When the members of Suedehead considered covers to add to their repertoire of original, modern soul send-ups, they searched for a meticulous representation of their band through borrowed song. The OC outfit, which boasts former members of Beat Union, the Distraction, TSOL, Hepcat and the Aggrolites, sought a perfect synthesis of the band's strong punk rock, DIY background with the weighty beats and fast tempo of traditional soul leanings.
“We were joking around and said, 'We're the Fugazi of soul,'” says guitarist Chris Bradley, whose role in the 2-year-old band also includes graphics, stage design and overall aesthetic. With that joke in mind, the B-side for the band's newest 7-inch “Lying In Bed” clicked.
With a thumbs up from Fugazi's Ian MacKaye, the band put the Suedehead stamp on the post-hardcore stalwarts' “Waiting Room,” complete with horns, chord switch-ups, soulful singing and Hammond-style organ. They'll play that and more Saturday during a daytime show at Slidebar in Fullerton.
Their second cover choice is more straightforward, Spencer Davis Group's “Gimme Some Lovin' .” Taking on the 1960s B-3 foot-stomper is a nod to Davis and Suedehead co-founder Davey Warsop's shared hometown, Birmingham, England. “It's like if you put those two songs in a blender, it sort of sums up Suedehead, philosophically and musically,” Bradley says. “It's everything we're about.”
By day, Warsop works as a recording engineer for local surf-apparel giant Hurley, which mixes music into the lifestyle brand equation. It was there that Warsop met Bradley, who was then senior environmental designer for the brand, but now works at Skullcandy.
The friends started creating music together reminiscent of Get Happy-era Elvis Costello mixed with Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings. While recording some demos for Social Distortion at Hurley, Warsop shared rough versions of the songs he, Bradley and drummer Korey “Kingston” Horn were working on.
Social D frontman Mike Ness breezily suggested that when Warsop's new band finalized its lineup they should book shows together. Warsop took this as polite banter and refrained from packing his bags. A couple of months later, Warsop got the call to join Social D on tour despite the lack of an actual band.
Warsop and Bradley scrambled. Within days they named the project, created their International Soul Rebel Society label, brought in Greg Kuehn on keys and Nic Rodriguez on bass (eventually replaced by Mike Bisch), and added a horn section. Before the tour, they rehearsed four times, played a show and mentally prepared to perform in front of thousands.
Social D fans, not particularly known for patience during opening acts, were the most intimidating aspect. “We were prepared to be spit on,” Warsop says with a humble laugh. Instead, Suedehead posed for pictures and signed autographs after shows. Riding in the van after the second gig, the guys talked future plans. “We all had the magic in our eyes,” Bradley says about their onstage chemistry.
They decided that, yes, they were going to continue on and maintain control of the band's business to keep it fun, even if that meant staying up with bloodshot eyes stuffing boxes for mail orders, which they do. Saying yes to taking risks is sort of their thing.
“We're more into talking ourselves into things than out of them,” Bradley says. Within months they were touring with Flogging Molly, playing Coachella and enjoying airtime on KROQ. In March, Suedehead took home the OC Music Award for Best Pop Band.
“Things happen for a reason,” Warsop says about the band's serendipitous yet short history together. “We are a little bit older, more mature, more focused. As long as you are working hard, saying yes and giving 100 percent, everything else unfolds.”
For now, the guys from Suedehead enjoy every second of their topward trajectory. “We never want to look at it like, 'This sucks right now, but we can't wait until we're here,'” Bradley says, raising his hand high in the air as a symbol of perceived success, before lowering it back down to eye level to make his point. “No, this fucking rules right now.”