The Hollow Legs perform at The Lighthouse tonight. Photo by the band, with a timer.
Even really big acts get the band name blues. Jimmy Page went and supplanted The Yardbirds with Led Zeppelin, a band called Earth decided Black Sabbath would suit them better, and there’s that one southern band who morphed from The Allman Joys into The Hour Glass into The Allman Brothers Band. Here in the south bay there’s Richie & The 99%. Or rather, there was; but we’ll get to that later, let’s start at the beginning.
They were born out of fate, an alignment of stars, and a love for blues. Richie Calkins (guitar, vocals), Mason Wright (bass, vocals), and Danny Peyton (drums) grew up in Manhattan Beach, played in a band together at MCHS before graduating between 2005-2007, and have essentially known each other since birth.
Meanwhile, a few present day Becker Surfboards employees in Hermosa Beach coalesced to form the local whiskey-rock, country-honk band Bullys & Matadors. Their dynamic front woman Kira Lingman (guitar, vocals, harp, percussion) graduated MCHS in 2005 with Richie Calkins and Mason Wright, and happens to have been dating Calkins for about 8 years.
Then, nigh on a year ago to date, a full circle manifestation closed around them. Bullys & Matadors were booked at The Hangar in Manhattan Beach and needed an opener. Incidentally, Calkins, Wright, and Peyton had just recently jammed together for the first time in a very long time; so Lingman called on the boys.
“I wanted to get back into playing music again,” says Calkins, “and Kira [Lingman] needed a band, and it was like, ‘Let’s start a band!’ So we learned 5 songs and went and opened for them, and we’ve been playing since then.”
Rockin’ the Blues in Richie & The 99%
With rampant sense of humor placed under the pressure of such short notice from the rock gods that they’d be forming a band in the snap of a guitar string, they opted to call themselves Richie & The 99%. Basically, Richie Calkins fronting the band with his name stamped on it, while Wright and Peyton made up the other 99% with mischievous grins across their faces.
They were based in Calkins’ love of blues rock and heavy-psych blues surrounding blues artists and guitar gods new and old, with a special place in his heart for Led Zeppelin.
“I thought there was a lack of blues rock n’ roll in the area,” says Calkins. “And that’s always been my thing, the thing that I connected with, the new and older bands.”
While describing their sound as garage-blues rock n’ roll, he expounds on the meaning. “I’ve always been attracted to riff-type music, but it’s not solely based on riffs. Like, I think the Black Keys are kind of very riffy, and they don’t end up improvising that much. We’re kind of a combination of riffs and blues improvisation. But it’s not all blues, it’s just blues-based.
Lingman adds, “Yeah, some of it’s pretty fast-paced rock, with blues influences. Quiet is definitely not a descriptive word for us, we’re like really loud. And then since I’ve joined the group we’ll have a slow ballad here and there. I add the feminine touch.”
Oh, you didn’t think this full-circle series of cosmic events would leave Kira Lingman acting simply as catalyst without being a key player in the mix, did you? They say it’s unwise to go into business with friends; perhaps it’s even riskier with lovers. But this ain’t business, it’s rock n’ roll, blues rock n’ roll.
“I always wanted her as a part of the band, of course,” Calkins sneaks in. And so more and more they began adding Lingman in at shows until last November she became a full-time member.
“We dated for like 8 years and never really played together for some reason,” says Calkins.
“We didn’t want it to affect our relationship,” says Lingman sarcastically, to much sniggering after someone in the background yells, “And now they’re falling apart!”
Actually, aside from some dueling guitar solos, they’re doing just fine. And so while they continue to write a lot more songs together, the band is currently doing a mix of Calkins’ originals and Lingman’s originals, which aren’t played with her other band Bullys & Matadors.
Advent of Kira Lingman
While she does many different things — improvising southern country-fried, chicken-picking guitar solos, tapping percussion with her feet, blowing nasty harp with swampy comprehension, adding soft beauty to the facade before tearing it down and throwing it in your face with piercing vocals — the advent of Lingman does one general thing to a band: it brings a ton of soul.
Aside from beefing up the sound as a whole, the addition of Lingman’s unique guitar playing, interlaced with Calkin’s ripping, riffing leads, adds a new dimension to the band. Plus, there’s something innately southern rock, country, and boogie in her approach.
“My style does have a little bit of country picking to it no matter what I’m doing,” she says. “I was really influenced by Elizabeth Cotton. She does a lot of finger picking, but then my teacher was like, ‘Hold the pick as you’re using it as your bass.’ I transition between finger picking and using a pick, but I do it simultaneously; so I use the pick as my bass [line], the roots of the bass or whatever, and my soloing actually comes from my fingers, not from the pick.”
Calkins says, “I’ve never really understood how she does it. We’ll play together and I’ll be like, ‘What are you doing?’ Because I was like raised standard with my pick, but she’s always got these fingers moving. It’s really cool.”
Band Name Blues
Eventually, the band was over the joke and fun in naming the group after one of its members. From The Everything Bagels With Everything to Clinically Tight, they agree that it basically came down to a month’s worth of online research and a bunch of drunken arguments and about 500 horrible band names in one night before settling on a new name: The Hollow Legs.
Calkins explains its meaning: “‘Hollow Legs’ is like a really old term that means somebody who can overindulge in — really anything, but it’s mainly food or liquor — but not show the ill-effects of it. So it’s like, ‘Oh, that guy, that’s John Hollow Legs over there.’ Like just poundin’ ‘em back…”
“And he doesn’t even look drunk,” Lingman finishes for him.
A Punk in their Midst
There’s another interesting little dynamic coming from behind the drum kit, which Peyton says is 5% duct tape and held down by weights. He was raised, like most kids in the South Bay, on punk music, which many would consider a drummer’s dream for its speed, quick changes, and all around opportunity to go ballistic. Yet the guy is banging away in a type of blues rock band, doing just fine with some heavy rock n’ roll drumming, but he looks like Animal (the famed Muppet) chained down and just waiting to explode at any moment.
“The influence I guess I bring is a punk background, and anything fast,” says Peyton. “It’s definitely hard to learn to not go over the top, or to only do drum solos when there’s really a break in the song; because like all the time I keep wanting to do something or do like some huge roll or hit the cymbals, but I gotta know to hold back now and try to fit in my tiny little time periods whenever I can do it.” At his last word he accidentally taps a cymbal out of excitement.
And so Peyton finds moments to slip in sexy little rolls, or quick glimpses of solos, making for unexpected and seamless transitions, which add to a blues rock band who’s not just jamming standard blues.
And ultimately that’s part of the idea. The Hollow Legs wanted to do something different in the area, where they saw it lacking and wanting. Blues might be as basic and standard as it can get, but it can be extrapolated upon and expressed endlessly, and this group of young musicians does it there way. Raw and loud.
“If you’re not in a reggae band you’re in a punk band,” says Lingman, about the South Bay music scene. “And it’s great, but we wanted something different.”
“I’d never really played any blues until I started playing with these guys, but they’re an inspiration on the blues front,” admits Wright.
“Don’t disrespect da reggae mahn!” yells Peyton feverishly from behind the drums.
The Hollow Legs perform at The Lighthouse Cafe in Hermosa Beach tonight, Thursday, Feb. 7. On the 9th they’re playing a house party at The Doll House in Hermosa Beach (inquire with band about address), at The Hangar in Manhattan Beach on Feb. 16, and at an Easy Reader & Dirty Hippie Radio present show at Saint Rocke on Feb. 27. They’ve just begun recording a short LP/long EP at The Abalone Lounge in Hermosa Beach. The band can be reached at email@example.com.