The New Orleans indie rock trio identifies the songs that chart its musical universe.
Indie rock band Bantam Foxes are music fans first. When their album Triumph came out last fall, brothers Collin and Sam McCabe couldn't tell their story without mentioning the bands they like in the process. Saturday night, they'll play the Old U.S. Mint at 8 p.m. Today they've outlined the eight songs that define their musical universe. When astronomers decide Pluto's a planet again, we'll come back for a ninth song.
1. Queens of the Stone Age - "You Can’t Quit Me Baby"
The first time I heard Queens of the Stone Age was about 10 years ago. I got a copy of Lullabies to Paralyze and it all went downhill from there. I fell in love the heavy guitars and drums and loved how something that seemed so anti-pop was still so, well, pop. For the longest time I’ve modeled my bass tones off of their records--just ask Ben Lorio, who’ll tell you that the only reference tracks I gave him for our record,Triumph were …Like Clockwork in its entirety. Last fall on a drive from St. Louis to New Orleans, Sam and I listened to every Queens record and single chronologically. That was right before we started working on the new songs that we’ve been recording, and I’d like to think that marathon was a main influence in the songwriting. This song is from QOTSA’s first record. The slow burn makes it a staple for our long drives.
2. The Thermals - "When We Were Alive"
I just got into the Thermals a couple years ago. I had all of their records but had only ever really listened to Now We Can See. Last summer I needed something to listen to on my bike, and suddenly Ii could not stop listening to the Thermals. When I was still using last.fm, they jumped up to my top three artists in a week from near obscurity, and within two weeks they were my number one most-played artist. I don’t know why I fell in love with this band so suddenly, but their records have never gotten old to me. Maybe it’s the simplicity, maybe it’s the guitar tones, but I think it probably has to do with how effortlessly Hutch seems to write fantastic pop songs.
3. RX Bandits - "My Lonesome Only Friend"
RX Bandits' "My Lonesome Only Friend" made me weep the first time I heard it. This opening track to their last studio record signaled a goal completed, a clear indication that they'd completely shaken the reputation they'd formed over 10 years as an adolescent ska band. "My Lonesome Only Friend" is that moment when you look at your 20-something adult son and realize he's no longer a child but a grown man who won't be living at home anymore. Their progression to this point was barely gradual, but it showed me that your first few steps as a band are critical to your lasting legacy. RX Bandits has since reunited and will be releasing a new studio album on Tuesday. I will probably cry when I hear the opening track yet again.
4. "Cake - "Comfort Eagle"
Collin and I met at a Cake concert. They played "Comfort Eagle," which is a title track for one of their records but a minor song in their catalog. What struck me is that the audience acted as a sixth band member for them, chanting gang vocals and making a huge impact on the experience of the show. We realized we were watching masters grooming a cult they'd acquired over a very long time. That room of Cake fans showed us the value loyalty and perseverance in a powerful way. The next day, we talked extensively about long-term planning for Bantam Foxes. We are building a religion, and that doesn't happen by cashing all your chips in on a one-hit embarrassment.
5. Superdrag - "Sucked Out"
"Sucked Out" by Superdrag is quite possibly the best hidden gem of the '90s in our opinion. The song peaked at No. 17 on the Modern Rock Charts in 1996 and describes the trials of an underrated band who was grappling with business crap but doing just fine with their constant touring schedule. A guitar-driven touring band with a hard-hitting drummer that flies wonderfully under the radar? Sounds familiar. Sounds like a life reasonably well-lived.
6. The White Stripes - "Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground"
I've loved The White Stripes since the first day my dad showed me their third album, White Blood Cells, which came out about the same time I started playing the guitar. Jack White's playing style has always been an influence of mine, sort of a spastic combination of the blues and garage-punk. This song, though, has been my favorite since I heard that opening squeal of feedback and that gnarly crunch of the Big Muff fuzz before Meg barrels in with her stone-age backbeat.
7. Beck - "The New Pollution"
When I was a kid in St. Louis, we used to drive around in the summertime in my dad's late-'60s VW Beetle with the top down and listen to this album, partly because it was the only CD that was ever in that car, and partly because that album rules. Beck has always been someone I admired, someone who can reinvent himself with every album he releases.
8. AC/DC - "Rock & Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution"
Back in February, Collin and I drove with our pal Jason Songe to Houston to see Queens of the Stone Age, and Back in Black was one of only a few CDs Jason had in his car. It had been a long time since I had seriously sat down and decided to listen to an AC/DC album the whole way through, and I had forgotten that those dudes are the perfect rock and roll band. Lots of people try to overdo it and overthink it, but, as Brian Johnson puts it so poetically, sometimes rock and roll is just rock and roll.