November 12, 2011

The Nasty Souls

Hollywood, California. The spring of 2011. Show after show, venue after venue, night after night, I come out feeling completely ripped off. “Why do I always pay 10 bucks to see these assholes play? Can somebody shoot me in the fucking head please?”. Physical talent scouting sucks, I’ll just stick to myspace from now on before I ever pay to see a a god damn shit show.

It was about 6 PM on a dead Monday night. I go to the liqueur store next to my apartment to get some groceries. The marquee of the Whisky A Go Go from a distance displays: “Classic Rock Night: The Nasty Souls”. Interesting. I go back to my apartment and throw the groceries on the table. Clickity, clickity, clickity, clickity. There’s no music posted in any of The Nasty Souls’ social network sites. Fuck. Not this again. Now I have to physically go see the band to find out if they’re good or not. Whatever. There’s nothing else to do on a Monday night. And I sure as shit ain't gonna see Steel Panther again for the 72350124975th time. I put my leather jacket on and head to the Whisky.

This guy who looks like Jim Morrison with very long hair hits the stage. Everybody else in the band all look like they just came out of an early issue of Creem magazine. I like my rock n roll to have the swagger and vibe of Peter Fonda in Easy Rider. And I haven’t seen anyone come close to that vibe in eons. The bands these days are either too hipster or too fratty or too slobby or too dark or too saturated. None of which feel very “rock n roll” to me ... until I looked at The Nasty Souls ..

Ok, they have the look, but do they have the chops? Honestly, they were only decent. I enjoyed 2 numbers, the rest were mildly amusing but nothing too mind blowing. They were the kind of discovery that you’d call a “potential”, but they weren’t a debut-ready showstopping act yet. Being in the state of mind that I was in though, finding a band that isn’t absolutely terrible -like the rest of the shitshows I experienced- was a huge delight. So at the time, I thought that I just struck gold. Alright Trip, walk up to them and introduce yourself.

Anthony of The Dirty Eyes was close to the stage. I ask him: “Hey brother are you their manager? I’d really love to meet the band”. “Huh? Yeah yeah. Brett!” he calls out. Brett is no where to be seen. I see Jeff Turpin (bass), Dustin James (rhythm guitar) and Matty Dee (lead guitar) loading their gear outside. I walk up to them and introduce myself. Matty and I talk about music and I bring up that I just came from New York. “All my favorite bands are from New York”, Dustin interrupts, “The Dolls, The Velvet Underground. I love that shit. That’s my favorite scene”. Dustin had a very serious tone in his face. It felt like talking jams is the only thing that's important to him and nothing else deserves his attention. He's kinda like me. I instantly loved him.

Turpin was silent the whole time. Always with a subtle smile on his face. He had that warm hearted innocence about him. He likes to leave people alone and let them be. Their drummer, Luis, at the time was the new guy. I didn't notice him. He felt like their sessionist cause’ he wasn't dressed like the rest of the band. So I figured he was a hired gun. I turn to Matty and ask "Listen I'm a blog guy. I'd love to do a web show thing with you guys or whatever". Matty feels uncomfortable talking business. "Yeah talk to Brett about that" he evades me as he loads the rest of his gear. I turn around and find a cheerful face in front of me. "Hey what's up bud!". It's Brett. "I just joined the band 7 months ago! I love it!". Ok. So this line up is still in it's infancy. Interesting.

I make arrangements with him and he gets excited about everything I say like a spirit that never runs out of enthusiasm. Yes. This is the exact kind of energy I need to build a great scene here. Right there and then, I had a feeling that this is the beginning of a real rock n roll movement in LA.

Brett and I correspond over text. The guy puts at least 7 smiley faces in each text he sends me. No ego at all. The rest of the people I dealt with before were too standoffish thinking that they're hot shit, but not Brett. A class act, that guy.

