INTERVIEW: The Gories | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Like mod (but without the shitty Weller cuts), garage rock experiences a revival of sorts every few years – perhaps when we really need some grit and sweat and rawness – and then disappears back below the surface to keep on keeping on in the background.

In fact, it’s often the case that leading lights in the scene couldn’t give a fuck about any such surges in popularity (consider Wild Billy Childish’s indifference – indeed flat out disdain – regarding the patronage of Jack White in the mid-noughties).  Surely the reason garage rock persists is that there is always room for music that combines the libido and energy and punk-as-fuck spirit of its influences, distilling it into urgent, Neanderthal, primal roars of lust or pain. And all of that sounds as good a summary of Detroit garage legends The Gories as you could hope for. Existing for just a few years (roughly 1986-1992), the trio reformed back in 2009 and have toured sporadically since, often to bigger audiences that they could have ever dreamed of first time out.  So the obvious thing to ask guitarist / vocalist Danny Kroha (one third of the band alongside fellow guitarist / vocalist Mick Collins and drummer Peggy O’Neill) is how it feels to still be doing this and why – considering the years apart and their myriad other bands – why The Gories keep coming back?

“I never imagined The Gories would be playing shows thirty years after we started the band. It feels good. We still enjoy playing all of our songs. It’s still fun!” Is it the music or the chemistry, or a bit of both? “It’s a bit of both. This band has an undeniable chemistry. We got lucky with that, and it’s still there. But, we all still love the music and enjoy playing it. We know more people want to see us now than when we were initially active, so it feels nice to be wanted!” As for the volatility of the original incarnation, Kroha suspects “the volatility had as much to do with youth as anything. We’ve all mellowed out a lot in thirty years!”

The Gories creation myth suggests that Kroha and Collins believed too much of the nascent garage rock scene of the time lacked the rawness and energy of the best R&B and sixties garage bands, something they set out to correct. “One thing we were aiming for was rawness, another was a real R&B feel. I think we achieved our aims! One reason we could to do that is Peggy ended up being a naturally swinging drummer, and that enabled us to pull it off. ‘If you ain’t got that swing, you ain’t got a thing!’”

And there was an overlooked – or misunderstood – mod element too. “Mod means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. To us it meant the original mod sound of R&B records from the years 1960-’64. We were into the idea of mod music as exemplified by the DJ Guy Stevens who did those Sue Story comps in the early sixties. That’s the music that got us going. Then we were also influenced a lot by the British freakbeat stuff. And raw U.S. blues on the Sun and Chess record labels, plus early John Lee Hooker and other raw blues that was recorded in Detroit in the fifties. I think that’s an aspect of mod that has been forgotten or neglected. Unfortunately, the mod sound is now associated with a bunch of crappy eighties power pop bands. Not trying to insult The Jam here, but sub-Jam stuff. Out of music I listened to when I was in my twenties, I don’t listen to The Jam anymore, but I still love and listen to regularly early James Brown, Ike and Tina, Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, and all kinds of fifties and sixties R&B.”

Since their reformation, there’s been just one Gories release, a 7” cover of The Nomads’ Be Nice on Jack White’s Third Man label, and there aren’t any immediate plans to release anything else. “That single came about because Cartoon Network threw a bunch of money at us to record an original track, and while we were in the studio (which was just a guy’s basement!) we tossed off a song from Back From The Grave that we were going to cover years ago. It was an off-the-cuff, last minute session. We don’t all live in the same city anymore, or hang out like we used to, so I feel like if we tried to make a new LP it wouldn’t be able to grow organically and it might feel a little forced. So yeah, we exist more for just the pleasure of playing live, and for pleasing the audience who still wants to hear our old songs played live.”

The trio have all managed to divide their lives between rock’n’roll and day jobs (“Peggy and I both spent many years painting houses, and Mick has done a variety of odd jobs. Mick and I also DJ, he more regularly than I, so with that, every little bit helps…”), and still have other ongoing projects (“For me personally, recording another solo LP of traditional folk/blues/gospel and writing more songs for my band Danny & The Darleans), which means they can continue to see the band as a pleasure rather than an obligation. “The Gories will just keep doing shows as long as people still want to see us and as long as it’s still fun and we are still willing and able.”

You’d be a fool to miss this one, kids – go see The Gories while they’re still willing and able, because you can bet your ass it’ll be fun.

The Gories play The Cluny on Monday 10th July, supported by Los Coyotemen and The Approved.

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