Restavrant draws from early rock influences and dirty old blues sensibility to churn out unique flavor.
Thursday, January 31, 2013
If it wasn’t for a Bob Log III show, Troy Murrah might be another ass-kissing suit in an uptight architectural design firm. Instead he makes music with Restavrant, which perform Friday at East Village with The People, The Audio Waltz and Jordan Smart.
“If that [concert] never happened, I would have finished architecture school,” he says. “It changed my whole outlook on what could be done musically. I’d never heard anything like it.”
Log, a bottleneck slide guitar master, prompted Murrah to probe the world of Bo Diddley-era rock and explore the possibilities of slide guitar beyond mainstream Muddy Waters and country blues.
The South Texas native’s new calling was a far cry from blueprints and building sketches: Restavrant’s like an 8-track player hooked up to a state-of-the-art stereo system – think techno beats humping old folky-sounding guitar, plus a hell of a lot of bottleneck slide.
“Some want to hear old-timey music and some want to hear dance,” Murrah says. “We try to combine genres. There’s a lot of inspiration from the beginning of rock and roll, when it was basic.”
Tyler Whiteside, the only other bandmember, isn’t a traditional drummer: He rocks electronic drum pads. The unorthodox percussion makes sense paired with the unconventional, dual-microphone concoction Murrah sings into – he uses a Hohner Green Bullet harmonica mic taped to the side of a retro, stainless steel 1950’s mic. On top of that, his vocals run through effects pedals enabling his voice to sound like a 1929 Mississippi John Hurt recording produced by Beck.
“With only two people, we try to use any trick we can to change up the feel of each song,” Murrah says.
Like a bottle of warm moonshine, “Bev D” is a discordance of banjo, distorted vocals and epileptic tambourine that burns slightly down the gullet – but when it reaches the stomach, it feels so good you want to bust a move.
It’s one of 12 on 2012’s Yeah, I Carve Cheetahs: a tapestry made with Chuck Berry’s straightening grease and the Descendents’ punk rock spit on Junior Kimbrough’s sweat-stained wife beater.
Recently, Restavrant recorded covers of R.L. Burnside’s “Poor Black Mattie” and Johnny Cash’s “Ballad of a Teenage Queen” as part of J.R & R.L, a tribute to the aforementioned musicians, to be released on the Austin-based Hillgrass Bluebilly Records. Their rendition of Cash takes an unexpected rockabilly voyage with psychedelic wings – Murrah booms with Leonard Cohen bass.
Restavrant is working on its third album described as more “dancy and straightforward” than previous work.
Though Murrah got off to a late start musically – he became a full-time musician at 27 – he has no regrets. Still, he ponders, “What if I got started at 19?”
He’ll never know. But at 35, there’s a ton of music inside him waiting to be unleashed. Few notes will be ordinary.
Restavrant, The People, The Audio Waltz and Jordan Smart play at 9pm (doors 8pm) Friday, Feb. 1, at East Village, 498 Washington St., Monterey. $5. 373-5601.