Here Comes a Regular

Tempe trio makes the best racket you've never heard

Once upon a time, in a valley hot as hell, two refugees from the Slims wandered a lonely desert path where the coyote's mocking laughter was the only music for miles. Suddenly, from behind an elderly saguaro, the lanky former bassist of Flying 99 appeared, and the rest is history.

The trio named itself the Regulars and, with relentless dedication to original songs, filled the valley with a river of music. But where was the audience? Save the travelers who stumbled across them and the scattered few who got hooked, the Regulars have more often played to the desert's haunting echoes than to the crowd they hoped to draw.

It remains to be seen whether this tale will end happily or become Tempe's next rock 'n' roll ghost story, but the Regulars are marching on, patched together from two bands that fizzled out last year. Bassist Steve Metz of Flying 99 joined guitarist Greg Simmons and drummer Scott Seymann, both from the late, lamented Slims, to form this refreshingly straightforward rock band.

"The songs have to fit in a trio setting, so they have to be very simple, with not a lot of musical melody because it requires a lot more orchestration," says Simmons, a guitar virtuoso whose face is perpetually screened by a mop of hair. Nonetheless, between the band's striking vocal harmonies and Simmons' deranged guitar solos, the Regulars' simplicity takes on a life of its own.

Only together since October--"a Libra band," according to Metz--it seems the members of this neatly packaged trio found one another at the right time. Simmons and Seymann continued playing together after the Slims broke up, but their intentions had changed and both were more interested in composing and arranging songs. Simmons was quickly transformed into a songwriting machine and determined to work on his previously untested voice.

"He was bringing three to four new songs a week," says Seymann, who was also writing and playing his kit with brushes, while using a cardboard box as a makeshift drum stool.

After several months, it was time to add a bassist. Seymann, who has a master's degree in business and works as a sound editor for Fox Animation Studios, remembers how they stuttered to move the band forward. "I was anxious to be playing out, but I didn't want to push anything before it was time," he says. But Simmons needed a shove, and, ultimately, it took Seymann's coaxing to add another musician. "He was real patient, but finally he said, 'It's time. We gotta do it,'" Simmons says.

Meanwhile, Simmons had been working with Metz for about two years at Musicians Discount, a Mesa guitar shop. After Flying 99's crash, Metz had been writing his own stuff and singing with Joe Myers at his Thursday-night Hollywood Alley gigs. "I was just relaxing and enjoying not being in a band," says Metz. But Simmons didn't waste any time, and once the light bulb went on, it was a turbo-powered courtship. "One day, out of the blue, Greg just said, 'Why don't you come over and play some bass and sing some high harmonies?' So I went down and played, with the cardboard box, and I think it's fair to say that it clicked."

After some natural hesitation which lasted all of two days, rehearsals began, a significant song list was built, and two months later, the Regulars played their first set, opening for Satellite at Long Wong's, a date they're quite grateful for. Simmons, who is known for some seriously wailing guitar, recalls his singing debut modestly. "It was really painful because I was used to getting onstage and playing guitar and being comfortable, sounding decent. It was difficult because we didn't sound as good as I thought we could." As a guitar teacher and virtual master of the damn thing, he finds singing much more of a challenge, and much less heroic. But he's not alone with his scratchy blues voice. In fact, he's enthusiastically supported by Seymann and Metz, who not only add honey-dripping harmonies, but also sing their own songs.

Simmons contends that the band's weakest point is his own singing. But he's stubborn--"I don't want to have to rely on a singer to get my ideas across"--and luckily, the Regulars are determined to negotiate the vocals issue. An easy-grooving song such as "Finer Things" works toward a greater contrast between the notes of Simmons' voice and those of the guitars. Also, the focus on added falsettos sung in the chorus, "What you gonna do if you ever find it? What you gonna do if you ever get it? What you gonna do if you ever forget?" points to the accomplishment of the song. Metz's and Seymann's voices act as a bridge, a neutral peacemaker between lead vocals and instruments. Working with that premise, the band will have a better chance of improving, and, for that matter, surviving.

The Regulars' negotiating dynamic is also characteristic of their songwriting. "I'm really proud of the fact that we all write and we all sing. It's dominated by Greg's stuff, but the motherfucker writes four songs a week. I'm happy with that," Metz boasts about their prolific guitarist. Metz adds, "It isn't showing any signs of slowing down or stopping."

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