If the Deadly Vibes had their own religion, they’d probably call it Rock ’n’ Roll. The name in one form or another appears like a mantra in their songs (You Gotta Rock, Man I Love That Rock ’n’ Roll). In interviews, it slips all too easily off their tongues. The band even started an annual touring show in Taiwan called the Rock ’n’ Roll Circus.
When this trio of expats who reside in Ilan County spread their gospel tomorrow night at Underworld (地下社會) in Taipei, don’t be surprised to find a packed bar full of people pumping their fists and dancing to the band’s country-flavored, punk-influenced garage rock.
“[A] lot of cursin’, [a] lot of sweatin’, a lot of yellin’,” said drummer JT Long of what the audience can expect tomorrow.
Just don’t tell his mom. JT and his identical twin brother, JD, who plays guitar in the band, grew up in Bible-belt Texas. Mrs Long doesn’t really listen to rock, and “might have heard” their demo, said the brothers, but she’s sometimes curious. “She asked me, do you curse?” said JT, smiling. “I was like no, not at all.”
The 32-year-old Long brothers, who are genial and unfailingly polite in person, stay faithful to the spirit of their music. The lyrics to one Vibes song, Good to Be Bad, from their latest EP Get Your Kicks!, go “Don’t you tell your mama, don’t you tell your dad, but it’s good, it’s good, good, good, good to be bad.”
True to their retro tastes, the band released the EP as a 7-inch record, which will be on sale at their show tomorrow (it comes with a CD-R comprising MP3s for the analog-impaired).
“It’s just the feel, that’s originally what rock ’n’ roll started from,” said JD of their decision to go vinyl.
He says the record sold well in Europe, where the band did a month-long tour in April and May that included dates in the UK, Spain, Germany and Italy. “Only one person the whole time asked, ‘Where’s the CD?’” he said.
Europe was the fourth tour outside of Taiwan for the Vibes, who seem like a textbook case of a band using the Internet to get its name out. Through MySpace, they have managed to set up tours of South Korea, China and Japan since they formed in 2006. “We spend a lot of time on the computer,” sighed JT.
They don’t make much money, either — their European tour was mainly paid for out of their own pockets. But they do it out of a hunger to play for new audiences. “We can’t play shows in Taiwan every month and be satisfied,” said JT.
“You can play the same venue, same studio all the time. We get bored of that, personally,” said JD.
Boredom shook up the Vibes’ previous incarnation, the Daymakers, which played pop-punk a la Green Day, sang cutesy Chinese lyrics, wore loud 1970s suits and enjoyed a reputation in the indie scene for their ke-ai (可愛) act.
“Towards the end of the Daymakers, we were just itching for something different,” said JD. So they switched instruments: JT went from bass to drums and Jason Copps, who was playing drums, switched to guitar and lead vocals. Copps writes the lyrics for the Deadly Vibes.
“I think with the Daymakers we tried to be catchy, gimmicky with our music. But now we’re just writing whatever comes out, whatever it feels like,” said JT.
But one thing the Deadly Vibes kept was a sense of “showmanship.” “It’s not just about making music, it’s about the show,” he said, noting JD’s tendency to jump on top of tables or to fall onto his knees while playing guitar.
“I’m just taken over by it,” said JD of the thrill of playing shows. “Seeing people out, girls.”
“He loves seein’ the girls up front,” said JT.