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It has been five years since the outfit now known as the Dealers came together. As Under Construction, Kevin Thews (lead vocals/rhythm guitar/harmonica), Kyle Eckermann (lead guitar/backup vocals) and Justin Ludwig (drums) would play cover songs. When they started writing original songs, they added a fourth member, bassist Shawn “Funk Nasty” Fox. The “construction” was complete once they changed the band’s name. They’re an “old-fashioned rock-&-roll band,” the Rancho Santa Margarita/Foothill Ranch natives like to say, combining the styles of their heroes—Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin, Green Day, Sublime—with a modern edge and a special brand of humor.
OC Weekly: What’s different from when you were called Under Construction?
Kevin Thews: We were terrible.
Kyle Eckermann: I think one of the things that was really cool about us and this band is that we all knew how to play our instruments when we came together. With the other one, there was a learning curve.
So, you started off as a cover band?
Thews: We played five or six Sublime songs when we started out; that’s what we learned. We still play covers, but we have a bunch of our own songs, and I’m really proud of them. I consider myself to be modest, but I really think our songs are good.
How did you guys decide on the moniker the Dealers?
Thews: We’d gone through a bunch of names. We had the Thingamajigsaw Puzzles, the Dope Fiends—which was more of a joke, but we thought it was super-funny.
Eckermann: We were Cold Shot for a while.
Thews: We had Güero Banditos. We came up with a bunch of different names, but I was listening to the AC/DC song “For Those About to Rock (We Salute You),” and there is the line “We are the dealers/we’ll give you everything you need.” And I thought, “Why is there no band named the Dealers? It’s such a cool name.” It’s a little mysterious, the Dealers. The dealers of what?
Actually, there are several other bands called the Dealers. Have you heard anything from them about having the same name?
Thews: Not yet. We’ve looked into it, and no one has it locked down. Nobody huge has that name. But if we have to, we’ll have a rock-off for the name, and we’ll see who deserves it.
What have been your favorite moments as a band?
Thews: The first show we played as the Dealers—this is actually how we knew our name should be the Dealers—we were doing a pay-to-play gig at Hogue Barmichaels in Newport Beach. Kyle and I were sitting in the parking lot: We were both kind of frustrated about the money-collecting, and we’re arguing in the car, yelling at each other. We hear, “Hey, what are you guys doing?” We look over, and there is a police officer, and we tell him, “Oh, nothing. We’re playing a show here.” The cop asks, “Well, what’s in that plastic bag?”—because we had put all of our money in this bag. He starts asking us a bunch of questions: “Are you guys selling drugs?” “What’s in those cases?” “Do I need to search your car?” We knew it looked weird, but we tried to explain to him, showed him the tickets and everything. So the cop goes, “What’s your band name?” Kyle and I looked at each other and said, “The Dealers.” It was perfect. I went inside and told that story, and it went over well. And that’s the kind of thing where you know you’ve picked a good name when something like that happens. I know there are other bands with that name, but they’re not going to be able to have a story like that.
The Dealers perform at Gallagher’s Pub & Grill, 300 Pacific Coast Hwy., Ste. 113, Huntington Beach, (714) 536 - 2422; www.gallagherspub.com. Thurs., Nov. 11. Call for time. Free. 21+. For more info on the Dealers, visit myspace.com/dealersbandrock.
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This column appeared in print as "The Dealers Are One of a Kind."