Every Wednesday is Heritage Hump Day! That's because every Wednesday from now to the end of the year or before someone really big stops us, Heritage Hump Records (a temporary subsidiary of Onus Records) and New Times will be bringing you a limited edition collector's item of a much beloved Phoenix band that walked the scorched earth of Arizona before the year 2000 A.D. We will honor that band with a commemorative digital single that you, the digital public, will have only seven days to download to your computers and smart phones before this single gets marked up to an exorbitant price as determined by the mp3 collector community. When that happens, a new Heritage Hump subject will be chosen and the free-for-a-limited-time-only cycle begins anew.
Back in the early ’90s, you either had to become a national Top 40 band, OD, or kill somebody to merit any ink in New Times, or so was the misperception of many overdosing, homicidal musicians at the time.
A band's best bet for coverage was sending a demo or self-released CD into "Tapes in the Mail," later upgraded to "Desert Discs" when C30s, C60s and C90s fell out of usage.
Such was the route of The Slims, a popular Tempe alt-country/Americana band whose namesake slim discography was comprised of one CD called Slow Road to Hell, dutifully reviewed upon release in this November 30,1995, edition of Desert Discs by Matt Golonski.
"Slims drummer Scott Seymann sports a "London Calling" tee shirt in this CD's insert photo. That's tres cool, but the Clash is light-years from the Slims' stripped-down, medium-tempo fare, which more easily recalls the Feelies. Greg Simmons' guitar unfurls melodic lines with a kick of distortion, and when he yanks that whammy bar in "Writin' Me a Letter," the gritty riffs float up like camp smoke in a spaghetti Western. The Slims' rhythm section is consistently solid as Joe Vallee's bass bounces along over Seymann's irrepressible snare and crash cymbal. There's a garage angst to the sound, but it never seems like the kids are just beating on trash cans.
Singer/guitarist Connie Maverick has one of those voices people either love or hate; she's a little bit Ricki Lee Jones, a little bit Eddie Vedder on estrogen-replacement therapy. There's no question she's a gutsy lead vocalist, but at times she lays on the theatrical quavering a bit thick. Maverick is more fun (and much more convincing) when she's either unabashedly rocking or dancing around the vocals with campy hick stylings (best used in the introduction to "Sweet Dreams").
The slender ones demonstrate considerable versatility, moving from the countrified stylings and political high voltage of "Nothin' Wrong" into the bluesy title track. And when Simmons isn't proving how tight a lock he has on linear Lou Reedy licks, he's whipping out a chunk of power pop that would make Iggy Pop lacerate himself.
Not to be confused with Richard Simmons' back-up band on "Sweatin' to the Moldies," the Slims are four highly skilled, tightly knit Tempe bar rockers who aren't afraid to let their Southwestern jangle hang out all over this debut disc—a desert treasure chocked with cool surprises."
Did I mention that New Times was a lot snarkier in the Nineties? It may have had something to do with the bitterness, getting paid, I dunno, $10 a record review. Some weeks you could crank out dozens of these!
This week, in honor of The Slims, a Long Wongs favorite who probably would've gotten their due had they hung around longer, we're featuring the aforementioned track "Sweet Dreams," which Connie Maverick (now Connie Hoy) recalls as her favorite Slims track.
"It was written by a buddy Skinny Bill [Roberts]. It was a Kerouac tribute originally. Nonsensical lines that intertwined. The more I listen to it, the more I love it. When we played for a buddy's birthday party last year [Paul Cardone, the unofficial Mayor of Tempe] this became a fav. I always thought another song of ours would be the 'hit', but in retrospect, 'Sweet Dreams,' combining the melody and harmonies, is it. Scott B. Seymann, our drummer, encouraged me to do the three part harmonies myself and it was a bit of a challenge, but I muscled through and it's something I am very proud of."
"I have fond memories of the early days, when Connie and I would just rehearse acoustic in her kitchen, and record demos on a 4-track," recalls drummer Seymann, who keeps time with Tramps & Thieves these days. "Connie became like a sister. When she was still in the hospital holding her newborn son, I showed up and put a drumstick in his hand so he wouldn't turn out to be a guitar player. Sure enough, he's a guitar player now. One memory I can't seem to delete is when I finally got up the nerve to chat up some girls after a gig at The Spirit Room, I realized they were more interested in Connie than me. That set me back a while."
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Oddly enough, Golonski's mention of Seymann's T-shirt in that record review still resonates now.
"I think we had the coolest t-shirts in town, all thanks to Joe Vallee and his Motel 6 t-shirt. Probably could have sold way more of those CDs if we'd just printed more," Seymann says.
As a producer of the upcoming movie, Battlecreek, Maverick assembled a band of local musicians to do some of the soundtrack's music. Dubbed the Stem Family Band, it included the Pistoleros' Mark Zubia and Curtis Grippe of Dead Hot Workshop. "In talking with Mark and Curtis, it was instantly family. This is truly what Tempe music is about. Good friends coming together, having fun and making music. I'll never forget the acceptance."
Tramps & Thieves' next gig is July 11 at the Lion's Den in Pinetop.