I wanted to investigate if there's a demand for the kind of rock n roll they're doing. And if there isn't, I wanted them to be a story to inspire the rest of the Los Angeles scene. I want rock n roll to have more of that Peter Fonda vibe back so I wanted to campaign them and sell the shit out of them. So I go inside their rehearsal space with 4 camera men and I interview them. The silent Turpin finally speaks up. And to my surprise, I got my best soundbites out of that guy. Him and Dustin, they had an intense drive and passion for rock n roll. The resolve and fight in the answers of Turpin and Dustin were the best. The rest of the fellas said good stuff too, but it's funny to see how those who talk the least in real life have the best things to say when they're on the record. After we were all done, they take us to their rehearsal space and they perform a number for us in front of the cameras. The first thing that came to my mind was, why the fuck didn't I see this at the Whisky!? "We just wrote this", Brett mentions. "It's called You're Lovin' Ain't That Good". Maybe her lovin' wasn't but the song is pretty damn good!

I wake up the next day with a text from Turpin. "Hey how about those beers?" I read. I visit Nasty Souls manor. Jeff and Dustin are inside. Posters of The Rolling Stones, The Stooges and The Velvet Underground are all over the place. We go to a night out in the town and come back to the manor a little buzzed. Turpin gets more talkative than he ever was. Talking about how unfair the industry is and what we should do about it. "We needs cats like you, Trip. Someone like Andy Warhol who pushed the Velvet Underground". Holy shit Jeff, nobody ever said that to me. I'm no Andy Warhol but thanks, that means a lot to me! Matty and Brett pop up at the manor. Me and Matty exchange songs that we turn each other on to and Brett just dances to all of it with his girl. Matty is so deep into everything about black music. Whether it's blues, soul, motown, funk or disco. He could listen to any hip hop song and tell you exactly which song they sampled it from. John Sinclair told us that we learn how to be hip from black music and Matty really understood that. He likes his music dirty too. Two of his favorites are Rick James and Prince. No wonder they call themselves the "Nasty" Souls.

The combination of minds in that band really made me predict a great collaboration. Especially after that day in their rehearsal room when they wrote "Lovin' Ain't That Good". I saw promise. I kept visiting them and I had long conversations with Brett and Matty about songwriting. Matty is a writing machine. Every time I see him, he goes: "Yo Trip I just wrote something!". Then he either describes it to me or plays it for me. I always give him my brutal honest opinion about his ideas. His buzz gets completely murdered then he gives me a look that says: "I'm gonna get you someday, I'm gonna write something really good and you're gonna love it". I almost felt like a producer when I was hanging out with them. Of course I really SUCKED at attempting to be a "producer". I realized that all my input was forcing them to be Deep Purple or Grand Funk or some shit. I wanted them to be a copy of MY favorite bands. I never really gave them any input to be their own beast. Lesson learned, understand the band before you open your mouth. If I ever become a producer someday I'll never forget that lesson.

Dustin and I drive back from a gig they did in Santa Monica. Here I am thinking I can teach them shit or "guide" them or whatever then Dustin opens my eyes to the biggest epiphany I ever had in my life. He taught me that the most important roots music of all isn't just blues. It's Chuck Berry. "Chuck Berry is the most punk rock guy on the planet. He just tours around with his shitty car. He parks that shitty car and gets his shitty guitar out of his shitty trunk, he walks up on stage and finds 4 musicians and goes 'Hey you're all in my band now. We play in a couple of hours'. That's the most punk rock thing in the fucking planet!". He lays it down on me with that super serious face again. He says it all with a heavy passion. I've heard a lot of people telling me how important Chuck Berry if you’re doing a rock n roll sound but I was never sold on it until Dustin talked about it. Bon Scott era AC/DC is Dustin's favorite band. He made me connect the dots when he told me how AC/DC got their sound from Chuck. I always see Luis walking around with either a Chuck Berry shirt or an Mc5 shirt. No wonder they chose him as their drummer.

As I dropped him off to his place he lays down something even heavier before he leaves: "Trip, if it weren't for you we'd probably slip and be what the industry wants us to be. We need you to keep us on our toes". I literally didn't know what to say. "Thanks Trip, if you ever see us do it again, set us straight". Shit man, I never felt this important to anyone in my life.

