In the past two weeks, I've made a series of increasingly desperate phone calls to Ben Brown and to Jim Roll, the respected singer-songwriter who I've somehow dragooned into being my band leader. They all went something like this: "Hey, it's Neal. Listen, we've got 10 days until the gig, and we don't have a drummer yet. I think we really need to nail this drummer thing down."
Jim said he'd make some calls, but he has a job and his own music to work on. Also, the drummer Jim knew best in Austin left town a few months ago. Perhaps I neglected to mention that Jim lives in Ypsilanti, Mich., and is flying in especially for this show.
I asked Ty, the lead singer of the Yuppie Pricks, Friday night's other band, if we could borrow his drummer. I figured that'd work fine. The drums would already be set up, and who wouldn't jump at the chance to play a show with me? Ty e-mailed me back a few hours later. "I don't know what to say, man," he said. "Our drummer's not interested."
Great. Now I was really up against it. I sent e-mails to a couple of people I know in bands, begging for help, but I didn't hear back. I posted something on my Web site. Nothing. Finally, Ben said he could ask his friend Eric, who plays drums for a band called Alfalfa Male. I've met Eric. He's very nice, but Alfalfa Male played the last big party Ben threw, and they were so bad that three-quarters of the audience left. Still, I asked Eric if he'd play drums. He wrote me back and said, "You don't want me. I suck."
I was desperate. Jim was flying in very soon. So on Monday I went to austinmusician.com, and I found this classified posting: "I'm a drummer from Northern California who recently moved to Austin, and I NEED A BAND! I can play all kinds of stuff. My last band was a rock/funk/blues/reggae jam band kinda thing, so I can play all or any of those pretty well. I'm an easy going dude who won't let my or anyone else's ego rip a band apart and I have good stage presence (even though I'm stuck behind a drum kit, but what the hell). Mostly I just wanna jam and get up on stage and tear down some roofs and blow away some audiences."
I sent this guy an e-mail right away. A few hours passed and no response. I sent him another e-mail, explaining the situation and making clear my desperation. I got an e-mail back. "Neal, I'd love to play. It's been too long since I've been up on stage kickin out some jams. However, my drum set is still back in Cali. I'll be having it shipped out here within a week or two so keep in touch and we can get together and see if we mesh, clash or just sound altogether badass! Adios, Daniel."
I wrote Daniel back immediately and said that I'd find him a drum set if he'd agree to play with us. Then I had to go about finding him one. I quickly wrote to my guitarist, Dakota Smith (much more about him tomorrow), and begged him to let me borrow his drums. If something got broken, I promised Dakota I'd replace it. Well, that was the magic clause. We had the drums.
I called Daniel at 6 p.m. He answered the phone.
"Hmmmmmph," he said.
"Daniel," I said. "It's Neal."
"Are you asleep?"
"Could you call back in half an hour?"
So I did. This time, Daniel was awake. He just moved here to go to UT. He's 19 years old. When I later told Jim that, Jim said, "Oh, that's perfect. He'll be up for anything."
"So what kind of music do you play?" Daniel asked.
"We basically do parodies," I said. "Well, not exactly parodies, but music that kind of sounds like 1970s punk, but also some fake Springsteen."
"Awesome," he said. "Any songs I should listen to?"
" 'Heroin,' by the Velvet Underground."
" 'Heroin.' "
"Oh," he said. " 'Heroin.' That's cool."
I gave him the rest of the listening list: "Blitzkreig Bop," "God Save the Queen," "Cadillac Ranch," "Walk on the Wild Side," "TV Eye," and anything from Black Flag's Damaged album. He seemed genuinely enthusiastic. I told him that the next couple of days were going to be crazy with rehearsals.
"That's OK," he said. "I don't have anything to do. I'm in college."
"Do you have a car?" I said.
He thought about it for a second.
"Um, no," he said. "But I could get one!"
Tomorrow: The Neal Pollack Invasion tries to write 12 songs in 24 hours.