Apt Pupils

Indie supergroup Eyes Adrift offers a dream fusion of Meat Puppets, Nirvana and Sublime

History, goes the brutal wisdom, is written by the winners. The dead cannot speak; those who come through the other side intact are, by default if not by choice, the ones left to establish and preserve the official record.

Culturally, that gnomic truth often manifests itself in the impulse to deify, the grisly and familiar process of posthumous heroification. Jim Morrison's quick ascent to the ranks of Baudelaire and Wilde, along with Elvis' transmogrification from entertainer to full-on mythic trope, are perhaps the most visible such phenomena in the history of rock music.

The bombast that follows the burnout of young talent, of course, is an especially ugly aspect of our musical culture. Yet other voices, quieter and more articulate, will have their say. "He's joined that stupid club," Kurt Cobain's mother famously judged, when informed of her son's suicide. After eight years and millions of subsequent words, that single declarative statement remains, in some ways, the most accurate summation of the event put down in cold type.

A young Curt Kirkwood uneasily wears his crown of spoons.
Jon Gipe
A young Curt Kirkwood uneasily wears his crown of spoons.
Curt Kirkwood: The influence of his seminal work in the Meat Puppets is the connecting force for Eyes Adrift.
Curt Kirkwood: The influence of his seminal work in the Meat Puppets is the connecting force for Eyes Adrift.

That club, the roll call of Young Dead American Talent, gained more than a few members during the 1990s. And how the list did grow. Cobain's suicide, of course, was rapidly enshrined as the archetypal flameout. But there were other names, like Sublime's Brad Nowell; Blind Melon's Shannon Hoon; the Replacements' Bob Stinson; Skinny Puppy's Dwayne Goettel; Blues Traveler's Bobby Sheehan; and Tripping Daisy's Wes Berggren.

All dead; all, to greater or lesser degrees, dope-fueled.

Curt Kirkwood, whose musical career began more than a decade before some of those musicians', never turned up on that short list. His brother Cris, however, very nearly did.

Readers of these pages will be familiar with that story, which need not be repeated. Be advised that the vicious part of it appears to be past. Cris Kirkwood still lives in Phoenix, where he keeps an understandably low profile. His long and much-publicized struggle with drug addiction is reportedly gaining tactical ground. ("He's better than he was," offers Curt. "Probably that's enough said.")

Cris Kirkwood survived. So did Curt, a wondrously gifted guitarist and songwriter, who continues to write his own history.

And on this leg of his trip, Curt Kirkwood finds himself newly accompanied by Nirvana's Krist Novoselic and Sublime's Bud Gaugh, two consummate musicians who saw their bandmates pulled under permanently. Under the name Eyes Adrift, this remarkable trio is preparing for an 11-date tour and an album release.

Proving, among other things, that surviving entitles you to add as many chapters as you want.


In the summer of 2001, Curt Kirkwood traveled through the West, playing a string of acclaimed solo shows that took him up and down the coast. One of those gigs was at the legendary McCabe's in Los Angeles.

"I did the solo gig through the summer, after the bassist for the new Meat Puppets [Andrew DuPlantis] quit in the spring, and some friends of Bud Gaugh's saw me playing at McCabe's and told him that I was good."

Gaugh, late of Sublime, was in the process of finishing a stint with the Long Beach Dub All-Stars. The timing was fortuitous; Gaugh was looking for a new outlet, and he decided to make a call to Curt after the solo tour was over.

"I went through Seattle a few days after the McCabe's show, and Krist [Novoselic] and I hung out the next day a little bit and he mentioned wanting to maybe do something together," Kirkwood says.

Krist, with Alfredo Hernandez of Queens of the Stone Age in tow, traveled to Austin and jammed with Kirkwood. The trio made plans to go into the studio; Hernandez's schedule, however, wouldn't free him for that kind of commitment.

But Bud Gaugh, who'd by this time made his separate interest known to Curt, was ready and willing.

"We actually set up first in the studio," Kirkwood says, "and that's where it started. We've still never just set our shit up in the same room and played together. It's really proceeding from a point of ignorance. I mean, both those guys know my shit from when they were young, and they have their bands, and I hear about them, so we all know about each other. But there is a focal point in that they kind of grew up on the Meat Puppets, and then, in turn, I had my own thing furthered through their efforts.

"There's some strange synchronicity going on somewhere," he muses. "I was on tour by myself. And my solo gig can be pretty cool, given the right circumstances." (In fact, as anyone who caught Kirkwood's 2001 solo set can attest, he delivered some of his best acoustic playing ever at those shows. Archived MP3s of several performances, floating around on various Internet sites, are worth seeking out.) "So I think it was all coming from the proper perspective, like, 'Wow, there's a loose cannon out there. Maybe we should aim it at somebody's ass.'"

He considers. "Three loose cannons, I should say. Actually, I'm more of a pop gun compared to those guys. I'm the oldest and the least successful. I'm also the smallest person in the band, for a change."

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