Two things jump out regarding Haymaker's latest record, Now Now Now.
The first is the title accurately describes when the album was released. As in, it's a new record. As in, if someone played it for you, you might assume it was released as part of the roots/pop/Americana scene that emerged in Minnesota during the 1980s. Or perhaps you'd assume the 12-song disc (released today) was part of the then-burgeoning alt-country community of the 1990s. Either way, you'd be wrong.
Next, you'd probably guess Haymaker -- singer/guitarist Mike Jacoby, singer/guitarist J.W. Surge, bassist David Serby and drummer Dale Daniel -- were from somewhere other than Southern California. Texas, maybe? Some mid-western state such as Kansas? Tennessee, even? Nope, nope and nope. Haymaker are from Long Beach, which makes no sense to my ears because these dudes have a country twang (musically speaking -- not so much vocally) that sounds as authentic as a beat-up muffler on a 1956 pick-up truck.
Now Now Now is Haymaker's third record and, dare I say, its best. Once again, Jacoby and Surge shares vocal duties and it's impossible to say which guy writes better songs. Regardless of who's singing, the tunes are solid and would be heard on FM radio if FM radio played more than the same 17 songs every day.
The band has another record release show Friday at The Silverlake Lounge in Los Angeles, but I couldn't wait that long to ask them how guys from Long Beach in 2013 sound like they are not guys from Long Beach in 2013.
OC Weekly (Ryan Ritchie): Your record is called Now Now Now, so where are the auto-tuned vocals, drum machines, female singer on the choruses and guest rapper in the bridge?
Mike Jacoby: We do have those on the CD -- we just cleverly disguised them. The title applies to where Haymaker is now as opposed to where the business is now.
J.W. Surge: It's a bit of a double entendre - being scolded. "Now, now now." And a reminder to live in the moment.
Where do guys from Long Beach learn to sound like they are from Tennessee?
Surge: Tennessee really isn't an influence except, I guess, for what we don't want to do. We're probably more influenced by the Stones playing country or the Replacements playing country than anything from Nashville. What's inspiring to us is lasting L.A. roots music like X, the Blasters, Dwight Yoakam, the classics like the Band, Bob Dylan and Neil Young and alt-country pioneers like Wilco, Steve Earle and Lucinda Williams.
Does having two singers make each songwriter have to bring his "A" game?
Jacoby: Well, I think we both try to present strong songs.
Surge: Yeah, you hit it dead on. A song has to get past the other guy and that's not always easy. I think we're inspired by each other's great songs. It prevents us from having throwaway songs on our records. It's cool we've been getting airplay on Internet roots stations in the U.S. and in Europe. So far, every song on the record has received airplay.What are some of your favorite two-singer bands?
Jacoby: Drive-By Truckers basically has two singers -- Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley. And, of course, Rank and File had two singers.
Surge: Uncle Tupelo is one that stands out with Jay Farrar and Jeff Tweedy. We put an emphasis on harmonies, so in that way power pop is a big influence as well.
It's been the better part of a decade since I heard "What's That Got to Do With Me" and I still can't get it out of my head. Why is that? And what's that got to do with me?
Jacoby: It's a good song. And if it's still in your head these days then it definitely had a lot to do with you. It's something you've connected with.
Your record release show was Friday in Seal Beach. How does Orange County take to Haymaker? Are you tan enough to attract a crowd? Do you have to pretend to be 22 years old on your flyers?
Jacoby: Orange County loves Haymaker...I think. We are not tan and we could never pull off 22.
Have you ever been hit with a haymaker?
Jacoby: Actually, no.
Surge: Actually, yes, in Denver, cheering for the Dodgers. A drunk Rockies fan who was spewing Mexican slurs at Dodgers players was not amused by my blue hat.
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Would you describe your music as being hit with a haymaker? Cuz I wouldn't. If someone said to me, "Hey, there's a band called Haymaker," I'd assume they sounded like Slayer or something.
Jacoby: There is a metal/hardcore band called Throwdown that named their CD "Haymaker."
Surge: Haymaker sounded right, kind of rootsy. More about "making hay" than the punch.