It’s common knowledge that almost every musician in this town plays in at least two bands. Rent’s cheap, practice spaces are easy to find and time — well, an ever-dwindling economy has made sure that we have got a lot of that. And although the hedonism facilitated by D-town’s low cost of living makes for an unusually cool music scene, there’s something particularly attractive about the Blame — there’s a modesty to them that’s hard to find anymore. But then again, what else do you expect from a band whose current claim to fame is the fact that each of its members started off as a drummer?
“How do you know when to kick a drummer out of a band?” lead singer Jeff Klein says. “When he starts writing songs.”
The ad hoc front man embraces a humble humor about himself and his 11-month- old band. The foursome is comprised of four friends who, somewhat refreshingly, reject the idea that they should be myth-selling. Absent are the self-aggrandizing reasons behind their need to be in a band. Gone are the delusional “I do this because I have to do this” laments. “I just wanted to be a part of this,” Klein says. Nothing fancy.
The unassuming Klein — who mops his kitchen floor as he talks to me — has played in several bands over the years. And judging by their names, Klein definitely has no qualms about sticking his tongue firmly in his cheek. His first band was a short-lived coed ensemble called Hot Pussy, and though his second attempt at the limelight was a bit more successful (they were called Poopy Time), Klein jokes, “Nobody likes to talk about that.”
But most local music fans will remember the lanky 6-foot-4 timekeeper as the “legs and arms” behind the drum kit for Ko and the Knockouts. He played with the Knockouts for a few years, but when the garage rock-templated outfit fizzled, Klein put down the drumsticks and picked up the guitar.
“It’s actually easier to sing lead,” Klein says. “The drummer’s the backbone. I can screw up and now no one will care, but if the drummer fucks up, everyone’s screwed.”
Klein’s songs recast an Uncle Tupelo meets the Bassholes sensibility and his voice has a Greg Cartwright-like gruffness. He writes catchy three-minute zingers and seems to have a ball performing them.
Drummer Steve Christiansen, who recently graduated from law school, used to play with the short-lived band the Dirty Shame. His sincere mien complements Klein’s new singer-songwriter status. In fact, it was Christensen’s seal of approval that convinced a reticent Klein to add a revealing jam — the slightly mawkish “I Love You” — to the band’s repertoire. Klein admits that the song is a bit sappy, but knew it was a keeper when Christensen said, “It takes a lot of chutzpah to say ‘I love you’ that many times in a song.”
Leigh Sabo, a raven-haired siren and former tub-thumper (later, bassist) for twee darlings Slumber Party, has taken on the low-end responsibilities for The Blame. Her backup singing and tight bass lines add a gracefulness to her uncoifed band mates. Eric Wagman, a four-eyed emo babe, plays lead guitar. The young six-stringer delivers a mean Jeff Tweedy-style guitar. His other band, Anhedonia, ensures that the young rocker is always in practice.
So far, the band has recorded a few songs with former They Come in Threes guitarist, Mark Craven. Sure, they are shopping for labels and they’d love to sign a record deal, blah, blah, blah. But the truth is, aside from the solid rocking tunage, one of the best things about this band is the fact that they do not take themselves any more seriously than they need to. This makes them that much more appealing. This is without a doubt the best band Klein has ever been in — and he wrote the songs. Not too shabby for a drummer.
Saturday, Feb. 12, at the Belmont, 10215 Joseph Campau, Hamtramck; 313-871-1966. With the Sirens and Capitol Cities. Eve Doster is the listings editor for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected]