Sometimes it seems like our band is cursed," laughs guitarist Jon Quitner, known to Tight Bros. From Way Back When fans as Quitty. "I don't know. Bands go through a lot worse. I mean, we've never had our stuff ripped off . . . I'm looking for wood to knock."
That would be the ultimate indignity for the Tight Bros., considering the arduous path the band has followed over the past year. The Bros. were a few weeks into their first major tour last summer when Quitner was stricken with debilitating panic attacks that forced the band off the road and back home to Olympia, Washington.
"I kind of rushed myself into that tour," says Quitner in retrospect. "I thought I was OK, and I wasn't. We made it about halfway, and I started losing it. It got so I couldn't function, and I had to get on a plane and go home. It's just the worst feeling. I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy. You feel beholden to the rest of the band, and you don't want to cancel the tour. They're looking forward to it, you're looking forward to it, and it was one of the worst things I ever had to do."
And yet the experience was not entirely bad from the band's perspective. The shows that it did play were very well attended and received, and the Bros. were looking forward to a full, panic-free tour this year. They used the time at home to work on some new material and plan a new course of action.
With about a half-album's worth of brand new material rehearsed and inserted into the set list, they were ready to hit the road after the first of the new year. With dates lined up for the winter and spring, the Bros. were ready to take on the road once again, with post-tour plans to hit the studio in the summer to begin work on the sophomore follow-up to their 1999 debut, Runnin Thru My Bones.
Just before the start of the tour, however, drummer Justin Olsen took a trip to Arizona to visit his girlfriend, and the pair decided to drive to Colorado to visit her parents. During her shift, Olsen's girlfriend fell asleep at the wheel, drifting into the median, where the car flipped and crashed. Both Olsen and his girlfriend were thrown through the windshield.
"They were actually saved by a trucker who happened to be an EMT," says Quitner. "He found Justin 40 feet from the car in a ditch, unconscious and ready to die. He gave him CPR and revived him. Justin was airlifted to the University of New Mexico Medical Center in Albuquerque. He didn't come out of it for about a week. When they called me, they said he had a 30 percent chance of living. It was crazy. When everything was sorted out, it turned out he had no broken bones, no internal bleeding, no brain damage. He's a drummer . . . a rubber drummer."
Obviously, the Bros. tour had to be postponed for a possibly long and painful recovery for Olsen. Just as the band had resolved to stand by its fallen comrade for as long as it took for him to recuperate, the phone rang. The news was unnervingly unexpected.
"He called me from the hospital, and he's like 'We got any shows coming up?'" Quitner recalls. "We couldn't believe it. He seems pretty good now. He gets fatigued a little easier than he used to, and we'll have to ice his leg after every show, but he's all right. A little more forgetful than usual, but who can tell?"
And so the Tight Bros. are back on the road with a full-bore rock and roll show that is part punk roots and part old-school knucklehead rock. The Bros. (not brothers like Doobie or Allman, but "Broze") began life as a side project for Quitner and second guitarist Dave (he only goes by his first name) when both were doing time with Olympia's Behead the Prophet.
"It was this noisy hardcore band," says Quitner. "I was feeling kind of dissatisfied with that, because I kept winding up in these hardcore bands, and at the time, I didn't know anyone who just wanted to play rock and roll. I was talking to Dave about not being satisfied with Behead the Prophet, because it wasn't what was in me. I said that I wanted to play rock and roll, and Dave was like 'Oh, wow, I want to do that; can I be in the other band?' So we started it together."
Quitner and Dave solicited Jared Warren, then playing bass with Karp, and soon added a young drummer and Sean Kelly on vocals. Olsen soon replaced the original drummer, but even though the lineup was settled, the arrangement of the pieces was still in flux.
"I don't even remember whose idea it was; it just came up," Quitner says. "There was this great revelation that Jared should be the singer and Sean should play bass. They were into it, and it was the greatest idea. Even though Jared is a fine guitarist and plays bass and likes to do those things and sing, he's a ham. He should just have a mic and not be hampered by an instrument. So suddenly, the band jelled. We were pretty good, and then it was 'Oh, shit! This is what we're supposed to be doing.' All of a sudden, it seemed obvious. This is the band that's supposed to be."
Although the Tight Bros. From Way Back When play a simple rock and roll formula that's based on the AC/DC/Stooges/MC5 school of riffage, the band treads lightly when it comes to being grouped with other bands of similar sonic texture, but diametrically opposed philosophies.
"We don't care for any of that thug rock, bikini/hot rod crap," says Quitner. "We're very careful not to align ourselves there, because people try like crazy to put us there. This wave has been building for years of 'Aw, people think about stuff too much; it's time to fucking rock!' That's true, but it doesn't mean you throw your brain out with the pretension. We're all smart people, and we don't like stupid shit."
But there's an equally sensitive wire to walk with that stance as well, and Quitner and the Tight Bros. recognize that. "We don't define ourselves by what we're not," he says. "I'm not really into bands or artists who are big on defining themselves by what they're against. When you're busy separating yourself from people, that's always a danger. We are playing music, that music is in us naturally, and we think stuff, and we live that way. It's pretty simple."
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