The Dragmules have come a long way from the days when they used to play blues riffs to techno beats in Josh's home studio. Now they're a full-fledged rock band with an album on Atlantic called "2A." In a sense though, they're the same band and everything that brought them together in that modest setting is still very much in evidence: friendship, spontaneity, and a deep love of music. "We had no pre-conceived notions when we began jamming," says Josh. "One thing led to another and we figured why leave such great music at home, collecting dust in my bedroom." "I had never been in a band," says Trippy, "but I really wanted to be and I knew these guys from way back. A couple years ago we used to get together every Sunday and just happened to get heard . . . It's always been, above all, about friendship and making music we liked."
The album is named for the East Village bar where, during The Dragmules' ascent, Trippy worked as a bartender two or three nights a week. 2A was usually just another node in the East Village gauntlet of pleasure and excess; another flesh-crammed way station reeking of sweat, perfume, and alcohol. But when Trippy held court and manned the taps, the smokey, languid bar came to life and became a magnet for an intriguing cast of raucous regulars, kindred spirits, and strangers in the night.
The rest of the Dragmules have also logged a good many hours on 2A's barstoolsand to see them there all together, lounging as if in their own living rooms, a quip and a quaff always at hand, is to realize how much of a hub the place is for the band. Most of them live within walking distance, their rehearsal studio is right across the street, and it's located just a few blocksfrom where they've played some of their greatest gigs--memorable, transcendent nights at Mercury Lounge, Brownies, and CBGB's.
Although the current lineup played their first live show just one year ago,the origins of the band go much deeper. All of the band members, with the exception of Paul, met in Dallas. Josh and Marty played together in a popular local band called the Daylights known for their searing, sweaty hybrid of funk and metal.
Trippy, an artist who had shown his work all over Dallas and also worked as a bartender at a local hotspot, was a big Daylights fan. He met his future bandmates through frequent appearances at their gigs and by being a presence on the small but robust Dallas scene.
Johnny, who is significantly younger than his Texas hombres, was years shy of the drinking age when he met Trippy in the bar where he worked. Always more of a roots rocker, Johnny wasn't a huge Daylights fan, but he liked their sense of humor and became friends with the band.
Paul is from the New York area and joined the Dragmules last year as a replacement for the original drummer. He played with The Psychedelic Furs for five years, from 1984 to 1988 and appeared on the "Midnight to Midnight" album. He also played drums with Iggy Pop on the "Instinct" album and tour.
Although most of the band has Texas in common, their musical sensibilities and influences come from all over the map, which translates into a highly eclectic but uncalculated sound. "I Grew up on Hendrix, Iggy, and Switched on Bach," says Josh. "I think our sound is an unconscious synthesis and reflects our abilities to filter individual influences into what we're able to do as a group." Indeed, musical coexistence between seemingly disparate genres is a trademark of the Dragmule "sound." The first single from the album, "Send Away," shows the band in all their jangly, anthematic finery. It's a rousing yet plaintive song of dissipation and emotional distress whose first line sets the tone and hints at Trippy's knack for Dylanesque brooding: "up all night inside my mind/the morning tells the tale of bein' blind."
The prickly crunch and swagger of "Under the Underbelly," and "On Lower East Side Time" show a darker side of the band. "Why So Glum," replete with found phone message intro, zany lounge lizard verses ("lady don't you know/you're looking like you just bit off Christ's big toe"), and breaks that scream speed metal parody show how a jumble of genres can add up to a real good time.
The basic tracks for "2A" were recorded at Bearsville studio in Woodstock, where the Dragmules spent a month while working on the album. The rustic setting was a drastic change from the urban maelstrom of Downtown New York, whose influence is clearly evident in the band's music. This created an interesting paradox which they used to their advantage. According to Josh: "It was kind of weird because we're a city band and being so far reaiffed from it made us that much more aware of the source of our inspiration. In other words, because we weren't so rushed and right in middle of our normal environment, we were able to more accurately capture that same environment."
The Dragmules' broad range of musical influences and knack for group synthesis has coalesced into an album of great depth and vitality. The music strikes an extraordinary balance between roughhewn, impromptu brinkmanship and subtle yet shimmering precision.