Some reunions take a little time to gather momentum.
When The Doughboys got back together in 2000 after more than 30 years apart, the result was a period of sporadic gigs for the New Jersey rock ‘n’ roll band. The chances of the group expanding its recording catalog beyond the two singles that were released in the late ’60s didn’t seem likely at first.
Then in 2007, The Doughboys released their first album, Is It Now? “Black Sheep,” one of the album’s originals, found a home on Little Steven’s Underground Garage, and the band gigged throughout 2008 and 2009.
Relatively speaking, The Doughboys have quickly cooked up a sequel, Act Your Rage, which was released on RAM Records. Singer Myke Scavone, drummer Richie Heyman, guitarist Gar Francis and bassist Mike Caruso recently discussed the making of the new album, the “garage rock” tag and more.
Medleyville.us: Is It Now? was significant for The Doughboys for multiple reasons, among them it being a chance for old friends to record together again and to settle some unfinished business in the band’s recording career. What was the goal and mindset when making Act Your Rage?
Myke Scavone: “What really pushed me more than anything is when we went into WBJB-FM’s studios [in Middletown, N.J.] with Is It Now?, Rich Robinson, the DJ there, was interviewing us, and he asked, ‘So, is this one and done, or do you think you guys will do anything else after that?’ And I thought, ‘Crap, I don’t want to be a one-and-done.’ So for me, that was kind of a motivator to do more.
“Plus, you know, we all had songs. Richie had songs, Gar had songs, me and Gar had written some things together, and we thought, ‘Let’s do it.’ ”
Richie Heyman: “It’s an unfolding story, I would say. It just kind of keeps unfolding. It’s a work in progress. We certainly don’t plan these things out. They just kind of happen.”
Gar Francis: “Well, being the new guy joining a band that was my high school idols, I initially was asked to join the band to fill in for a few dates for the original guitar player, Willy Kirchofer. My main aspiration has always been songwriting, and after some time, it looked as if I may be staying in the band for awhile.
“I had always known the band as a cover band and thought this band has too much energy and something very special that sets them apart from a lot of other bands, even by today’s standards. Myke, Richie and Mike still have the same charisma and intensity as they did back in 1965.
“I set out to write songs specifically for this band’s era and vibe. The first song I wrote for the band was ‘Black Sheep,’ which [was on] Is It Now? With Act Your Rage, it was just a continuation of the first album, with Myke and Richie getting more involved with the writing of songs, specifically for the band’s sound and really trying to top ourselves after the first CD. … We wanted to see how far we could push each other into making another great or better album.”
Mike Caruso: “Our goal for Act Your Rage was to make it greater and more diversified than Is it Now? We had time to play some of the songs at the gigs. We were able to sharpen and tighten up any loose ends. I love the end result.”
Talk about the approach to writing and recording Act Your Rage as compared to the previous album.
Scavone: “When we first started doing this, originally we were just gonna record all these songs that we had written, and we had a couple of covers that we wanted to include – one of them, [The Kinks‘] ‘It’s Alright,’ was the last thing that we ever recorded with Willy. So we definitely wanted that to be included. And then [The Moody Blues‘] ‘Tuesday Afternoon’ was just something that we had almost done by accident, but we kind of liked it and thought it was very weird for us to be doing it in the first place, so that’s why we included that cover.
“But our original plan in recording all of these songs was we were gonna just pick 10 or 12 or them, but when it came down to what songs to eliminate, we couldn’t really find any we wanted to do away with (laughs). So that’s why it ended up with 16 songs. We just didn’t want to take anything out of there – plus, we didn’t know if we’d be alive to make another album after this (laughs).”
Heyman: “Going back to the first album, the whole concept was to just record these covers because a small percentage of those songs, we used to do back in the day. We were known as a cover band, and then it made sense to start evolving into an original project, but most of that came out on the second album.
“Some of the songs that I brought it were ones that I had always wanted Myke Scavone to sing lead on, and now I have that chance, so I brought a few of those in.”
