By Jeremy Hallock
By James Khubiar
By Observer Staff
By Kelly Dearmore
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They never did, though not for a lack of trying. For one reason or another or a dozen, Girl wasn't able to make it to the point where potential becomes reality, where wishes and hopes turn into record contracts and backstage deli trays. Girl didn't even have hometown support to rely on during the lean times. ("We've never been a big draw in this town," Purdy says. "We always did a lot better away than here.") The group split up in 1997, unfulfilled and disillusioned--with each other, the business, the music that brought them all together. At the time, it felt like the end, and it was. But only of the first chapter.
"When Girl broke up, I quit playing music all together," Purdy says. "Just sold everything, and I wasn't gonna do it anymore. It wasn't fun anymore. It wasn't a good experience. That's why we all, collectively, just kind of let it go. Then time passed, and I think that we got back into music for the right reasons. We made a conscious decision to separate ourselves from some of the bullshit that we went through with Girl. So Jared and I started playing together again. Eventually, my cousin--who was also in Girl--came back, and we picked up Keith."
Purdy's cousin Herman Suede--Purdy calls him by his middle name, Robby--had signed on with Girl on bass at some point, which was only natural, since he and Purdy had been playing together and with other musicians in their family for years. They grew up together in Arlington, even attending the same Catholic school--the same Catholic school, incidentally, whose chapel served as the recording studio for Ruffled Feathers' forthcoming debut--and though they couldn't look less alike, you can tell they're more than friends or bandmates, bouncing off each other with the ease of two people who've seen each other at their best and their worst, and all points in between. So when Young and Purdy decided to give it another go, it made sense that Suede would re-up as well.
As for Stephens, the newest Ruffled Feather, when he began playing with the group in October of this year, it finally ended the parade of drummers that can now list Ruffled Feathers on their résumés. Purdy--who played drums professionally for seven years, including his stint with Slowpoke--manned the kit himself during the recording sessions for the band's debut. More qualified than anyone else--in Ruffled Feathers, at least--to objectively judge the band's material, Stephens says, "I think it's more honest than a lot of stuff I've seen around."
More valuable to the potential success of Ruffled Feathers than the honesty of the music is the honesty of the musicians making it. After almost a decade of playing shows to a few dozen people (maybe) and sticking around until 2 or 3 in the morning to get paid (probably), they're through kidding themselves. Yet at the same time, since the members of the band are, as Purdy says, "both has-beens and newcomers," they're in a unique position for a start-up band. They're able to avoid some of the pitfalls and pratfalls this time around, if only because they fell victim to many of them the first trip around the block. The time between the end of Girl and the beginning of Ruffled Feathers gave them a chance to reconnect musically and personally. "The break between now and when Girl broke up gave us some time to work out whatever was going on," Young says.
Purdy agrees. "Music has always been there for me--a passion and a friend," he begins. "The way Girl went, we were just real naïve to the way things go, I guess. We did it for four years, which is a long time for a band that doesn't draw shit. It just got out of hand and stupid. The nice thing about this is just being able to get back to that original mindset of doing it because you like to do it, not because you've just been doing it."
With that in mind, once they were all back in a band together, Purdy, Young, and Suede (and whomever happened to be playing drums that week) didn't waste any time. Once they'd worked up enough material, the band booked studio time with Matt Pence at The Echo Lab in Argyle. Before long, they had a tape of songs--including "It's Up to You," "Can't Put My Finger On It," and "Nite Cap," tunes that didn't stray too far from Girl, but didn't make an exact copy either--they were sending out to a handful of record labels. The tape sparked the immediate interest of two people: Copper Records' Darrell Cooper and Peter Jesperson, the man who put out the Replacements' great early records on his own Twin/Tone label, and who now works for New West Records, home to Slobberbone and former Wall of Voodoo singer Stan Ridgway, among others.
"He liked it quite a bit," Young says, referring to Jesperson. But Jesperson and New West were hindered by their business plan; Jesperson, it turned out, was interested more in putting out Ruffled Feathers' second album, rather than its debut,