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By Nate Jackson
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Time for a Tune-Up
Big Drill Car's original lineup reunites after 16 years
Band reunions often mean forced reconciliations, sometimes willingly and seamlessly, other times ungraciously—or even worse, with a focused repugnance. Despite such desire or disdain, there are always reasons behind such motivations—often monetary.
However, with the reunification of Costa Mesa pop-punk progenitors Big Drill Car, it doesn't appear the almighty dollar was the carrot on the stick. Nor were there any bruised feelings to mend. In fact, after talking with three-fourths of the band, it seems as if getting back together was as easy as picking up the phone and making a quick reconnection among old friends. Well, almost that easy.
Shows such as VH1's Bands Reunited have seen many groups extricate their members from their current, non-music-related lives to join former band mates onstage for a trite, rehashed celebration of their heydays. But the members of Big Drill Car have not been the types to write their short-lived careers in the sonic spotlight into the annals of the long-forgotten. It seems as if these upcoming reunion dates are as hotly anticipated by the members of BDC as they are by their dedicated fans, who quickly snagged tickets, selling out the band's first announced date at Fitzgerald's in Huntington Beach.
"This is a dream come true for me," gushes bassist Bob Thomson, seated in the lounge of the band's OC rehearsal space along with guitarist Mark Arnold and drummer Danny Marcroft (vocalist Frank Daly, who has since moved to Indiana, had yet to arrive when the conversation began). "Mark and I have bumped into each other several times over the years, like, 'When's the reunion?'"
"I've always wanted it to happen," Arnold affirms.
Marcroft, who stopped playing music and sold all his equipment after leaving BDC in 1993, actually purchased a new set of drums two years ago with the intention of BDC reuniting. "I've had them sitting in the garage, but I never played them," he recalls. "They just sat there, waiting to see what was going on."
The drums weren't the only ones pining for the Big Drill Car reunion, some 16 years after the original lineup last took the stage. The band had kept longtime followers waiting, but also spawned new generations of fans in the interim—many of whom had never caught the band's live act before their ultimate demise in 1994, which Daly and Arnold decided on after opening for the Offspring on their Smash national tour. Though their material was incredibly radio-friendly and their touring schedule found them traversing the globe (especially after their 1991 album, Batch), BDC never attained the rousing commercial success of their peers, instead enjoying a role as a seminal trendsetter in indie-punk circles. In fact, in 2003, theWeekly ranked Big Drill Car No. 11 in a list of the 129 greatest OC bands ever.
"Oh, I didn't know that," says Daly over the phone, hearing about the Weekly ranking for the first time. (Daly's mom knew about it, though—she sent us a thank-you letter after the issue appeared.) "That's quite an honor. It kind of comes as a shock; living in Indiana, you don't really hear much about what's going on with the OC Weekly. But there's a lot of damn good bands that came out of Orange County."
The catalyst for Big Drill Car's reemergence was sparked by the benefit event for late M.I.A. front man Mike Conley (Daly and Arnold performed in M.I.A. prior to Big Drill Car). Though the band had hoped to perform at the event, logistical snafus had thwarted their initial reunion attempt. Still, BDC wanted to proceed with the reunion and, hence, the forthcoming dates.
Of course, the idea of the reunion begs the question: Why did the original lineup disband in the first place?
Thomson, the first to exit the band, goes first. "Bands are a lot like any relationship. If you don't keep on top of it, you fall into that trap. I was involved in other bands, and that kind of aggravated the situation," he says. "We just didn't talk about it. It just kind of came to a push-and-shove situation, and things kind of imploded. Hindsight being what it is, definitely mistakes were made decision-wise."
"Yeah, on everyone's part," chimes in Arnold, who, post-BDC, has had a successful career as a touring soundman and performed in All Systems Go!
"We haven't even talked about it yet," Thomson says about this seemingly fresh revelation. "It's kind of weird."
"It's kind of crazy," adds a surprised Arnold. "That was a loaded question!"
Marcroft's simple explanation was that the band became too much like a job and had lost its fun. However, the decade-plus pause has renewed his—and the other BDC members'—perspectives, adding to the excitement that's been boiling over the past several weeks since the confirmation of the upcoming dates, which include two local Warped Tour stops and an appearance at Riot Fest in Chicago. Plus, the band's not ruling out the possibility of even more shows.
"It's just going to be a lot of old friends," says Arnold of these reunion gigs. "That's what's going to be fun for me."
Big Drill Car perform with Supernova at Fitzgerald's Pub, 19171 Magnolia St., Huntington Beach, (714) 968-4523; www.fitzgeraldsoc.com. Wed., 8 p.m. [sold out]; also Aug. 16, 8 p.m. $12.