Scavone: “[Gar’s material] and the stuff I wrote with Gar was stuff that we put together that we thought would be for The Doughboys. We just wanted to keep that old-school rock ‘n’ roll thing going. But I think we move out into a few more areas on this CD.”
Francis: “The only different approach I took on the second album was to do a lot of different things with the guitar sounds. The first album was pretty straightforward, but with the second album, I wanted to use some of the effects from that era, such as 12-string guitar, wah-wah, a guitar through a Leslie, backward guitar solos, etc. The writing approach for me was the same – [to] capture the feel of the era [but] with some modern overtones.”
Your version of The Moody Blues’ “Tuesday Afternoon,” which concludes the new album, has more balls than the original. There’s a touch of Yardbirds throughout, most notably Richie’s four-stroke hi-hat break near the middle that’s a wink to “Shapes of Things.”
Heyman: “That was a little homage. It’s a little in-joke for those who know The Yardbirds. Our approach [to the song] was to toughen it up to do it the way we normally do things. But the [reason for] doing the song was for my wife’s birthday; she’s a big Moody Blues fan. It was just going to be a one-off thing that we did at the gig for me, and we got a lot of positive feedback from it doing it [our way].”
Scavone: “I was probably the one who pushed us the most to do that song. And it was mainly because I just liked the idea of doing something that’s totally out of character for the band. I don’t think there’s anything that could be further away from what The Doughboys sound like than ‘Tuesday Afternoon,’ and then to try and pull that into who we are.
“Even now, when I listen to it, I have to laugh because if you listen to the lyrics, they are so out of touch with the way we play this song (laughs). They’re kind of flowery. Our whole theme through most of this process was, ‘It’s got to be ugly. We have to make this ugly.’ ”
Heyman: “We’re working on this Captain and Tennille medley (laughs) that we hope will make the next album.”
Scavone: “We’re trying to decide if we’re gonna do that or the Wayne Newton one (laughs).”
The reunion of The Doughboys has benefited from a renewed interest in garage rock, which has been helped a great deal by Steven Van Zandt’s radio programs both terrestrial and satellite. As 2010 begins, do you think garage rock has become too mainstream?
Scavone: “I wish (laughs).”
Heyman: “The term garage rock is a little strange for us because I think most people from the baby boomer generation who were in bands – that term wasn’t really in use; it came later.”
Scavone: “Yeah, more in the 1980s.”
Heyman: “We didn’t even know we were garage rock until people told us that we were doing – we were a rock ‘n’ roll band. But [that term] kind of points toward a harder-edge type band, [one] that leans toward more the British Invasion bands that did R&B-style rock — The Animals and The Yardbirds.”
Scavone: “I tend to characterize us more as an old-school rock ‘n’ roll band. [Garage rock] is more what people have labeled than what we would label ourselves, I would say.”
Francis: “We were very lucky to be picked up by Little Steven. If it wasn’t for the Underground Garage, there wouldn’t be an outlet for our type of music. We didn’t try to become a garage band; the band just plays the way they have always played. We have a slogan in the Doughboys, ‘We just do what we do.’ As far as mainstream, if you are saying we are being played on the same stations as Taylor Swift, Madonna, U2, Bruce Springsteen and Coldplay, I don’t think so, although some of those acts are now being played where we are. It is pretty cool to hear a Doughboys song in between a Rolling Stones song and a Yardbirds song.”
Caruso: “I don’t think garage rock is too mainstream. There are a lot of new artists picking up on the sound [and] trying to duplicate this genre. We do have an advantage of actually lived and played this music during the ’60s, even though we practiced in basements, attics, living rooms and some garages.”
— Introduction and interview by Chris M. Junior
The Doughboys on tour (schedule subject to change):
* Jan. 22: The Crossroads — Garwood, N.J.
* Feb. 5: Sullivan Hall — New York
* Feb. 13: Maxwell’s — Hoboken, N.J.
Photo by Rob Adams