None of the Tearaways would dare deny that their band draws inspiration from a certain mop-topped Liverpool group responsible for culturally invading America in the early 1960s. In fact, Tearaways guitarist David Hekhouse is downright philosophical about the Merseybeat sound’s bearing on not only his band, but on the universe. “Most pop music is a reflection of its times,” explained Hekhouse, chatting over morning coffee at the Daily Grind last week. “But for the Beatles, the times were a reflection of their music.”
It’s a valid belief system, especially for a band that practice a similar transformative magic-as they will next weekend at SOhO. On Saturday night, the Tearaways will turn themselves, before hundreds of eyes, from a revered Santa Barbara power pop band into an officially sanctioned version of the classic rock combo Badfinger, who were, as Boomers recall, the first artists signed to the Beatles’ Apple Records. The show, which opens with a set from young rockers the Martyrs, will feature a set of the Tearaways’ own songs, including the surprisingly elegiac rocker “Not Gonna Make It” from their new EP, and concludes with Joey Molland, the last surviving member of that star-crossed British ensemble, jumping in. “We change our shirts and come out as Badfinger,” laughed Hekhouse.
It’s not just a trick, and the Tearaways are not just a cover band. They came up in post-hippie and pre-Toad the Wet Sprocket signing mania days-rocking houses like Oscar’s, Pepper’s, and 1129. Some of them-Greg Brallier, Fin Seth, and Jesse Benenati-played together as both Five Cool What and The Volcanoes, according to Hekhouse, who joined later. Perry Benenati came from another group called The Dreamers, but power pop always was the sound. Hekhouse claims it was always a Beatles sound that influenced them, rather than New Wavers like Rockpile or The Jam. “But even though we had those earlier influences, we kept ourselves open to what was happening around us,” he said.
Band members pride themselves on the group’s diverse gigs. “In recent years, we’ve gotten bigger and better shows. Well, we’ve gotten bigger at least,” said Hekhouse, who relishes recalling their Playboy Mansion date. “We were the only people who ever got kicked out for being too loud,” he said. At a recent gig in Mammoth, they met a wildly enthusiastic woman who wanted to tell her boss about them, saying they would make the perfect party band. She called later that week: “She said, ‘I hope you don’t mind, my boss is Tom Hanks.’ ‘Oh yeah, that’s terrible, we don’t like him,'” remembered Hekhouse. The Hankster, a legendary nice guy, followed up by booking the guys at a few celeb party gigs, not to mention supplying a couple other music connections.
“In this business, you never know where things are coming from,” mused Hekhouse about an unexpected invitation to join David Bash’s International Pop Overthrow festival, then happening in Liverpool. “As chance would have it, the owner of the Cavern was there the night we played,” explained Hekhouse, referring to the still-extant club where the Beatles made their bones. They’ve been back now four times as part of the Liverpool Music Festival, one of the world’s largest free music fests. “We’ve become the American brethren there,” he said. They’ve recorded at Abbey Road Studios-thanks to Santa Barbara-based Alan Parsons-and famously hooked up with Badfinger’s Molland.
It’s not surprising. If the old cranium can be trusted, I recall hearing the band movingly play “Day After Day” in the early 1990s at Pepper’s. And their debut before rabid Liverpool fans went so well that Molland, who lives part time in the U.S., suggested trying it in California. Badfinger suffered bad management and tragic rock star deaths-including two suicides-but earned prominence in rock ‘n’ roll annals with songs like “Come and Get It.” “Somebody said, if you can be billed as Badfinger in Liverpool and sell it in big sold-out shows, you can do it in California, too,” said Hekhouse.
On their own, the Tearaways are a blast of pure pop energy, never mind the fact that the band’s median age is forty-something and most of the members have families and jobs. Hekhouse works at Jensen’s Music, natch, but he’s philosophical about his aging player status, too. “There’s a difference between surviving and thriving, and I’ve always wanted to thrive,” he explained. “The Tearaways are thriving. I think a lot about what is and what isn’t success in this business. I think the most important thing is, you better be able to look back and say, ‘That was a lot of fun.’ I see a lot of bands torturing themselves about whether or not they’re going to make it, and I wonder about all this self-torture. I just think to myself, ‘Do you not like playing music?'”
Day after day, says Hekhouse, this band does.
The Tearaways and Joey Molland will play SOhO this Saturday, June 27, at 9 p.m. For tickets and info, call 962-7776 or visit sohosb.com.