There are only three reasons music would not be roaring out of the little Long Beach house shared by the three members of the Alleged Gunmen: 1) they're gone, 2) they're asleep, or 3) they're dead—because the only way you'd get the Gunmen to quiet down is to pry the guitars from their rigid zombie fingers. This isn't a band. This is a lifestyle.
Just about every day after work, they're out shopping for music ("Mention we shop at Dyzzy On Vynyl," says drummer Pat Butterworth. "Yeah, you gotta give respect to the vinyl slingers," adds guitarist George Navarro). Or at home listening to music. Or talking about music. Or watching music videos (fuck MTV—how about the Clash or the Bad Brains tearing around some backwater auditorium for 45 minutes?). Or just making music of their own. During casual conversation, someone is always at the edge of your peripheral vision, flipping an LP over on the turntable so the songs never stop coming.
"We're surrounded by music," says Pat, somewhere in the middle of side A of a Too Pure Records soul compilation (later, we might hear the Who, Ghostface Killa or Kiss).
"Surrounded by everything," adds bassist Paul Martin. "There's always something going on—someone will be reading a music mag, George will be working on an idea for a [flier] layout—it's not like we just come home, sit down and watch the Lakers."
"But we've had Lakers games on," admits George. "When we practice."
They've all been in bands before—decades worth of them, some of them really good ones. And they're real people now, not wet-behind-the-ears, living-with-their-parents hipsters. You could even say music's in their blood: George's dad was in a '60s garage band called Los Cadetes, which traveled Mexico and the Southwest doing rave-up covers of the Beatles, Stones and Animals, and Paul's dad used to go see them play.
But when the Alleged Gunmen talk about their previous bands, it's like hearing your parents reminisce about old high school flames. When they talk about this band, it's obviously true love.
The songs are great all on their own, put together with the steely self-confidence that comes from a lifetime immersed in music of every type. It's rock & roll at its most stripped-down and eloquent. If Tom Verlaine had ghostwritten the Clash's Sandinista! you'd get close to the Gunmen's dubby rhythms and sparkling guitar lines—and if we were as well-versed in history as these guys are, we could dig you up a whole other list of meticulously lifted influences that would read like a who's-really-who of 20th-century rebel music, from hip-hop to the Who to Bob Marley to Madonna—early Madonna, notes Paul.
But what will really get you is that superrare whatever-you-want-to-call-it—passion, chemistry, magic or any other word you hope you'll be using after your next blind date—that pokes between every razor-sharp note the Alleged Gunmen play. A lot of bands make like they mean it: Bono thinks he means it; POD think they mean it; all the mopey sweater-wearers tinkling angsty poetry in a please-spare-me emo band think they mean it when all they really need is to get laid and get a haircut. But the Gunmen? They live together, shop together, hang out together—if you took away their music, they'd be married. And you don't do that unless you mean it, do you?
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"We decided this band was gonna be who we were gonna be," says Paul. "What little differences we have, we throw aside. It's really not that hard."
"It's uplifting, having two people to come home to every day to go record-shopping with," Pat says. "It reinforces the idea that it's three people who love to make music together."
"Yeah," says Paul, "and it keeps you alive."
The Alleged Gunmen perform with 5th Story Tenants and Days End at Fire Island, 3325 E. Anaheim Ave., Long Beach, (562) 597-0014. Sun., 9 p.m. $5. 21+.