At a time when playing rock 'n' roll and having a good time on stage were not exactly synonymous, the Beggars laid out the foundation for a band that was meant to marry the two concepts. What's even more impressive is how the band persevered through trends that were less than welcoming to the party rockers. It's admirable to see a band stay so true to its convictions.
When you put on an album by the Beggars, there are two things you need to do: listen to it on a good set of speakers — because headphones just won't cut it — and stretch, because you don't want to pull a muscle when you suddenly find yourself dancing. Frontman Steven Tuthill, guitarist Chris Krez, Bassist "Pookie" Grech, and drummer Jim Faulkner remind you of all the things that made you fall in love with rock 'n' roll. Their new album, co-produced by Eddie Spaghetti and Tony Maisano, is a testament to how these guys make no qualms about their music being an exercise in escapism — and of course, partying.
This Saturday, Sept. 20, the Beggars are celebrating the release of their self-titled sophomore album at the Magic Bag in Ferndale. WCSX's Doug Podell will be on hand to host the event, with Pretty Ghouls and After Dark Amusement Park opening the show. The modern missionaries of rock 'n' roll are ready to testify to their congregation.
Metro Times: What was it like working with Eddie Spaghetti?
Tuthill: He was awesome, man. ... He flew in from Seattle during the polar vortex, and he had a lot of great ideas. He's been doing it for 25 years. He's a rock legend and definitely seasoned in the rock, so he had a lot of great suggestions for us regarding tempos and sang backup on a lot of stuff. He was really great to work with, and we were fortunate enough that he was willing to work with us.
MT: How did that come about?
Tuthill: We played with the Supersuckers about seven years ago, but we really didn't get to meet them or get to know them at all at the time, but he's friends with Tony Maisano. He and Tony have been friends for a long time. Tony played him our demos, and Eddie totally loved it. He thought our stuff was fun and different, so he was excited to do it.
MT: Was it all recorded here in the area?
Tuthill: It was all recorded at The Loft in Saline with Andy Patalan. It was nice to have a great team of rock people. It was really cool to get great outside suggestions, which may be a little tough on the ego sometimes, but we did a good job. These are your babies — these songs you write, and you have guys come in and say, "Speed that up ... a lot!" [Laughs] But it worked well; most of the suggestions were great.
MT: Lyrically, where do these songs come from?
Tuthill: I grew up in the '80s, and I love American pop culture and just the thrilling, fun things in life. "Good Love" is about Ric Flair, the Nature Boy. It sums up doing what you love through Ric Flair. "2016" is a fictional song about the future. It's basically about the end of the world and doing what you want to do. I like fun ideas with songs. I like things to be fun and enjoyable ... escapism, what rock 'n' roll initially was supposed to be. I'm a huge fan of Little Richard, and the early rock 'n' roll is a bit rebellious, not tasteless. As a kid, I had Quiet Riot's Metal Health, all the Led Zeppelin albums, AC/DC, and I still love all of that. I'm a big fan of the Kinks, early Kiss records, just fun stuff. That's been the Beggars' goal since Day One — to have fun. It's rock 'n' roll!
MT: You mentioned Ric Flair as an influence. Tell me about your wrestling past.
Tuthill: [Laughs] In '96 or '97, I went to the NWA school of professional wrestling. I don't even know if it's there still. I did pro wrestling locally for probably four years or something. It started off as kind of a joke, then started getting serious. I started getting written up in the news. M.L. Curly, who got in some trouble, he used to write about us, this wrestling league. It started taking off, and we ended up booking high school gymnasiums and I started going to wrestling school. I did really well at it, because the key is to make it look like you're getting punched — and I oversold. I'm way into Charlie Chaplin and all the early physical comedy stuff. I'd take a beating really well, and I'd typically win my matches. I was actually a champion of one of the local leagues. But, yeah, I dropped out of pro wrestling school. [Laughs]
MT: Does your wrestling background influence your showmanship onstage?
Tuthill: No doubt! I wear a suit a lot like Ric Flair. I wear the sunglasses all the time like Ric Flair. Ric Flair is pretty much the greatest entertainer of all time. He's so funny, on every level, and he really knew how to get under everybody's skin — and he had class. He was so ridiculous, but he still had class. Somehow, he was able to pull of classiness while doing the stupidest thing of all time, pro wrestling.
MT: How did you land gigs at a homecoming dance and a bikini oil-wrestling league?
Tuthill: The oil wrestling [laughs] that was at the Belmont. One of our friends somehow got in touch with the Dallas Oilers, the wrestling troupe. They flew in from Texas. It was really fucking weird, man. It's good to have on the résumé. The homecoming dance was a trip, too. That was really weird. There was some dude — it was East Jackson High School — and some kid saw us at Dally in the Alley and he flipped out. He started showing up at every show. I'd sneak him into the venues because he wasn't old enough. He messaged us, and got his student council to OK it, and we ended up playing the homecoming dance. This was six or seven years ago when we did that, and rock isn't that popular amongst the high school kids these days. It was interesting. There were a couple kids up front who were loving it, and you could tell, in the back, there were dudes waiting for the Pussycat Dolls. Again, great to have on the résumé. — mt
The Beggars play the Magic Bag on Saturday, Sept. 20. Doors open at 8 p.m.; 22920 Woodward Ave., Ferndale;248-544-1191; themagicbag.com; tickets are $10.