's just us developing," explains Eric.
"Us feeling more confident about our vocals," says Rachael. "And them venturing out more; Harden playing slower."
"When I'm playing, it doesn't seem that fast," says Harden. "One show in New York, I listened back to it, and I was hauling ass! I need to calm it down a little, and it will sound better."
"It's just like a hot sauce that's so fucking hot, you have no taste buds left--there's no flavor," says Eric. "We're trying to find a happy medium salsa; something that's flavorful, but still hot."
NeckOrNothing is the first full-length CD on Idol, an independent Dallas label run by Sony marketer Erv Karwelis, who says he has "a casual one-record agreement" with so-far staunchly autonomous Pervis, but already foresees at least another single. "He's keeping it as simple as possible, which we like," says Rachael. The CD will be distributed throughout the United States, Europe, and Japan, shopped for licensing deals, and serviced to radio. Pervis recently traveled to Los Angeles to perform for the German label Absorbing, which is awaiting a copy of the CD in hopes of distributing it in Europe and arranging a tour there.