If legendary rock critic Greil Marcus wrote about The Sadies, he might have coined the term “the old weird Canada” instead of “old weird America,” his phrase to describe how Bob Dylan and The Band transformed The Anthology of American Folk Music on The Basement Tapes. And The Sadies pull that trick—though the term “trick” makes it sound both easy and cheap, which they never are—with their tunes, convincing you that you’ve heard the songs before, maybe even in a prior life. They all seem lived in, a bit spooky, earned. It’s no wonder, like The Band before them, they’ve become aces at backing up brilliant others, from Neko Case to Jon Langford to John Doe.
The Sadies are coming to Goleta’s Mercury Lounge on Saturday, August 13, nominally in support of their 2010 release Darker Circles (Yep Roc), but really just to rock. In a recent telephone interview, bassist Sean Dean gave his two cents on why The Sadies are worth the admission price: “It’s pretty great now because you can tell someone go look at us on YouTube and see how fast these crazy fuckers can play. If you’re interested in psychedelic country rock, come see us.”
The band often gets lumped into the alt-country heap, but Dean says, “That doesn’t really mean anything. I think of it as we’re a rock ’n’ roll band. People have been mixing country and rock for ages, in Southern California, in Bakersfield. You can pretend to be normal, but there’s always going to be something weird about you. As long as people are acknowledging us, it’s okay. When we don’t get labeled, we have a problem.”
In addition to being famed for their all-in live performances, the band likes to dress in suits, as homage to the country-music tradition. “We started wearing suits a long time ago, so are now doomed to wear suits all the time,” Dean half-laments. “As a kid, I thought, looking at that upright bass, ‘Wouldn’t it be great to tour the world playing one?’ But if I knew then what I know now—it’s huge—I would have picked the flute or something.” Still, he’s happy to get to dress up, as he admits, “I have a thing for the ’60s psychedelic period. I get to wear crazy shit onstage with paisley, things that other people look at and say, ‘Holy shit, what are you going to do in that?’ At tax time, I get to write off a really decadent part of my personality.”
Dean and drummer Mike Belitsky make up the rhythm section for guitarist frontmen brothers Dallas and Travis Good, and Dean admits the brother situation can take some monitoring. “There is a lot of working hard to maintain their relationship,” he says. “They’re both trying to be the best musicians they can, but deep down, they simply want to play guitar better and write better songs than the other brother. It works in our favor; it keeps us all on our toes.”
When The Sadies supported John Doe at SOhO in August 2009, they were double-plus Good, as it were. Dallas even has this scary visual thing going on. (Think Nick Cave mixed with something from a Tim Burton stop-action film.) He’s an ace guitarist, though, and when he and his equally talented brother get going, it’s clear the sibling thing has some magic. For instance, when the group did a rollicking cover of X’s “The New World,” the closing instrumental section slowly seemed to pull apart, the two guitarists taking their leads into different zones, splitting the song into a wondrous, suck-the-audience-in hole.
Who knows what musical chasms that will open at the Merc.
Catch Canada’s The Sadies with opener Jesse Sykes at the Mercury Lounge (5871 Hollister Ave., Goleta) on Saturday, August 13, at 8 p.m. Call 967-0907or visit clubmercy.com for tickets. The show is 21+.