Rockin' in the New Year
When Alex Kendall got his Heptanes' kickdrum back out he looked on the top of it and had to laugh -- Chuck Taylor footprints encased in dirt and beer.
That's just about right, and it could have been from any night back in the day.
Able to leap off kickdrums in a single bound, and making fans go buck wild on the dance floor from 1999 to 2001, The Heptanes have revved back up their Phantom Cadillac and are not only threatening but promising to rock out the V Club for a New Year's Eve bash.
Armed with "Revelator," the band's new 13-song CD, The Heptanes play NYE with two well known locally based and regionally traveling indie rock units, Bud Carroll and Ian Thornton's AC30, as well as rock trio Deadbeats and Barkers led by the furry and fabulous guitarist, James Barker.
The doors open at 8 p.m. Monday, Dec. 31. Show at 10 p.m. for ages 18 and up. Cover is $10.
Back together in 2012 after their original raucous run that ended in 2001, The Heptanes are Kevin Allison, lead guitar and vocals; Chris Tackett, bass guitar and backing vocals; and Kendall banging the drums standing up and singing backing vocals. The trio sat down with The Herald-Dispatch recently at Mac's to talk about the band's revival.
For those who don't know the band, The Heptanes had a fast and furious ride during their original incarnation.
Allison and Kendall, both members then of Fuzzbucket, started experimenting with rockabilly via their side group, The Surreal McCoys, and through a friend hooked up with monster metal bassist Chris Tackett, who had traveled the country with Chum.
Jacked up on equal shots of punk and rockabilly verve with a healthy dose of Boone County psychobilly pioneer Hasil Adkins' chicken-fried spirit, The Heptanes saw their first record, "Phantom Cadillac," get picked up by the California label HepCat Records, had a band (The Flying Saucers) from as far away as Australia cutting their blistering tunes, and were stomping out a circle of cities from Cleveland to Pittsburgh opening for the likes of Dick Dale, and many other legends.
Before the band burned out like a drag racer, the trio stomped it out fast and furious. In fact in one day, the band played X-Fest's Loud and Local stage then loaded up Allison's 1973 Cadillac and burned up the highway to Newport, Ky., where they played the famed Southgate House with the straight-laced Nashville rockabilly cats, BR549.
"We weren't as punk as The Cramps and not as metal as Rev. Horton Heat," Kendall said. "There were all different variations of rockabilly. One of the best pairings was Hank III because he comes out and does his set looking and sounding like his granddad and then comes out for the Assjack set with stringy hair and just heavier than anything you can imagine, and so we are sort of right in between."
Influenced by the early '80s rockabilly act, The Stray Cats, Kendall stands up thrashing the snare and cymbals and adding a metal bass player to grease up Allison's whiplash-speed songs of lovin', drinkin' and racin' only added fuel to an already blistering mix.
"What we were doing was pretty traditional rockabilly but when you have a heavy metal bass player that likes Frank Sinatra you know you're going to have something interesting come out and it just all worked," Kendall said.
Tackett, who now lives in Lexington and is in the progressive rock trio, Dream the Electric Sleep, said after a long run with Chum (which was signed to Century Media) a refreshing blast of rockabilly was just what he needed.
"The addition of me to the band was unlikely," Tackett said. "I had been playing with Chum for a good part of the 90s and when that sort of ended I wasn't doing anything at the time and I didn't know what I wanted but I knew I wanted to do something to cleanse my palette. I didn't want to do another band just like that."
There aren't not too many bands like The Heptanes that drove to gigs in Allison's Cadillac that was the inspiration for the title cut of the first album since the car used to mysteriously break down and then seemingly just fix itself.
With the trio still laughing about driving around and selling records out of the back of the Caddy (which could fit Tackett's beastly Ampeg 18 cabinet in the back seat), they said there were several false starts to get the band revved up again after it disbanded.
With Allison still writing such gems as "Amazon Roller Derby Queen," and on the heels of a couple benefit shows with various personnel, the original trio melded back together for a St. Patrick's Day show at the V Club after persistent prodding from V owner Patrick Guthrie, Sr., and found that people still love to go crazy on the dance floor to such songs as Baby Let's Drive!," "Sexy Crazy Baby (From Outer Space) and "Devilmeister."
"It helps that we have a band that does music that is timeless where if we had some kind of New Wave band there's only certain periods of time you could bring that out," Kendall said. "This stuff is rockabilly, but just kind of raw rock and it doesn't have a date on it."
All fired up after a raucous performance and reception at September's Huntington Music and Arts Festival trying out such tunes as a tribute to the late Hasil Adkins, the band knew it needed to record anew.
The group dialed up Bud Carroll and recently recorded "Revelator," which features new songs like the CD opener, "Amazon Roller Derby Queen," as well as reworked songs from an Allison demo and songs the band had written back in the day for a second CD that never happened.
They hope to have copies of "Revelator," new T-shirts and old 45s for sale at the NYE show.
"It really sounds like we picked back up in the exact same spot," Tackett said. "It could have been that next record in the year 2000. It was really kind of weird when I listened back to the basic tracks, it's like we picked right back up. Even the styles and the way we play -- it's like it is preserved."