Music News

Seedy Release

Face it, drummers don't get much respect.

There's an overabundance of easily quoted jokes illustrating this fact, usually underlining surly sentiments about how skinbeaters are viewed as useless and interchangeable, including one oft-quoted barb asking, "What do you call someone who hangs around with musicians?" (A drummer.)

But for local hard rockers The New Romantics, the drummer is probably one of the most vital members of the band. Finding the perfect percussionist was just one of many reasons it took the five-member rock outfit more than four years for its first album to hit store shelves.

Guitarist Brian Stylz says the desire to find just the right drummer was why the self-proclaimed "sleaze rock" band took so long to finish its debut disc, Love Letters & Death Threats, which cost more than $10,000 in studio time and other expenses. "A couple times, we'd get ready to press, and then we realized something was wrong or they didn't fit," Stylz says. "Our first drummer wasn't that good, and our second one was more into metal and clashed with our sound."

Figuring out the rhythm section was a vital part of the band's driving rock beats. Stylz says they'd rework songs or trash them altogether instead of simply dropping a new skinbeater into the mix. Ultimately, they ended up rerecording the album twice. "It's hard shit to understand, but the drummer is so important. If it was a guitar player, we could keep the tracks and go, 'Fuck, we need a new guitar player,'" Stylz says. "But the drummer is our fucking metronome and drives us."

Ultimately, The New Romantics found an ideal candidate in Denver's Joey Lowe, who matched up because of his fierce stickwork, but also because his dyed black locks and glam rock image meshed with the rest of The New Romantics. It also didn't hurt that Lowe was a hard drinker just like them, says bassist Lucky Dagger.

"The first time we saw him, he looked like a perfect fit, all L.A. and shit, looking like a glam rocker like us," Dagger says. "He didn't mind that we partied all the time, either, which is kinda why our second drummer freaked out and bailed. Because we're pretty crazy sometimes."

Dagger tells New Times about the band's party monster lifestyle as he kicks back on the balcony of his central Phoenix apartment with Stylz and front man Joey Thomas, passing around a joint and 40-ouncers of cheap beer. While the band's a long way from blockbuster concert tours and getting a video on MTV, they have certainly led the rock star lifestyle, with plenty of alcohol-fueled misadventures since forming partially out of the ashes of the Slash City Daggers (of which Lucky was a member) in 2002.

Between rowdy tales about hanging out at downtown dive bar The Newsroom Lounge or getting lit at Thomas' apartment and trying out his coin-operated novelty Breathalyzer, the bandmates describe scuffles with enraged jocks at a Lake Havasu City Denny's and accidentally winding up at a gay bar out in the Arizona desert along Interstate 10.

The band was halfway home from a gig in California when Stylz says they ran low on beer and stopped at a dive in the middle of nowhere to get enough booze to last them 'til the next liquor store. The story sounds like something akin to a Police Academy movie, where hapless cops happened upon the swishy saloon known as the Blue Oyster.

"So we're sitting there drinking mind erasers when I look around to see this Coors Light rainbow sign on one wall and a rainbow flag on the other wall, and I told Lucky, 'Uh, I'm not sure, dude, but I think we're at a gay bar,'" Stylz says. "They had really good tacos, though."

And while these raucous rockers sound like they're following G.G. Allin's infamous anthem "Drink, Fight, and Fuck" to a T, it's surprising such debauchery hasn't caused them to blow any gigs (although Lucky claims he was nearly popped for a DUI on his way to a show), and Thomas says he wouldn't do things any other way.

"Where's all the fun at if you can't fuck around once in a while with fighting or drinking too much or whatever and just getting into mischief?" asks the 28-year-old Thomas, who looks like Nikki Sixx and sounds like Denis Leary.

Debauchery fits the group's seedy music like a glove, as The New Romantics' songs are slick-yet-sleazy, a sound modeled after such '70s bands as MC5, Iggy & The Stooges, and Thin Lizzy. They're usually pegged as a glam band, and although they wear plenty of mascara and eyeliner during performances and name the New York Dolls and T. Rex as "big influences," Thomas says they shouldn't be pigeonholed in their idols' genre.

"We're kinda blues-influenced punk rock 'n' roll with a hard, slow, and steady beat," Thomas says. "There's a lot of twos and fours in our music. You could really fuck pretty hard to one of our songs."

Although The New Romantics are a far cry from the lonesome guitar fiddlings of Muddy Waters (another influence), their tunes share the same grim outlook as the blues, with songs filled with jaded lyrics about wasting time banging broads who're bad for them or getting ripped and winding up in the gutter.

Since they're not exactly poster children for sobriety or clean living, Dagger explains, it's only natural they prefer to play at smaller, divey joints like the Cypress Lounge in Phoenix or the Yucca Tap Room in Tempe versus booze-free venues like Modified Arts. "The type of people that come see us wanna get drunk and have a good time," Dagger says. "The idea of drinking bottled water all night is not so hot."

The bassist also says the band's fan base stretches across the globe, as their Web site ( has gotten hits from around the world, and they've shipped copies of their CD to Europe, Asia, and even the Middle East. They've landed a few choice gigs over the past few years, including opening for Mötley Crüe at Cricket Pavilion in 2005 and (surprisingly enough) performing on Channel 3's squeaky-clean Good Morning Arizona earlier this year. These appearances have generated plenty of response, in the form of fan mail and even a few death threats. Stylz claims he and Neil Impossible (the band's lead guitarist) have gotten a few angry e-mails "where guys claim they're gonna hang us by our belts."

In addition to murderous missives, Thomas says they've been getting fan mail from folks in the slammer. "We've got all sorts of weird motherfuckers who think we rule," Thomas says. "Lately, I've found out we're doing really well with a lot of people in jails and prisons who really like us. Brian's buddy went to Tent City for DUI, and says we're huge there. Go figure."

Guess perverted minds think alike.

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Benjamin Leatherman is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times. He covers local nightlife, music, culture, geekery, and fringe pursuits.