Shouting ethnic remarks at a band on stage is not recommended. However, once in a while, or maybe once ever, a friendship results.
“I think I yelled, ‘Turn the Jewish kid up!’” Davey Meshell recalled of his first interaction with guitarist Greg West. “And that was it, we became friends.”
“It was some racist remark,” West said.
That was three years ago when Meshell’s Los Angeles-based band, The Neighborhood Bullys, were in need of a new guitarist. Frontman and bassist Meshell found one at the Cat Club.
“Greg was playing in this country band with our drummer, and the drummer said, ‘You gotta go see this kid,’” Meshell recalled. Now West is the longest-standing member of the Bullys.
“I’m tenured,” West joked.
The pair has the playful banter of a married couple. Though, when speaking of West’s talent on the strings, Meshell gets almost paternal with pride.
“Right now two of our guitarists are out with Dwight Yoacam and our drummer is out with Supertramp guys,” Meshell said. “People come in and out of the band a little bit. You have to be kind of a bad ass to play with us and Greg is pretty much the best guitar player in town.”
“I didn’t say that,” West quickly added.
Meshell is also a little possessive of his prized guitarist. West still plays with that country band, JD Bender, but don’t let Meshell catch you talking about that.
“I’m loyal,” West explained. “Those are the only two bands I play with. Sorry, Davey.”
The Neighborhood Bullys, who Meshell denies naming after the Bob Dylan song, can only be described as 100 percent rock n’ roll. No gimmicks, no nonsense. And though their sound harkens back to the likes of the Cars and the Who, their music feels perfectly current.
The band’s present line up includes Reijo Repa Kauppila on drums, Sam Park on rhythm guitar, and Zach Jones on keyboard. It seems to be the right mix. The Bullys are charting in the FMBQ and all over Europe. In October, the band will be touring from Portland to Philadelphia to promote the fall release of their full-length EP, Calling All Rockers.
“We’re kind of like a mix of Ike and Tina Turner,” Meshell explains. “Or we’re kind of like having lunch with Iggy Pop and Duke Ellington. Or sharing an apartment with Ray Davies and Tammy Wynette.”
This can go on for a while. But to fully appreciate the Bullys, labels and comparisons are far less useful than listening. And what you hear are incredibly tight musicians playing upbeat rock and a singer whose voice is simultaneously bluesy, gravelly, and clean.
Their newest three-track, self-titled EP is a mini rock opera in and of itself.
The songs, “Fighter not a Lover,” “(Do You Have a) Boyfriend” and “I’m Bored, Let’s Fight,” are a story of love lost as fast as it’s found, told with tongue firmly planted in cheek.
And though a Bob Dylan song may not have named the band, “I’m Bored, Let’s Fight” is reminiscent of Dylan’s harsher songs like “Idiot Wind” and “Positively 4th St”:
I’ve been sitting here for hours pretending I’m listening to you/I sincerely hope that you choke on the slander you spew.
Perhaps they are just bullies, after all.
The Neighborhood Bullys come to the Lighthouse Cafe in Hermosa on Thursday night at 9pm. $5 cover For more information, visit www.thelighthousecafe.net or the band’s website www.theneighborhoodbullys.net.