By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
The Drams weren't in mind at all when Denton-based songwriter Brent Best—a melody-minded veteran rock dude who knows his way around a hook and a heartfelt lyric—first started working on the songs that ended up on the band's debut, Jubilee Dive.
"When Slobberbone shut down, I wasn't ready to do a band thing again," admits the singer/guitarist. "I'd been doing the solo thing here and in Europe for about a year. I'd been recording at home with the intent of doing a solo album at some point, with a clear idea of how it should sound."
Slobberbone evolved from a straightforward-but-stumbling country-punk band in the mid-'90s into a critically acclaimed underground roots-rock act. They released a low-budget debut titled Crow Pot Pie in 1995, followed by Barrel Chested in 1997. By that time, the band was touring across the Midwest and East Coast with a solidified line-up featuring Best on lead vocals and guitar, Brian Lane on bass, Tony Harper on drums, and Jess Barr on guitar and a variety of stringed instruments. The quartet made a racket that had as much in common with '60s garage-rock and post-Brit Invasion pop as it did with the ultra-twang reverberating around the so-called "alt-country" scenes. Their 2000 album, Slippage, followed the excellent Everything You Thought Was Right Was Wrong Today.
The Drams' lineup currently features two of Best's Slobberbone mates—Barr and Harper—along with singer/keyboardist Chad Stockslager and singer/bassist Keith Killoren, both of whom add to the group's expanded instrumental range and vocal harmonies.
"Our first show came together almost accidentally," says Best. "At a South by Southwest [in Austin] a few years ago, they had me scheduled in between several rock bands, and I didn't want to just show up with me and an acoustic guitar, so I called Jeff and Tony up—and Keith and Chad from Dallas band Budapest One—and put the band together on the fly. Our first show ever was at South by Southwest, which was kinda weird. New West was really into the demos, so we kept it together and pressed ahead."
Produced by engineer Matt Pence (Centro-Matic, South San Gabriel), the 14 songs on Jubilee Dive bounce off Best's from-the-gut sentiments, life lessons, personal observations and colorful stories. The organ and piano parts add a earthy dose of late-era Beatles, The Band, Badfinger and Big Star to the guitar-based foundation.
"The point with Slobberbone was that we kept things fairly simple and straightforward," he says. "Chad is a really good arranger and has this pure rock/pop pedigree for someone his age, so that adds a lot more to it. It's a cool thing to have in the arsenal, you know? In the studio, it was the first time in my life where I had to get brutal with the editing and producing and cutting things. When we were younger, we weren't very good players, so we basically got what we got [laughs]. There was never as much decision-making going on. This newer attitude made for a really fun time recording. If something was kind of over the top but made us smile, we kept it."