Twist Music for the Hard-of-Hearing

Big Drag

"They made the little girls dance." This is what Big Drag bassist Colin Jones suggested be Big Drag's epitaph, when asked. It fits like a steel condom, too. Ever since they first skulked in from San Antonio a couple of years back, the laconic trio has brought with them hordes of incredibly nubile women, doing up-and-down-and-round-and-round moves that would make Chubby Checker spit green to Big Drag's garbage-can guitar-pop. "That's always been my favorite part of Big Drag," drawls Jones, who started the band in 1991 with singer/guitarist Milton Robichaux and drummer Dillon Phillips, following the demise of Robichaux's similarly minded Happy Dogs. "Generally, every show we play, the first two or three rows of people in front of the stage are almost all girls. I dunno why, I guess it's just that danceable beat, that surfy-kinda beat that you can twist to or whatever."

As their popularity's increased, the gorgeous Dragheads still make their pilgrimage from San Antonio with the band, but they're now finding themselves supplemented - at times, even supplanted - by Austin Dragheads. Perhaps it is that twistin' surf beat. ("By the way," notes Jones, "I've never surfed in my life! I don't think Dillon has. I think Milton has tried, and `tried' is the operative word.") Maybe it's that guitar/vocal chord combination, which runs through so much fuzz that it becomes pure edge, resembling the sound of cancer itself, sounding like a hook in and of itself. Perhaps it's the fact that these guys write songs catchy enough to pass for Brian Wilson's rejects, and anyone with sense knows Brian Wilson's rejects would be anyone else's masterpieces. ("I've always thought of Milton as the hillbilly Brian Wilson," quips Jones.)

Maybe it's Robichaux's non-style of not fronting a band, which led a friend to squeal that he was her favorite frontman.

"Whaddaya mean?!" I head-scratched. "He doesn't do anything!"

"Exactly!" she replied.

Maybe she gets more of the point than I do. After all, Robichaux may more accurately depict immersion in a coma than any frontman in rock history (except, perhaps, for Ian Curtis after he slipped on the noose). But the lack of activity still manages to drag you in. Your eyes remain riveted, and you have no hope of pulling 'em away.

It began humbly enough, after Jones and Phillips met in high school, playing in a typical suburban punk covers combo, trying their hand at the repertoires of the Descendents and the Misfits, among others. Robichaux was (and is) a full decade older than Jones, and had been doing something not all that dissimilar in the Happy Dogs (right down to the nuclear fuzz-out of Freddie "Boom Boom" Cannon's "Tallahassee Lassie," which has graced both Big Drag's first EP and their just-out debut CD for Only Boy Records). They met at Robichaux's house, a notorious local party pad, and the three assembled as Big Drag maybe a year or two following the Happy Dogs' dissolution. Soon enough, the ladies were doing those I'm-drying-off-with-a-beach-towel pantomimes to should-be hits like "She Drives Me Crazy." Thanks to friends like Jeff Smith and the Wannabes, they got introduced to Austin audiences, coincidentally at the same moment fellow Alamo City punk outfits the Sons of Hercules and the Drop-Outs made their first inroads into the Austin clubs.

"We had friends up there that wanted to play Taco Land," says Jones, "which has always kinda been our home base." Once they hooked these bands up with cool shows down there, the Austin bands would trade for good slots here. Their impact was fairly immediate.

"We kinda developed an Austin audience right away," Jones agreed. "I see a lot of the same faces when we play Austin shows. Of course, a lot of 'em are friends who live up there, but a lot of 'em are people I still haven't had a chance to meet. We love playing there, it's just difficult for us right now, because we're all three working full-time." As for recent missed gigs, Jones cites "booking problems, stupid shit like double-booking. I don't want to name any names or step on any toes. I'd be interested to see what the others have to say about it." (Robichaux and Phillips could not be reached for comment.)

"We, at least speaking for myself, feel really bad about missing those shows,"
says Jones. "We wish it hadn't happened. We hate doing that sorta thing, but at the time, it could not be helped. And it's nothing against the club or Austin, the club being the Hole in the Wall. Unfortunately, the two shows we missed in a row were at the Hole in the Wall, which I could definitely see being construed as having a problem with the club or Austin, which is totally untrue."

With a pair of singles, three tours, and a new CD under their belts, Big Drag are being fairly modest and realistic with their goals. "There was a time where we thought maybe we could be the next big thing, and somebody would dump lots of money into us. I don't think any of us think that way anymore. For now, I think we're just content to go on living here, writing new songs, making new records and putting 'em out on a semi-regular basis, play around Texas, try to do tours when we can. That's as far as I see it going. But you never know what could happen."

Who knows? The little girls may stop dancing tomorrow. It does seem doubtful, though. After all, Freddie "Boom Boom" Cannon is forever, isn't he? n

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