First Impressions: Drag Sounds
Connect the band-dots in any given city’s scene and you’ll come up with some interesting links — in the case of Greensboro’s Drag Sounds, the link leads you to some intriguing tracks that suggest there’s a bright future ahead for its blend of Velvet Underground/Crazy Horse-inspired jams.
The quartet of Mike Wallace (guitar), Ian Lockey (guitar), Trevor Reece (bass) and Mark Wingfield (drums) have done time in regional acts like Health, Boa Narrow, Ghost Beach/Weird Snakes, The Pregnancies, Tiny Meteors, Nightbear and Rough Hands. Currently, they spread their talents around in Burglar Fucker, Kaleidoscope Death, Serious Bangs, Estrangers and Ramps. Busy boys, in other words.
But Mike Wallace took time out to chat with John Schacht via email about the band’s formation and future.
Shuffle: When/where did you guys form?
Mike Wallace: We started with just guitars, Mike and Trevor, which was the whole idea we had at first, have us on guitars and singing and writing. We started out a little quieter, like the third Velvet Underground record. This was early last year as our previous band Ghost Beach was grinding to a halt. We tried laying the songs down with a few different people, and it was cool, but we knew Mark through friends and I played with him in Romancer and he was in Health and Kaleidoscope Death, and he started playing the drums. We could never find a bass player, so Trevor went to bass and we were trying to get together with Ian again for awhile and he started playing guitar this past Fall. Since then it’s been pretty sick.
Shuffle: You’re all from various regional bands — many of them current. How serious is Drag Sounds?
MW: Drag Sounds is definitely our jam, it feels like getting together with the other back-up and session guys after hours and playing songs. We love all the stuff we do right now, we’re in tons of bands and play with everybody and it’s great. We do want to bring this thing to other people, so I think we’re trying to get around more often. All the bands we’re in seem to have an ebb and flow to them, so it’s as much about getting better as players as it is pushing a certain band or agenda. The Drag Sounds agenda is to have a good time and be really loud.
Shuffle: What’s the inspiration behind the name?
MW: Some people say drag racing is cool, but we never think of that. Some people say it means bummer vibes, but we aren’t really about that. Mark said it one time and it seemed to make sense on some level we couldn’t articulate.
Shuffle: When was your first show? What was the most memorable thing about it?
MW: Our first show as this band was last New Year’s Eve at 602 Magnolia House in Greensboro. We played some fucked-up versions of Rolling Stones and T-Rex and 13th Floor Elevators songs under the name 300 Dog Night. I remember people thinking the singing was either too quiet or really weird. Honestly, I don’t remember a whole lot from that night. Our next show was as Abstracats with The Curious Mystery at Legit Biz in Greensboro. It was pretty stormy and the Old One-Two played. Shana Cleveland was switching instruments mid-song in Curious Mystery. I also remember they all stayed at our house and my other roommate came home really drunk late at night and argued with his friend for hours, yelling “Shut up man!! People are sleeping in the next room!!!” a lot. Again, people thought the singing was both quiet/weird. Now we just try to sing louder.
Shuffle: Of the songs on Soundcloud, one sounds inspired by Crazy Horse, others by Lou Reed — not that you can’t do both, but which way do you see the music heading in the future?
MW: Yeah, me and Trevor just recently realized the Neil Young/Crazy Horse thing listening to Down by the River. We dig Lou and the Velvets a whole lot, so please tell people we sound like that. We’re pretty far from their level of perfection though. As for the future, I think we’re figuring it out, it’s getting to be really ecstatic rock & roll. We play that song “So Good” and Adam Thorn helped write the lyrics and they’re like “I feel so good I wanna shout it out” and so we’re just always trying to play music that feels good, that makes other people feel good. Live, it’s getting more intense and I think we’re getting confident taking chances on stuff. We keep the songs loose and open, so we’re always finding out new shit about them. I’d like to keep things pretty close to the ground and do what comes natural. Momentum is the toughest thing to get and the easiest thing to lose when you’re working on whatever kind of project.
Shuffle: Who writes the songs? What are your/the band’s inspirations?
MW: Mike and Trevor were the main songwriters at first, but now it’s everybody. There’s always a balance there in trying to involve everybody and also getting songs finished. Whoever writes the words usually sings the song, but we also work together on that part, too. Usually just running lyrics by each other to make sure we’re not saying something totally crazy sounding. We’ve played together awhile so no one really has to worry about what the other people are gonna do. Me and Trevor have kind of a Sly and Robbie kind of vibe where we’re always in bands together doing the same things. Everyone though has the same sensibilities so writing happens pretty quickly. This is probably the first band I’ve been in where no one has serious jerk-out ego moments. We’re pretty diplomatic and sensitive dudes. I like bands like Booker T and the MGs and The Faces and Sly and the Family Stone where everyone is really tight but also having a good time. The Triad and North Carolina in general is a killer place to be doing music right now, so many incredible bands and people, so I’d say that’s pretty inspiring. We have lots of good friends, too. I think that helps.
Shuffle: Anything in the pipeline? What can we expect in the future?
MW: Yeah we’re going to make a record in February with Ryan Pritts down at El Guapo! studio in WInston-Salem. He’s got some of the best equipment around, all analog, I can’t even believe I’m in the same room with this shit, it’s gonna be sick. Also a GSO vs. W-S compilation tape, hopefully some split somethings with some folks we like. I like this era of free mixtapes and remix stuff and the accessibility of recorded sounds. I’d like to do some things like that. Have a single and a remix and a dub version.
The Curious Mystery is coming back in April, we’re trying to get something together with Honey Rider from Winston soon. I want to play in some different places, like smaller towns off I-40 and I-85. It would be cool to be this intensely local phenomenon. My dream is in 20 years to be on some re-issue compilation of obscure rock bands from 2012. I like the idea of touring just a few cities, but spending several days in a city and playing lots of shows. Set up a residency. That seems like something that used to happen more often for rock bands, not just conservatory and jazz guys and serious artists. I’m real excited to see what’s next, we’ve been having a great time so far.