The dirt on Supagroup

Jul 30, 2003 at 12:00 am

Unsnap the shiny new leather cuffs, take a razor to the $75 haircut and tell the A&R man to take a hike — Supagroup has entered the bar.

Formed in the seedy rock ’n’ roll underbelly of New Orleans in 1996, these four longhairs are burnouts on the high road — and all they want to do is churn out some good, skull-cracking noise.

“I thought they were an AC/DC tribute band,” says a fellow music scribe.

They’d probably take that as a compliment.

As he knocks around in the backseat of a van heading through downtown New York City on his way to the Tribeca Rock Club, front man Chris Lee takes a moment to chew the fat via phone.

“Ha, ha, I am wearing my ‘I Like Hentch’ T-shirt,” he says in reference to D-town rockers the Hentchmen, with whom they have been playing for a couple shows. “It’s always nice to tour with cool bands; it
doesn’t feel like we are on tour yet.”

Lee’s mood is cheery and his voice is surprisingly fresh. When asked if he is hung-
over, his response is rote:

“Every day.”

The sardonically dubbed Supagroup is brothers Chris and Benji Lee (guitars), Leif Swift (bass) and Michael Brueggen (drums).

They are dirty boys with dirty lyrics and a penchant for whiskey and cheap beer. They like bad girls and bad girls like them. Sound predictable? It is … but don’t roll your eyes just yet.

Truth be told, Supagroup is just a band. They sing songs about hedonism and their crunchy guitar riffs are standard fare. And while they will probably never be accused of saving rock ’n’ roll, they will, however, bring to mind the days before the music choked out its last few breaths. They are four guys who play arena rock in small venues and communicate their love of music in rousing, pompous displays of bravado.

Unlike most “musicians” on the circuit these days, these guys do not simply play their instruments — they wield them. Imagine guitars raised to the sky like mastheads on runaway ships. The guitar necks dance in tandem — reminiscent of raunchy bands like Deep Purple.

The four men of Supagroup do for a living what just about everyone has done with an imaginary guitar in front of a full-length mirror. They jam the hell out.

“Whether we are playing to four people or 400 people, the show will always be the same,” says Lee.

“Supagroup put on the best live rock show I’ve ever seen. They’re everything that the Datsuns and all those other bands will never be. Bands like the Datsuns struggle with all their might to ‘rock out,’ but in the end just wind up throwing out the signifiers of rocking, like a squirrely suburban kid flashing gang signs,” says one enthusiastic fan.

“It just evolved,” says Lee of their live show. “It’s fun to ass-out, you kinda can’t help it,” he says. “But you have to be able to do it with a smirk … otherwise you are a jackass.”

They’re making their national debut with a self-titled album on Foodchain Records with production by Grammy award-winner Trina Shoemaker (Sheryl Crow, Blue Rodeo).

“It’s nice to have a little help,” admits Lee about the newfound label support, but by the sound of his voice, it’s obvious that he’d be doing this with or without the help of the moolah and production.

“What? Am I going to go have a career as a banker?” he jokes. “People judge their successes differently … we do this because we have to.”

They are the watchdogs for the dirty rock ’n’ roll world, a story of the “little rock band that could.”

Take them for what they’re worth — it’s only rock ’n’ roll.


See Supagroup at the Magic Stick (4120 Woodward, Detroit) with Viva La Foxx and Back in Spades on Saturday, Aug. 2. Call 313-833-9700 for further details.

Eve Doster is the listings editor of Metro Times. E-mail [email protected]