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Photo by Jeanne Rice Giant Sucking Sound doesn't describe the band's music, although singer/ songwriter/guitarist Patt Gallagher admits that even friends figure the name must mean "we suck in a really big way." Nor does it refer to the sound of disappearing band mates, although the would-be trio from Fullerton is indeed looking for a new drummer.
"Giant Sucking Sound" stuck in Gallagher's head after he heard pintsize Ross Perot use the phrase in a televised debate on the North American Free Trade Agreement a few years ago. Perot, for those who don't remember, was describing the hypothetical sound of American factory jobs rushing south to Mexico. But Gallagher insists the name isn't political. "I kind of liked the sound of it; I don't know why," he explained. "That's usually how I come up with the lyrics for my songs: something just starts floating around in my head."
Gallagher's previous band, MP3, fell apart two months ago when the drummer split. By then, MP3 had put out a promising EP-length demo CD they burned with the help of friends and distributed free at gigs, most of them at Linda's Doll Hut. Two songs, "Join Us" (an anti-drug-induced-apathy anthem) and "Black on Blond" (a nostalgic ode to one of Gallagher's ex-girlfriends) stand out as the best examples of Gallagher's lyrical skills; he wrote all the band's songs on his acoustic guitar.
The eponymous disc was a fitting tribute to MP3's ability to punctuate otherwise simple tunes with multilayered, slightly off-kilter melodies that sometimes require a few replays to really appreciate. But there's no way around the fact that Gallagher's music seems especially geared to live performances. Highlighting an intense mix of Neil Young, Pete Townshend and Frank Black-style chord changes, MP3's crowd-pleasing performances were always full of energy—so full, in fact, that the band should have handed out cheap earplugs at every show.
Now, with the identity of Giant Sucking Sound's third and final member still uncertain, Gallagher, who lives in Brea, says he's taking a break from the stage to work on new material in the studio three nights a week. The "studio" in question, however, is actually a Tascam 488 eight-track "ministudio" Gallagher set up in a basement belonging to his Fullerton band mate, bassist Kirk Hofstettler. The basement is cluttered with various instruments the pair hope to use to enrich their next recordings: a random collection of percussion, horns, a synthesizer, even a clarinet. Two or three weeks from now, Giant Sucking Sound may have a whole CD's worth of new music—drummer or no drummer.
"I have shitloads of songs," said Gallagher. "I always have something floating around inside my head that's unfinished."
Together, Hofstettler and Gallagher have survived three decades in OC's music scene. As a high school student, Hofstettler filled in once on bass with No Doubt—a temporary gig he still relishes a decade later. After playing in a Fullerton band called Second Generation, he and Gallagher briefly teamed up in Frying Penguins.
But Gallagher is probably best-known as the guitarist and songwriter of Fullerton's Room to Roam, which he co-founded in the early 1990s with his brother Paul. Before that, Gallagher played drums for eight years in Medicine Man, a Neil Young-inspired band that played regular gigs along Hollywood's Sunset Strip, at such venues as Coconut Teaszer and the 8120 Club.
With years of work on what Gallagher jokingly refers to as the "rock-star track," the two members of Giant Sucking Sound have more than paid their dues. Yet, like so many struggling musicians, neither Gallagher nor Hofstettler is able to spend as much time on the band as they'd like. Both work day jobs, each running his own construction-related business. Giant Sucking Sound remains a chance to blow off steam and entertain friends rather than a sure route to a record contract.
"We want to remain creative and have a good time," Hofstettler said. "Hopefully, we'll get the big record deal, open for a big act, do a tour and have a gay old time," he added, in an almost wistful attempt at irony. "Everybody wants to get a record deal, but it's tough because there are so many bands out there. I guess it's always been like that."
For his part, Gallagher asserts that his music "is just an outlet that has become a part of me, and I couldn't imagine not doing it in some way or another. I've had pretty high aspirations, but I think that I've always had a hesitancy about getting signed with a record company," he continued. "I've had a lot of friends get signed. A record label will make a CD; it gets shelved for years, and in the meantime, that's living hell for a band. That's why I have been less committed to getting signed and more committed to having fun and writing music."
Giant Sucking Sound already has a few gigs scheduled for the end of the month, by which time they'll need a drummer, of course. For now, Gallagher and Hofstettler plan to sharpen their live act by playing with other bands, a favorite pastime for both musicians. Last week, Gallagher played a show at Fullerton's Back Alley Bar under the name Tropics Lounge Band. "It was just a bunch of old friends jamming together," he said. "It kind of reminded me why I play music: to have a good time, to celebrate. . . . In the past, I think I've been so busy trying to chase after success that I was losing sight of what music is really about."
Giant Sucking Sound plays McClain's Coffee House, 817 N. Harbor Blvd., Fullerton. Fri., July 28. Call (714) 525-5282 the week of performance for exact show time.