Poker, alcohol and music. These aren't just the things Costa Mesa's Snakebit Drifters enjoy, but are also why they came together in the first place. In the midst of a long, fuzzy night drinking, Tim Willis, who had recently moved to OC from Hawaii and was desperately searching for band mates, finally had the stroke of luck he needed. Kevin Yoches, a musician who had toiled in the local scene, happened to be at the same after-hours party in Newport Beach. Fueled by beer, Yoches, a drummer by trade, decided to pick up a loose guitar and strum chords. Willis, on his own accord, decided to freestyle vocals to those chords. A bond was instantly formed.
"I found what he was saying to be amusing, and I told him we should hang out a bit," Yoches says, as the band takes a break from practicing ahead of their show at Lido Live. "It actually took us a year to get together, but as soon as we did, we had 10 songs before we knew it."
However, they still needed a bass player. After posting an ad on Craigslist and many auditions later, they welcomed Robin San Jose and his upright bass. The three called themselves Snakebit Drifters, a moniker they came up with at 4 a.m. in a garage after a long night of playing poker.
"I was in a skateboard club called the Maseface Dragons and a band called the Whiskey Dick Dragons," Willis explains. "So I like four syllables for the title, and that night we didn't have a bit of luck. It wasn't a good night to be playing cards."
The group's blend of speed metal, surf punk and psychobilly has the lightning-fast fury of a passing 911 Carrera on the 73. The group recorded a total of 28 songs over the course of a boozy weekend, rolling out four EPs from December 2011 through February 2012. Other than a handful of shows, they've been dormant since then–at least when it comes to releasing new music.
Snakebit Drifters' live shows teeter the line of energetic and chaotic, with antics as wild as their frantically paced songs. Willis has been known to drink gin from a gasoline canister, then spit it at fans. Though their music doesn't fit neatly into a given genre, they will play alongside reggae and rock bands; they are only concerned with dazzling the people in front of them.
The band are in the process of putting together a new batch of music. Armed with 13 new songs, Snakebit Drifters are ready to put out a proper album that doesn't stem from those recording sessions four years ago. They say they will post their latest EP to the group's Bandcamp page, but they are holding out for the right moment to do so.
"Instead of just winging it and blacking out in a studio, which is what we did for the EP, we're going to decide what we're doing in a less manic way," Willis says. "Though it captured us and who we are, we won't have as many major problems as we did when we were blacked-out."
Snakebit Drifters perform with the Originalites and Seedless at Lido Live, 3459 Via Lido, Newport Beach, (949) 723-0250; www.lidolive.com. Fri., 8 p.m. 21+.
For more info on Snakebit Drifters, visit their Facebook page.