Spitting Nickels vs. The Muggs

Detroit Garage and Heavy Metal Popsters

Posted In: Arts & Entertainment, Local Music, Artist Feature,   From Issue 680   By: Robert 'Bo' White

09th November, 2009     0

    ...cool enough for Little Steven to lift his big fat marinara drippin’ jowls out of a hot tub of spaghetti. OK, I get the idea. We have some Detroit cats that claim to be the next coming of Lennon & McCartney – or at least Nickelback and Hinder. They rock till they pop on these economical and magnificent 3 minute and 30 second gems that have more hooks than the gong show and glorious monster riff’s lifted straight from Todd Rundgren’s playbook. I’ve listened to their MP3s and they do indeed have more than a little mojo percolating in their collective favor.      

To me Spitting Nickels have more of a three-chord garage rock vibe that is more reminiscent of Roky Erickson’s 13 Floor Elevators than Big Star or Badfinger…except for the big-beat DC5 drum sound and soulful vocals. In the song The Bitch of it All, the Nickels sing about their true motivation…  “It ain’t about the money It’s all about the rhythm and soul”

They are not kidding. Listen to 4 The Hard Way on their MySpace page. It’s an all-out rocker with an “All Right Now” drum riff that gets you to sit up and salute your sergeant. Another tune - You’re the Bomb Soccer Mom - reveals a wicked sense of humor about one of America’s great national pastimes (banging soccer moms) that torture our children about as much as Little League (banging Little League moms).

 In 2008 The Nickels released their debut EP The Hard Way to critical acclaim and scored a coveted opening slot on a bill with The Blues Oyster Cult in the “Rockin’ On The Riverfront “series.

John Bissa, bassist for Spitting Nickels, had this to say about his band:
How did you guys get together?

Tom Furtaw, Dennis Miriani and I went to school together in Detroit (De La Salle class of 1982) and we all shared a common passion for music. In the beginning we listened to the standard fare AOR played on radio stations like W4 and WABX. But by the end of high school we had embraced power pop and new wave and were ga-ga about anything coming out of England. The early eighties were wildly transformative for music in Detroit. The strict caste system that drove you to listen to certain music based ethnicity and income was being completely overhauled. You could listen to the radio and hear the Clash back to back with the B-52s and then Prince. Anything seemed possible. Tom said, “if the B-52s can be a band why can’t we?”
How would you describe your sound?

Spitting Nickels' sound is mongrel rock and roll with a strong leaning towards 1960s' British blues-rock and 1970s' US pop-rock.  When you have five music nerds with a combined 100-year obsession with rock, you're certainly bound to get a wildly-broad pastiche.
You said Eddie was a fixture in the Detroit scene. What bands? How does he contribute to your sound?

Eddie is our drummer.  Eddie Baranek has been playing live for over thirteen years, most prominently as guitarist/frontman with the Sights.  (The Sights released three full-length records and toured North America and Europe extensively.)  He has also played with such bands as KO and the Knockouts, the Expatriates, Battling Siki, the Drinking Problem, etc but he is synonymous with the Sights.

He is a fantastically gifted musician and singer.  For our sound, the other bands members bring song ideas to the table and we all contribute to the final product.  But there is no question, given his level of musicianship; he is the prime-mover in our sound.
Where did your vocalist Stormy Kramer come from?  How would you describe his voice or vocal technique?

I saw my first Stormy Kromer as a young lad of five when my grandfather, a railroad man, came home from work wearing one.  Apparently I laughed at him and said, “Look at Grandpa and his funny hat. “ He looked at me with a wry smile and said, “Funny hat?  Why it seems you don’t know the story of the Stormy Kromer.”

He then regaled me with the story of a minor league ball player who, when he was not playing ball, was a railroad engineer and a tough character. Stormy had lost a few too many hats to the icy winds whipping through his locomotive, so one morning he asked his wife to modify one of his baseball hats by sewing ear flaps on the thing. She also put ties on the front so Stormy could tighten the hat to fit his head. It was different from the traditional engineer hats and he took a lot of guff from the other train engineers, but Stormy loved his hat because it stayed on his head, high winds and all.

My grandfather met Stormy one cold winter day at a railroad terminal in Northern Michigan.  They hit it off immediately and talked for over an hour.  Seeing that my grandfather was freezing, Stormy handed him his hat and said, “Try this on.”  My grandfather loved it.  Stormy told him to keep it, saying, “Enjoy being warm Charlie, and don’t take any guff from anybody about how it looks.  I think it looks good and if you’re warm and you like it, to hell with the rest of them.”