It's been weeks since I saw any of their live shows. I've been so busy with my film projects that I was out of touch with everyone. Brett's been giving me some cool news about a producer from San Francisco that wants to help them develop their sound. Anytime I had a break from work to hit an ihop with him he texts back: "Can't bud we're in pre-pro brotha!". Smiley faces sprinkled all over the screen of the phone as usual. I finally cut together the 1st episode of my web series. Featuring non other than the Nasty Souls with footage of the interviews I did and live performances included. After I screen it to them, Dustin looks at it and says: "We can't release this. It'll misrepresent us. Our new songs are much better". What new songs? What are they talking about?

I go to a gig ... they're a COMPLETELY DIFFERENT BAND. A go to another one, they play a bunch of songs that "they just wrote". I go to another one, they play more songs that "they just wrote". Not only that, all their old songs are rearranged and injected with superhooks. No lag or filler in any of it's parts. What the fuck did I miss while I was gone?! I was only away for a couple of weeks! Shit!! They're being booked in everyone's birthday bash and they're everywhere. They're almost playing 2 gigs a week. One of which was a house party in Compton. They never turn a down a request. And EVERYONE is booking them. They're relentless!

My absolute favorite is what they did with Lovin' Ain't That Good. It's a thousand times better now. It feels like an opening title sequence of a blaxploitation movie. Isaac Hayes did Shaft and Curtis Mayfield did Superfly. If anyone in Hollywood wants to do a blaxploitation movie, call The Nasty Souls now! Granted, they're all white + 1 hispanic. I guess a better term for that sound could be called "whiteploitation".

All kidding aside, if I were to give their sound a description I'd call it "High Voltage Blue Eyed Soul". All their songs are starting to have a consistent signature. As opposed to different sounding genres spread out in different numbers like they had when they started out. I look at their old YouTube clips online and I can't recognize them at all. Brett's frontmanship is that of cheerfuless. His spirit is contagious when he sings. Even serious ol' Dustin gets all cheered up when Brett does his magic on stage. He lifts the whole crowd's energies up. Shit, he lifts my energy up with that cheerfulness just by his text messages. Luis just always steals my eye. I saw Brian Tischy when he was still a nobody with George Lynch. When I saw the way he played I said, "That guy is gonna be a fucking legend!". And I was right. He's crazy hyped in the press now. I have the exact same feeling when I see Luis play on stage. He steals everyone's eyes when he performs. The band improved that much. I was really curious to meet this producer they're working with.

My phone rings, it's Matty: "Yo Trip, Bill saw the rough cut of your show. He wants to come to your place and talk". "Uhh .. yeah man he's more than welcome ..". Bill Cutler, their producer, comes inside my place with his small afro and jean jacket. Matty and their sound engineer, Mark, roll inside with him. We talk shop then we find out about each other's histories. Turns out Bill was a contemporary of everyone in the Haight Ashbury scene in the 60's. The way he talked .. holy shit dude.. I was observing him with my documentarian brain, and the guy could pack a million enlightening insights in two soundbites! I HAVE to get this guy to do commentary for my show. Maybe he could even write an entry for this blog. He's really intelligent and literate. I wanted to steal him for the cause. No wonder their songs kick so much ass.

Every party I meet Matty in, he still says the same thing: "Yo Trip, I just wrote a new song". I answer: "When are the souls playing it?". "Nah this isn't for the Souls. I just wrote it, I don't know what to do with it". Holy shit Matty, you have that much surplus? Every time I go to the Rainbow everyone is complaining about their band mates. "You see how The Nasty Souls are now? They're playing is tight. I wish my band can play as tight as they can". I never thought they'd evolve that fast. They're the fastest growing band I know. Out of all the talent roster I'm trying to push and campaign, they are my crown jewel and proudest discovery as of yet.

So here's my answer to you Turpin. I'm no Andy Warhol that's a trump card for you, you and the rest of the Souls are the trump card for me. And I'm counting on you guys to take this wave to the stars.

The Nasty Souls are gonna stop playing for the holidays so these are their last shows of the year. And being that this show is at The Roxy, it's their biggest last show of the year. This performance is gonna be taped for the web series so show up looking all pretty and sexy.

They're playing TONIGHT 11-11-11 at 11:30 PM with Hammered Satin (10:30) and Them Howling Bones (12:30).

8$ cover.

ROXY THEATER 9015 Sunset Boulevard West Hollywood. Don’t miss it. This show goes up to 11 11 11!!

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