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Motor City Overhaul

Unlike bands who spend entire careers composing songs, desperately hoping to stumble upon the secret formula for pop-hit status, the Detroit Cobras skip the hubbub and go straight to the source. For more than ten years, the Cobras have un/covered obscure, übercool soul tunes from decades past and updated them into garage-rocking anthems. For some listeners, at least, the songs are delivered with such passion that they seem like originals. This reinvigoration is especially true of hit-ready numbers like "Baby Let Me Hold Your Hand" and "Cha Cha Twist," songs from last year's Baby album that are infectious enough to induce even the most buttoned-down yuppie to shimmy-shake her ass like a '60s go-go dancer.

However you label the Cobras, their talent for entertaining is undeniable. The multiculti fivepiece drives a groove like a GTO thrown into overdrive, while Rachel Nagy's throaty vocals prove that every era has a seedy underbelly of bad girls in the back seat. Cobras rhythm guitarist Maribel Restrepo spoke to New Times about wild animals, hurricanes, and why you should never pass out on tour.

New Times: So you guys are finally coming down with Reigning Sound after Wilma killed your show here last fall.

Maribel: Oh, I know. We didn't know what to do. We don't really have any kin or friends down there. What if we got stuck halfway between Miami and Detroit? We only know one guy with a lion farm, and he told us we better not go.

I'm sorry — did you say you know a guy with a lion farm?

[laughing wildly] Oh yeah! Outside of Fort Lauderdale. He's got lions and tigers. That's who we're stayin' with.

You guys have a new lineup on this tour, right?

Yeah, our band is kind of like the United Nations of Rock. We got a Latin girl [Maria, rhythm guitar, ex-Vertical Pillows], a white girl [Rachel Nagy, singer, ex-exotic dancer], a Chinese girl [Ko Shih, fuzz bass superstar, member of the Dirtbombs and KO and the Knockouts], a black guy [Skeeto Valdez, session drummer, 70 Volt Parade, King Konga], and a self-proclaimed redneck [Greg Cartwright, guitar, Reigning Sound].

How is Cartwright holding up playing for both you guys and Reigning Sound? Has he passed out from exhaustion yet?

Actually, yes. You know, he just slumped down [after a show] and we didn't believe him. We thought he was playin' possum. We didn't think he was really hurt, so we all started kickin' him. Then I said, "Let's find something to stick up his butt." That's when we heard this quiet "Noooooo." That's when we knew he was hurt. When we knew he was really sick, we started to feel bad. We were lookin' for pillows to put under his head.

How do you feel about the new album?

I like it, but I'm also really looking forward to the next record. I feel like this was a solid foundation, but next I wanna — you know — "pow!" I wanna kick it up a notch.

What prompted your switch from the Sympathy for the Record Industry label?

That was more of a labor of love than a label. It's a guy's project that he doesn't want to advance, which is fine, but we need to be able to.

Speaking of moving ahead, what's next?

Maybe one of those all-girl tribute bands. There's already one for Metallica and Kiss.

Who would you honor?

Gotta be MC5.

And your chick band tribute name?

It would have to be good... How 'bout "One of the Bitches"?

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Jamie Laughlin