When I laughed at my grandfather in that hat many years later he told me, “Dennis, while it is important to take people’s opinion about you and what you do into account, ultimately you have to be happy and sure of yourself regardless.”

When I joined Spitting Nickels as lead singer I had never performed in front of people before, and I was extremely nervous about it.  Around the same time I was in the Alphorn Shop in Gaylord, Michigan, and I saw a Stormy Kromer, just like the one my grandfather wore years before.  The salesperson began to tell me story, but I stopped her and said “I already know!’

I then remembered the advice my grandfather had given me all those years ago, so I bought that hat (made in Ironwood, Michigan) and wear it proudly when I sing.  I don’t know whatever happened to my grandfather’s original Stormy Kromer, but every time I wear mine I feel a little part of him with me.    

Do you have plans to record a follow-up to The Hard Way ?

We plan to be in the studio in August to record a follow-up.  We have twelve songs ready to go.
 Is there anyone in particular who has influenced your sound ?

How clichéd is it to say "The Beatles?"  But, at the end of the day, they gave everyone the vocabulary for modern song-writing.  Toss in the Stones, the Who, the Faces, Spencer Davis, a bunch of Motown and you are on the right track.
How did you hook up with the Muggs?

Various members of the Muggs and the Nickels have been drinking buddies over the years -- hanging around the same watering holes and going to the same shows.  We're huge fans of their music and were very eager to play on the same bill with them.
What’s happening now in the Detroit Music scene?

Music in Detroit is thriving.  There are usually a dozen great shows every weekend and the music is comes from many different genres.  It is easy to see as many as ten bands poised for a breakout year.  We love being a part of this scene.

The Muggs are blokes with different strokes or, er…possess a hue and cry reminiscent of Brian Johnson doin’ Bon Scott backed by Leslie West’s Mountain Music. This is heavy metal take-no-prisoners power pop amped up to the max, overtaking Big Star and approaching the upper stratosphere of late period Badfinger.  These cats rock hard and get down…way down - like Roy Wood on Turkish Tram Conductor Blues or Black Sabbath humping Nazereth to create a bastard child who surpasses every low expectation of his proud parents. Have Mercy - this is just too good to be true.

In 2008 The Muggs released On With The Show, their righteously anticipated follow-up the Ugliest Band CD. It’s a phenomenal work of a promise revealed - from the rock hard Get it On to the driving relentless psychedelic landscape of On With The Show. The band re-creates Beatlesque backgrounds that sound similar but different.

Gonna Need My Help is an absolute brutal metal rocker highlighting Danny Methric massive contributions to the Muggs overall sound. His high scratchy tenor sounds a bit like Dan McCafferty and his guitar wizardry gives a nod and a wink to Tony Iommi combined with the rich tonal elegance of Jim McCarty (but less aloof).

Tony Muggs sat down at his laptop to answer a few questions about his own outfit.

I've heard you are the next big thing to come out of Detroit. What is that like for you to hear such praise?

That's news to us! Really, there are so many great bands in Detroit, even to be mentioned as one possible band to break out is quite flattering.  Many times, it's a shame that people wait for the radio to tell them what's cool.  They should realize, we've been here all along, we just don't have the opulent tour buses to show for it!

How can you live up to such a standard and still feel balanced?

Simple.  Believe in yourself and play from the heart.  if yer in it to 'get rich' or 'be a star' you'll be chasing yer tail more often than not.  The Muggs started playing blues rock at a time in Detroit when it was most unfashionable and passe.  We earned people's respect and now you'd say we're the next 'big thing'. Follow yer vision man!

What's your greatest strength as a band?

No ego.  We are all brothers.  We get along famously and have a collective goal.

Brothers…collective – are you commies?
Huh…What the…?

How would you describe your music? I hear several influences that aren't mentioned in association with your sound such as late-period Roy Wood or Black Sabbath meets Nazareth with a little Leslie West on the side. What do you think?

Man, all of those bands rule. We relish in the fact that our sound is of that ilk.  We write originals so we sound like the Muggs.  if you like Led Zepp or Hendrix, chances are we'll sound something like them but nothing at all like them because we are the Muggs.  Follow me?

How did you hook up with Spitting Nickels?

Eddie Baranek is an old friend of the Muggs. He was in an amazing band called the Sights and continues to be in amazing projects like the Spitti ng Nickels.  We met in 2001 and have been tight ever since.  His projects always have a fresh feel and the spitting nickels have that and more.  

How do see the current state of the current Music Scene in Detroit?
Alive and well. Detroit is and has been a hot bed of world class talent for decades.

White’s Bar will host The Muggs and Spitting Nickels wsg A World on Strike, Danger Society and Gunshot Army on Friday April 24th. Show begins @ 8pm



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