By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
Their friendship is still intact--Lane's new bluegrass band will open for the Drams during their upcoming stop in Tampa--though the band has finally opened its Slobberbone floodgates, working up a few songs "to fill up so many headlining gigs," according to Harper. But the Drams, as fond as they are of the past, are taking the new things--band name, members, logo on the kick drum, whatever--and converting them to their most confident period in years.
"The collective consciousness of the band out of the gate is already on a higher level than Slobberbone was because of having three songwriters," Best says. "Maybe that is what makes the songs sound so much different now. On that basic level there's a lot more thought and work going into it...It's cool to be in that situation, where you're overwhelmed from possibilities within the band."
For the newest members, the transition from leads in Budapest One to supporters in the Drams should have been difficult, especially for Killoren, a wild man who romps around stage as a lead singer. But the duo is finally contributing songs to the Drams' catalog, and Killoren insists he's the one who wanted to join the group in the first place. He thinks he had good reason. "When you can play with a songwriter like Brent, you just have to do it. I mean, 'Holy Moses,'" he says, referring to one of the better songs from Jubilee Dive--a slow-dance wonder of wavering organ notes, white-hot guitars and the poetic story of a dead lover. For Killoren, it's also an exclamation of disbelief that he's in the band.
There's plenty on Dive to make that much of a fuss about, from the bewildering stream-of-consciousness lyrics in "Truth Lies Low" ("Pick-up game pundits play perilous pursuits/Fax the new dream, wax the new sheen/Color-code the obvious, reduce the rest to green") to the piano-anchored, return-to-arms anthem of "Shortsighted." Most of the album comes from a Big Star point of view--the little guy tryin' to make it--and after the last band's burnout, that new, humble outlook makes plenty of sense.
"It's not like Slobberbone was Hüsker Dü," Best says. "We were never that huge of a band. It shows you how meticulous people get about stuff that doesn't really matter. Not that Hüsker Dü was ever that big of a deal, now that I think about it," he adds, laughing.
But plenty of people would kill to be ranked near Hüsker Dü, and years of hard touring under the Slobberbone banner have earned Best and company status as local rock gods. Even Stockslager admits, "I was always intimidated by these fellas," earning another of Best's huge laughs. And at Dan's, that's possibly why the man at the mike is shaking like a junkie; "He's probably nervous because Brent's here," Barr suggests.
Though Best rolls his eyes at the accusation a week later ("He's a friend of mine; he just never reads [poetry] out loud"), he has to know there's truth to it. As approachable and funny as he is, he'll always be an intimidating genius to the fellow writers and musicians who know his work...and an utter unknown to everyone else. Makes sense, then, to enjoy life back in a band, back on the road, back where Best says he belongs.
"You just want to play with people you like hanging out with," Best says. "I'd rather play with somebody I'd share a pup tent with than some Steve Vai asshole."