Headphone Revelations

With its new album, Superdrag takes a trip into new sonic territory

A native of Knoxville, a college town that bleeds Volunteer orange, Davis grew up on the Motown and Stax/Volt soul records his parents played and Beatles albums handed down from his cousins. He subsequently went through a besotted SST punk phase before finding his way back to the British Invasion pop that turned him on as a kid.

"I sort of figured that that sort of godhead of rock is the source for so many other things," he says. "And once I heard Big Star, that's when I decided that I wanted to start a band, because they were like the perfect synthesis of the mid-'60s Brit Invasion with the Memphis Stax sound."

Of course, it can be tough to make your mark in the aggro '90s when your only calling cards are the subtle charms of melody and harmony. But Davis says his biggest challenge was finding like-minded people to play with.

"I guess I first started trying to put a band together when I got out of high school. At that time, there were a lot of would-be Pearl Jams and would-be Smashing Pumpkins. There wasn't anybody really interested in playing a Brit Invasion/Big Star-influenced type of thing."

Davis hooked up with the other members by playing drums in a Knoxville group called The Used, which eventually evolved into Superdrag. His ability to play drums and a variety of other instruments--guitar, piano, organ, Mellotron, sitar and theremin on the new album alone--might open up the possibility of some intriguing solo projects in the future, but for now he says he's consumed with exploring Superdrag's musical possibilities.

One nagging by-product of Head Trip's trippy sound and occasionally flowery lyrics is that critics are assuming that Davis has been altering his consciousness a bit lately, either with chemicals or religion. The sitar-inflected album coda, "The Art of Dying," borrows an old George Harrison song title and flirts with Eastern imagery. And the cryptic acoustic ballad "She Is a Holy Grail" is about as surreal as Davis has ever allowed himself to be: "Sweet darjeeling dream/Of sugarcubes and cream/In a bridal gown/Inhaling nicotine."

When asked about the possible influence of mind-altering substances, Davis merely laughs and says, "Certainly, the recreational habits of the writer have some bearing on the final product." He's a bit more forthcoming about religion.

"There are quite a few religious images, and I think those are pretty powerful images, because people have this reverence for them," he says. "I was brought up in a very strict Baptist environment. Anything that a person is exposed to or hears finds itself into songs that they do."

Superdrag is scheduled to perform on Tuesday, May 12, at Gibson's in Tempe, with Beat Angels. Showtime is 8 p.m.

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