with Wild Sun
Saturday, April 16th
You can’t go wrong when you have the word “Horse” in your band name. Whether it’s Neil Young’s buzzsaw group or those new guys Band of Horses, two pretty powerful groups. Maybe it’s that these creatures are so wild, free and inspiring, as they streak past us. Or it’s the mystical, mythical traits that the Indians have ascribed to them. Or, that they’re just so damn American. Now it’s time to add 7Horse to this illustrious equine company. With their third album, Livin’ In A Bitch Of A World, this raucous, impolite, poetic duo is poised for big visible success. Their gorgeously noisy, guitar-heavy, slamming drums sound is just the thing to wake you up.
When you first hear 7Horse, their wicked attitudes and outlaw ways, perfectly delineated by their hardboiled lyrics, accompanied by hard-charging axes and damaging, damning drums, you’ll think a lot of cool things. But for Rock and Roll fans, you’ll have the best thought a music lover could possibly have. After years of doubt and disappointment with music, you’ll finally be able to actually say, I’m home!
The two men who anchor this bluesy, lyrical, kickass crew and sound as full and commanding as The Rolling Stones are guitarist, Joie Calio and drummer Phil Leavitt. Both were (and occasionally still are) members of the smart Alt.-Pop band, Dada (best known in the ‘90s as the auteurs of the bleakly-comic “Dizz Knee Land”). But it is when these two men split off from there, found their inner truth and started spitting it out as bullets of Blues, Hard Rock and good old noise, did they become the band they were supposed to be. And are now.
“We began without any contrivance,” says Leavitt. “Joie and I just sent short voicemails back and forth to each other, at first. Fragments, hooks, pieces of songs. But it sounded right. When we had enough material, we believed in the music so much, we borrowed money from family and friends, in a real legitimate business way and decided we were going to make our debut with just us two. No extra instruments, no sweetening.”
That first album, Let The 7 Horse Run, was a pure, dark, unsettling blast of musical noir that anyone had heard since forever. Especially in this age of frothy cotton candy Dance Pop. If Jim Thompson had decided to commandeer Junior Kimbrough’s band or The Stones got back into their storied nihilism again, it might sound like this. But they haven’t. So 7Horse filled that space, quite nicely. So nicely, in fact, they transcended the Dark Rock liability and, since 2011, have been seducing fans of all sorts of music. Every year, more people join the caravan.
After these two brilliant iconoclasts realized they belonged together, they put their musical and lyrical gifts together and came up with one of the most blistering records of the new century, 2011‘s Let The 7Horse Run. As a dark whole, the album was a triumph. Drummer/Vocalist Leavitt has traces in his hurried, clipped phrasing not just of classic bluesmen, but edgy rockers, like Warren Zevon and Morphine’s late leader, Mark Sandman. His simple, wonderfully-direct drum beats are as strong and bold as they are full of dread. Calio’s Keef-like open chord strums and his slashing slide playing compliments his partner’s intense, ominous bangs. They sound as much like trigger happy members of The Wild Bunch as they do like musicians. As cool ass and mold-breaking as the music was, it was the commercial dividends from this record that were truly startling.
“One day I was standing on line at the store and I got an e-mail that said ‘Martin Scorsese is interested in using one of your songs for The Wolf of Wall Street,” says rhythm player Calio. “I was skeptical. You never know if these things are gonna happen or if the message isn’t some crazy spam. But...it was intriguing.”
It was more than intriguing. The tune, “Meth Lab Zoso Sticker,” a cross between a Native American tribal dance, a twisted Chicago Blues song and a tune to get kids moving at a rave, was indeed used in Scorsese’s classic about greed and depravity in the financial district. Since then, it’s had over 900,000 views and gotten over 90,000 downloads. And that ain’t all. These twisted, funky, lyrical blues brothers have also gotten their tunes on the TV shows Hart of Dixie, Rizzoli &Isles and snagged a Jeep Wrangler campaign. They’ve opened at places like The Greek Theatre for Rock legend Sting and toured with Blues maestro Kenny Wayne Shepherd. And you can expect such trends to keep rolling in 2016. Especially as regards this, their imperial moment. What Leavitt and Calio have been working toward their whole musical lives. Their third, and best, album.
Livin’ In a Bitch Of a World, it shows that as superb as their previous work is, the past is prologue to their crowning achievement. On ‘Bitch,’ there’s an indefinable, incontrovertible sense that 7Horse has completely come into their own. With tales of grifters, gun owners, drug runners, as strong and believable as any in hardboiled fiction, perfectly-punctuated drumming, vicious strumming and lacerating slide-guitar playing, these guys may just have made the rockingest, nastiest, catchiest, most lyrical album of 2016
“We went in feeling both pressured and confident,” says Calio. “We had the material, the chemistry, the road experience. The third album is always a big one. We knew it had to be good. And, man, it is. Maybe it’s because we knew how to approach it. We took our time, but it was all in service to the record. Phil and I would get together in the desert, jam on some songs, get the structures and ideas for them, then stop. And write them, carefully. And record them. We didn’t need any other players or anyone else’s ideas. The two of us produced it. And it’s just me and Phil. A righteous drummer, and a guitarist who plays slide and uses open tunings. And we just hit everything right. This isn’t an experiment anymore. We’re a band. And with this record we have turned a corner. This is how we’re supposed to be.”
From the fuzz-stoked opener “Livin’ in A Bitch Of A World,” you can tell that Calio and Leavitt haven’t just hit their target, they’ve destroyed it. As with classic albums like Exile On Main Street or Nebraska, there’s a uniformity to this record. It’s more like a novel or a bunch of interconnected short stories. Where desperate, hardscrabble guys struggle for a few loose coins to buy some food, some dope to calm a desperate jones and, finally, what money cannot buy: mercy, redemption. There’s a sweaty intensity to this record that everybody, from the hungry homeless to the struggling white collar guy will be able to relate to in these heartless times in America. It even makes sense these boys have recorded a metallic bluesy version of The Bee Gees’ “Stayin’ Alive.” That’s what this album is about. And in a tough, unpretentious way, that’s what 7Horse is all about. From the start their music has been about struggle and survival. With a killing beat driving these guys take us all along. Finally, there’s “Two Stroke Machine.” A tale of intergenerational violence, legal trouble, gunplay and escape, all set to a manically catchy beat and inescapable chorus, expect this one to be in more movies next year, as well as all over the airwaves. Hear it once and you will not be able to forget it or stop singing it. It may even drive you crazy. But you’ll be smiling the whole goddamn time.
It makes sense that drummer Leavitt is a serious boxer during his downtime. But if he (or Calio) thinks that he’s leaving behind the punching after he’s left the ring, he should think again. 7Horse, are, if nothing else, fighters. And after their years of training, roadwork, feinting and shadowboxing, they’re really in the battle now. Think you can take them on? Cool. They’re ready for you. Just make sure when you listen to this great American band, you bring your A game. 7Horse certainly has. Listen to them, see them, get their records, old and new. Feel that? We warned you. These cats pack a mighty wallop.
Wild Sun stands apart from the noise and imitation with their honest brand of energetic rock and roll. In a time when every channel is overloaded with the same old thing, Wild Sun is fresh and raw, and yet accessibly familiar. There was a time where music was built on great songs, and undeniable passion. There was a time when live shows threw caution into the wind, and musicians improvised and simply made music. Those times are back, and Rhode Island's Wild Sun are already at the party—cases cracked.