American Dream

Speedbuggy USA: guns, booze, hicks and chicks

A quick-buck warning sign of cowpunk posturing would be the Southern twang in Timbo's singing voice. But he was actually raised in the South. The singer hails from a tiny village in Louisiana called Hammond, a burg famous for possessing the biggest alligator farm in the United States, and for being the place that made shoes for the Confederacy. Timbo left Hammond eight years ago and relocated to Los Angeles.

"I miss that town," he muses, "but there just ain't much going on there, ya know?"

Speedbuggy -- Timbo, guitarist Steve Kidwiler, drummer Pat Muzingo and bassist Brady Sloan -- came together in 1995. Muzingo did time with punk retro-vaudevillians Suckerpunch, while Kidwiler was in the celebrated NOFX. Last year, the group snagged a national tour with Bad Religion, but missed scheduled gigs in Tucson and Phoenix because of the usual indie-band no-dough nightmare.

Cisco punks: Speedbuggy USA in so much glory. From left, Brady Sloan, Timbo, Pat Muzingo and Steve Kidwiler.
Cisco punks: Speedbuggy USA in so much glory. From left, Brady Sloan, Timbo, Pat Muzingo and Steve Kidwiler.

"We were supposed to play with Bad Religion in Arizona, but our van broke down and we missed [them]."

With Speedbuggy, there's no overly earnest attempt to mask a trite lyric; instead the voice suitably defines a kind of laconic irony. Timbo can actually get away with singing a line like "She bring me sorrow/She bring me pain."

I was ripped out of my skull when I saw the band at Bar Deluxe in Hollywood a couple of years ago, but remember vividly the glorious wall of twangy noise led by the scowling coo of Timbo. And Pat Muzingo's Paul Cook-like drum slaps, Steve Kidwiler's speedy country-fried chording and Sloan's throbbing bass lines had all these greased-locked kids going up and down. There was no shortage of sweaty swagger, bodies bouncing off bodies and shambling girls with great tattoos.

Fights are a common occurrence at Speedbuggy shows. Things seem to naturally bust apart. Bottles smash and beer fizzes through the air in foamy streams. Sometimes the cops show up. The band understands it's a good thing if the cops arrive. Two months ago at a CD release bash in Los Angeles, the usual high jinks came down.

"You couldn't even move in the place," remembers Timbo. "Fights were breaking out and the club just flipped out. They cut us off after only six songs. It was great, though. Those things keep shows lively and energetic. I mean, we want people to be drinking and having a good time. The songs are all just basically songs to drink and get trashed to. Just to remind you that things really don't have to suck all the time."

Prior to Cowboys and Aliens, Speedbuggy released its 1997 debut, Hardcore Honky Tonk, followed by George Owens, a collection of punked-up George Jones and Buck Owens covers.

The new record is already getting regular spins on the radio in the northeast, an area of the country Speedbuggy has yet to discover. The disc has spurred a charge of momentum that will keep the band gigging at some of the finer shitholes throughout the USA.

"To be honest with you, I'd rather play some shithole than some so-called 'proper venue.' I think in those types of places people usually get way more drunk, they buy way more merchandise. That's perfect for us."

Knowing that washing dishes, fitting pipes,or hanging drywall is much harder work than getting drunk and playing rock 'n' roll, Timbo loathes those bands that bitch about the lifestyle. Speedbuggy funds its own tours working dreary day jobs.

"A lot of people don't realize that when you are in an indie band, you're not getting kicked down the cash like all these major-[label] bands are getting. For me to be on the road is pretty fun. I hate it when bands complain about how tough it is. Especially major bands that have a full-on bus. They fly around and then they say, 'Oh, being on the road is so hard.' And you're just like, 'Get up in the morning and do a real labor job like most Americans,' ya know?"

Does this mean the band must occasionally depend on the good graces of generous fans for casual support? Do they find themselves sleeping on many floors and couches?

"Yeah, actually we do," he says with a rueful laugh. "It's a sad thing to admit. When we can afford it, we try to get hotels." He pauses. Then he adds finally, "Make sure you let a lot of our fans out there know that we are looking for a place to stay."

Speedbuggy USA is scheduled to perform on Saturday, July 29, at the Emerald Lounge, with Johnny Ace. Showtime is 9:30 p.m.

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