SAN FRANCISCO -- Taking a long swig from his beer bottle as he stood onstage at the tiny Club Cocodrie recently, Supersuckers frontman Eddie Spaghetti sloshed a little down the front of his shirt.
"Aw, look, I'm slobbering on myself," he drawled lazily, peering out from beneath his white cowboy hat, wiping his mouth. "Well, I'm wearin' this fancy suit, so it's OK."
With that, the Supersuckers, including guitarists Ron Heathman and Dan Bolton, and drummer Dancing Eagle (born Dan Seigal), rolled out the opening chords of a note-perfect rendition of the title track from their latest album, 1997's Must've Been High.
It was a fitting opening for a twangy evening that suggested the Supersuckers' recent stay in Texas has brought out the country in them. It's a style fans first heard on the 1997 album, a departure from their trademark garage-rock sound.
The show was one of the final evenings of the Seattle band's tour, which took it to South by Southwest, the Austin, Texas, music industry fest, and back again. Although the Supersuckers hit the same towns on their way to and from Texas, there was a difference the second time around: The westbound shows took a turn for the twang, emphasizing the country material from Must've Been High, the Supersuckers' biggest-selling album to date.
The change came after a turn at SXSW that was successful, according to band manager Danny Bland, even though the Supersuckers haven't yet secured a deal for their latest project, tentatively titled The Supersuckers Play Your Mom.
"It went really well," Bland said about the band's SXSW stand. "The shows went great, and we got a lot of calls on the old voicemail the next day."
The Supersuckers' primary stock in trade has been their American-rock
sound. Originally from Tucson, Ariz., the power-chord-driven punk band moved to Seattle just before the early-'90s grunge explosion. It released six albums since 1992.
Billed as the Bland Ol' Opry, the returning road show found the stage
crowded with the addition of a pedal steel player and a bassist borrowed
from opening act Gerald Collier's band. Collier himself joined the fun
at one point, contributing a tray of whiskey shots for the band and an
emotional toast about how much fun they'd had travelling together.
Relying heavily on material from Must've Been High, but also dipping into some of their older songs, the Supersuckers were in fine, loose form.
Rollicking, fast versions of many Must've Been High favorites,
including "Dead in the Water," "Non-Addictive Marijuana,"
"Barricade" (RealAudio excerpt),
"Roadworn and Weary" (RealAudio excerpt)
and a few older tunes -- from a previous
incarnation called the Junkyard Dogs -- had crowd members swinging and
In keeping with the overall smart-alecky mood, Spaghetti introduced "The Captain" (a song referring to an ill-fated recording project with the Damned's Captain Sensible) as "a warning against meeting your heroes." The Supersuckers also performed covers of Floyd Tillman's "Nails in My Coffin" and Conway Twitty's "Image of Me."
Despite the success of Must've Been High, the band has retained its fiercely anti-music-industry reputation. Unwilling to "play the game," the band has floated without a label since it was "released" from its contract with Interscope (following Interscope's merger/folding/acquisition). "Freed up to pursue other relationships" is how the band is often described -- but the bandmembers genuinely seem to see it that way.
The band's manager views the Supersuckers' prickly reputation with well-tempered sarcasm. "We like record companies, we do," Bland said. "The longer it takes a record to come out, the hungrier the fans are to buy it. Now, that's just good business."
According to Heathman, the trip to Texas for the music industry's big schmooze-and-be-seen fest had solidified the band's defiant lack of marketability.
"I'm over the industry," he said. "It's just about playing songs. I learned a valuable lesson trying to play that corporate rock game. It's not for us."
Still, The Supersuckers Play Your Mom is complete and waiting only for the right contract to come along, he said.
"If there was a possible way to self-release everything, that's what
we'd do," Heathman said. Describing the band's experiences at SXSW,
Heathman said it had been approached enthusiastically by numerous industry types. "Yeah, and I gave 'em all our card," he said with a smile, extending his middle finger.
"It's been pretty funny," Bland mused after Saturday's set. "After [SXSW], we were getting all these calls from people who not only wouldn't talk to us before, but also from people who'd ... well, who'd dropped us before. That's always kind of a nice feeling," he said with a laugh.