Twang Twang Shock-A-Boom ‘Cutz’ New Music
Chris Searles revisits the cult local trio’s salad years
By William Harries Graham, 4:47PM, Tue. Dec. 10, 2013
Twang Twang Shock-A-Boom: If ever a local band name perked interest, it’s that one. Drummer Chris Searles explains. “I came up with the name as musical onomatopoeia during a particularly boring class at UT, and David Garza loved it right away. The other option was ‘Emily Dickinson.’”
Twang Twang began as an acoustic trio, headlining Liberty Lunch and the Texas Tavern, while drawing 500 to 1,500 people per show. After a 23-year hiatus marked by intermittent reunions, there’s a new release called Cutz, Vol. 1, available digitally on iTunes and Amazon.
“It’s the first of a three-part EP series, five songs per album,” explains Searles. “Each album will contain two originals and three covers by Austin songwriters we love and feel are under appreciated.”
Searles has been behind the drum kit since doing time at Austin High School. He played competitions and made All State tympanist and jazz drummer. Twang Twang bassist Jeff Haley went to Reagan High, and frontman David Garza hails from Irving.
“The three of us tried being a jazz band for about five minutes in the fall of 1989 – in a small practice room at the UT Music School. Then David suggested we grab the upright bass, his classical guitar, and a backpack for percussion to play UT’s West Mall for tips. That went really well.”
The three had circled each other at various competitions in high school. Haley and Searles met in the All City Jazz Band in 1986. Garza and Searles became acquainted during their last years of high school at UT’s Honor Colloquium. Both were awarded full scholarships to the University’s School of Music.
“I didn’t want to like David at first, because he was so universally loved by the ladies,” confesses Searles. “But he turned out to be an incredibly great person and Jeff too, of course.”
According to Searles, Twang Twang worshiped everything from Mahler, Bach, and Debussy to Miles, Monk, and Coltrane; from Eydie Gorme & Trio Los Panchos to Edie Brickell & the New Bohemians; from U2 to Tony, Toni, Toné and Public Enemy.
“We still hate Guns N’ Roses, though,” he laughs. “Hair rock is a travesty.”
Twang Twang originally called it quits in 1990 after just one year. They remained good friends and re-released Me So Twangy as a 20-year anniversary present to their still copious amount of Austin fans.
“To our honest surprise, hundreds of fans magically reappeared, enthusiastic as ever,” admits Searles. “Shows went great, generally selling out, and those fans suggested we do new recordings, be they covers, originals, or what have you.”
Haley now lives in New York teaching music, while Garza’s in El Paso and Searles resides in Austin.
“Much of the Cutz series is being recorded and mixed via email and text, thus the Atari-themed cover art,” says the local. “We’re ‘using technology’ to make new music the old-fashioned way.”
No Twang Twang shows until next summer, but expect a local listening party. In the meantime, Searles anchors Alejandro Escovedo’s band.
“I learn constantly and laugh as often as possible,” he says. “Al strives to be generous and supportive. He gives his ALL every night. He’s one of the world’s biggest music fans and one of the most consistent performers. He always gives a great show and after 10 years off, he’s given me a second chance to be a full-time musician.”
Searles says that playing with Los Lobos last summer was a highlight of his career. He remembers his coolest moment onstage as being at South by Southwest when Twang Twang debuted in 1990 at the old Austin City Limits sound stage.
“We were completely unknown outside of UT at the time, and had everything to prove. At the close of our showcase, David sang an impromptu ballad off-mike, ‘Without a Doubt.’ He took his hands off the guitar and just sang to this large, amazingly famous room, which had people – all of them older than us – facing us on three sides.
“Bongos, bass, and vocal. It was quiet, confident, spontaneous. Attention was so rapt you could’ve heard a pin drop in that crowd of 500 or so. That’s my favorite way to end any great show – intimately.”
Advice to young musicians?
“Play what you love and love who you play for.”