Over the last decade I’ve had lucky fun playing music with dozens of interesting people in basements, bars, and studios all over Memphis, with occasional recon missions into Arkansas and Mississippi. Some people I’ve played in scores of bands with, others just one lone show somewhere, usually Murphy’s or Earnestine and Hazel’s for some reason. In undertaking an endless quest for new sounds, I’ve learned the quirks, passions and dirty secrets of many musicians’ musical worldview.
But I’ve also had lucky fun watching The Other Guys. Gigging, I’ve gotten to know this other pool of players, men and women in other bands that my groups have crossed paths with over the years, here and there, getting to know these people in a different, but still very musical, way.
Bret Krock, the sonic architect behind the rock n roll band Good Luck Dark Star, is my favorite example of the Other Guys phenomenon. He, as a guy, is my favorite. He’s easy to like; he’s nice, musically and socially interesting, and he likes cool stuff like robots and science. As a musician, he’s easy to admire because of the seemingly effortless way he manages to always sound uniquely Krockian in every band he shows up in.
The Krockian sound first came to my attention in 2001 at a show in some freezing concrete dungeon. A band I was in was playing with Bret’s band Eighty Katie, and I recognized the guy with the Rickenbacker and sweatbands as a clerk from the Cat’s Records in Union. He had once betrayed himself as an Urge Overkill fan when tallying my purchase, and we began sharing brief conversations about cool music whenever we encountered one another.
That night, Eighty Katie clanged out fast, hooky songs, with funny chords and changes, big shiny choruses and good notes hung from the right beats. The next time I was at Cat’s I bought their album, Launch Pad Rock. It is superb and I still play songs from it, ten years later. It’s kinda 1970s, kinda punk rock, kinda weird, and familiar.
After Eighty Katie, Bret was in what I remember as a sort of local super group, The Lights. I saw them play only once, and read about them in local press. I have a memory of hearing them on WEVL, but it could easily be false. The sonic impression of that band that lingers in my mind is a calculated tangle of funny chords, gigantic fluffy choruses gilded with vocal harmony, and the pumping heart of rock n roll. The corners sparkled with bright guitars, with lizardy organs coiling in the center. It was kinda 1970s, kinda punk rock. I remember it being weird, but sounding like radio success. I’m sure the other players brought talents and influences to the table. I remember the Krockian aspect.
A few years ago, Good Luck Dark Star began taking shape. During some random meeting, Bret and I talked about me coming in as bass player, and I visited his home to listen to Electric Light Orchestra and some particularly Krockian demos. It didn’t come to be, though, with excellent players and friends of mine filling the role, first Dirk Kitterlin and now Logan Hannah. Other players, Other Guys, stepped behind various other instruments, men and women I have met but don’t really know. Like all bands that go beyond a couple awkward rehearsals, the people in Good Luck Dark Star learned secrets about each other, and collected around the giant bubbling cauldron of rock n roll, throwing stuff into the stew.