If Detroit is now International Garage Rock Central, as defined by the White Stripes in the gushy Euro press, then irony is going to have to start coming cheaply.
Guitarist/singer Marty “Mother” Morris agrees. Particularly considering his band, the Bloody Holly’s, is a bass-needy boy/girl duo whose sound is reduced to its essential grind, which, on a cursory glance, invites the inevitable comparison to the world’s most adored boy/girl twosome since the Captain & Tennille.
“We started the band as a joke,” explains Morris, “and our name came out of a joke too, actually … But that’s the thing that really bummed us out. We started as a two-piece like almost five years ago and we had never heard of Jack White or Meg White. Now it’s like we can’t get away from them. We didn’t want to be — and not to knock the White Stripes because I love the White Stripes — we didn’t want to be as minimal as that. We wanted to have a little more to it. That’s why we are adding a bass player.”
Morris, all sunken eyes and edged, pop-star cheekbones, is as expressive as he is thin. He peppers his sentences with references to everything from obscure indie filmmakers to Delta blues legends. And he’s the color of a cadaver. His live-in partner, comely 23-year-old drummer Mayuko, is, on the other hand, the Holly’s in-house pin-up.
And should pop stardom befall the band, it would certainly typecast Mayuko in the role of sex kitten. With coffee-colored hair and mantislike eyes, the slender-hipped Mayuko has the ability to make cheap clothes look pricey.
“I’m no dummy,” says Morris with a wily smile. “I mean I’ve been in bands forever. When I saw her I was like, ‘I don’t care how you play, you’re joining my band.’”
The two purchased an $80 drum kit and Morris taught Mayuko all about rock ’n’ roll.
“I told her to just play hard and the rest will come. I mean, that’s what (Keith) Moony did.”
The drummer left her parents’ home in Japan at 16 to attend school in Toledo, where the pair met drunkenly outside a bar six years ago.
“I came here to find a dream,” explains Mayuko, in stilted English. “I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I came here to find myself. I did find it.” She pauses, searches for the right words. Then she adds, laughing, “I became a drummer!”
The Holly’s — with archly strutted blues including revisionist elements of Stax, the Standells and Link Wray — remind us the lesson the Stooges and the Velvets hammered home eons ago: That all rock ’n’ roll really is, and all it ever should be, is organized noise.
Mayuko pounds the skins with undying verve. She’s got the sound of a drummer who has that look in their eye, the same look we’ve seen in the eyes of her heroes, guys like Keith Moon, Hendrix drummer Mitch Mitchell, John Bonham and Ginger Baker.
“I turn around some nights going ‘What the fuck is going on behind me?’ You know, like where is this huge noise coming from?” says Morris. “And it’s this little 100-pound Japanese girl. It just blows you away. It’s such a contrast.”
Morris himself is in possession of a singing voice that manages to sound beyond his 24 years. The observation makes him blush. “(My voice) is like my weakest link, actually. I try to do as good a Rufus Thomas impersonation as I can without being a Jon Spencer rip-off.
“As far as like the Stax stuff, that was a huge influence on me early on. There was this guy I met when I was 14 and living down in Atlanta. He introduced me to everything, from the Velvets to the Voidoids to Robert Johnson and beyond, I mean everything that I listen to now this kid’s dad had it in his collection. He got me this little ‘Best of 2 Stax’ cassette thing and I still have it my car. That set me on the right track.”
After forming and breaking up no less than six bands in Ohio, the pair moved to the hills outside Knoxville, Tenn., a couple years ago. There, out of necessity, they became the Bloody Holly’s. Word is the Bloody Holly’s became “huge” in Knoxville. The band’s last show before moving to Detroit in July was a line-around-the-club sellout.
“Right away — I mean, we only played there for like six or seven months — but right away we took over the town,” explains Morris. “We were like, ‘Hmmmm, maybe we hit on something here.’”
The one connecting hinge for the Holly’s, the one thing that is so pop — in every sense of the word, good and bad — would have to be the film Back to the Future.
Back to the Future, you’ll recall, featured Michael J. Fox, an uber-white guy who at one point imitates Chuck Berry. Fox’s character happened to be named Marty. Film Marty was huge influence on a 6-year-old Marty Morris, and the world-apart Mayuko, who says she adored the film growing up in Japan.
“After Back to the Future,” explains Morris, “I was like, ‘Yeah, that’s what I want to do!’”
Adds Mayuko, laughing: “I was a little kid first time I watched Back to the Future and that Marty was playing Chuck Berry!”
The first song Marty Morris taught Mayuko to play?
Chuck Berry’s “Oh Carol.”
Check out the rest of our features on this year's talented Blowout artists:
• The eclectic Brothers Groove are driven by white-hot funk
• Clone Defects front man Tim Vulgar lives the punk life
• esQuire’s frenetic but fabulous rise to fame
• Robert Jones is Detroit's quintessential bluesman
• The Kielbasa Kings' tale of accordions, beer and never-fail pickup lines
• Inside King Gordy's heart of darkness
• Miz Korona shines through the hype and distractions
• Stowing away on Sista Otis' path to enlightenment
• The Von Bondies are on the edge … but of what?