Rag and Bones

Throw Rag divines the sublime via wretched excess

It's 2 p.m. in Milwaukee, and Captain Sean-Doe, vocalist for a band of Southern California troublemakers called Throw Rag, has stumbled out of bed to share road wisdom via cellular phone. "Most people don't want to commit to being poor," he rasps. "It's not as romantic as people might think, six dudes in a room. You should've seen the motel we stayed in last night!"

But where some might see exhaustion and body odor, Sean-Doe envisions something different. "We were talking last night about the future. You'll have robot maids and you'd get a card to use your extra hours. That would be a perfect robot world. We can just get check in and get our maximum stay."

Getting enough rest has been fundamental to Sean-Doe's bandmates (bassist Franco Fontana, drummer Chango Von Streicher, guitarists Dino and King Taco Pearl, and washboard player Jacko) ever since they decided give up their day jobs and become full-time road dogs two years ago. Their current 33-shows-in-38-days whirlwind with psychobilly freaks the Reverend Horton Heat and Southern Culture on the Skids is standard operating procedure. But the members of Throw Rag can always sleep when they're dead, Sean-Doe figures. Eight years of being Orange County's designated nude, crude, and lewd party band was more than enough. A typical mid-'90s Throw Rag gig would climax with Sean-Doe's projectile-vomiting on whoever was lucky enough to be nearest the stage. "We just played locally a whole bunch. I used to just spend more time partying than playing. When I decided to play more than party, these guys watched me for a couple years, and then they quit their day jobs. It's so good not to be playing the same bars to the same people every time."

Throw Rag: helping to lubricate the greaser-rock circuit
Throw Rag: helping to lubricate the greaser-rock circuit

As hard as it was to remain fresh playing to the same people, it was even more difficult to complete the first album, Tee-Tot. "That was actually recorded in 1995," Sean-Doe chuckles. "Then it couldn't be finished because I was such a wreck. In 1997, we completed it. By then, the dude who financed it didn't want to put it out, so we grabbed it and released it in 1999." Tee-Tot's spooky, Cramps-meets-Link Wray guitar licks made an immediate impression on the greaser circuit, which claimed Throw Rag as its own. "When we started, we had a banjo and an upright bass," Sean-Doe recalls. "So the bookers thought, 'Hmmm -- upright bass -- you guys should play with the rockabilly bands!'" Despite the sentiments expressed in songs like "The Beast in Me" ("I had a dream/I couldn't be stopped/But the beast in me/Fucked it all up!"), members of the pompadour set so adored the band that even Sean-Doe's penchant for wearing tear-away pants and Daisy Dukes failed to repel them.

Immediately after releasing Tee-Tot, Throw Rag went back into the studio to record 2nd Place. It took a year of recording and featured the late Michael McCandless (Hank Williams III) on didgeridoo. Producer Cameron Webb (Danzig) indulged Sean-Doe's wish to record multiple takes of nearly every song, which didn't exactly keep recording costs down. Sean-Doe reflects: "I'd be like, 'Hey this would sound great with a pedal steel! And we'd do a pedal steel version." To date, the record is still unreleased. "I don't want to say it's a waste," Sean-Doe insists. "We're going to put [it] out eventually."

With an unreleased album in the can and another one gathering dust, Sean-Doe convinced his bandmates to hit the road. Freed from their provincial baggage, they passed Tee-Tot off as a new album to a nation of unsuspecting rubes. "We put 2001 on the album so it wouldn't look like we were this band of losers that had been around forever," Sean-Doe laughs. The strategy worked. Suddenly, Throw Rag's fiery stage show was the talk of the club circuit. The band landed tours with the likes of the Supersuckers and Flogging Molly, frequently upstaging them in both the eyes of fans and the media. Concert reviews began popping up with "Supersuckers" as the heading but "Throw Rag" taking up all of the column space.

This past January, punk stalwart BYO Records took notice and signed the band. Since they weren't about to pick up the tab for 2nd Place, ex-Big Boys guitarist Tim Kerr was summoned to Costa Mesa, California, to produce Desert Shores. Kerr's influence in the studio proved invaluable. "We usually nail that shit anyway in the first two takes," Sean-Doe says. "If you don't have someone to tell you it's OK, you'll sit there nitpicking it to death. Tim was really cool. We did the whole thing in four days."

The musical change between the band's two released albums is monumental. Gone are the retro guitar licks that inspired Betty Page wannabes. Occupying their space is a gaggle of infectious hard-charging anthems like "Bag of Glue" and "Space Hump Me." What happened? Was it just a natural evolution? Or were they abducted and "space humped"? Alas, the latter was too good to be true. "I think we were hoping to [have alien sex]," Sean-Doe laughs. "I've seen some of that stuff by the Salton Sea. It's hard to say if it was induced by methamphetamines, but I saw something. I'm always an optimist about stuff like that."

 
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