Timeless Guitars is a vintage-music store filled with vintage musicians. Decades-old Fender amps are stacked like Legos beneath guitars shaped like machine guns and brightly colored Flying-Vs. "I get a lot of my gear here," says guitarist Tom Pervanje, surveying the Parma storefront as if he were a kid fixing to raid the cookie jar.
But if the instruments that line the walls hark back to a bygone era, so too does Pervanje's band, Spy-Fi. Specializing in re-creating the evocative, often orchestral instrumentals of classic espionage flicks and TV shows from the '50s, '60s, and '70s, Spy-Fi spikes the themes from James Bond, Dick Tracy, Man From U.N.C.L.E., and dozens of others with volume and verve. The band's recent two-disc debut, Spy-Fi: Music for Spies, Thighs, and Private Eyes, Volumes 1 & 2, heats up Cold War soundtracks with muscular guitar and limber rhythms.
Already, the international acclaim is rolling in. Vic Flick, the guitarist who played on the original 007 theme, is a fan, and the band will be featured in an upcoming issue of 20th Century Guitar. There's a Spy-Fi fan site in Belgium and radio airplay in the Netherlands. "I just got an e-mail from a radio station in Brazil that wants it, and another radio station in England," says Pervanje, dressed in slacks and a sport coat with silver streaks highlighting his tousled black hair.
"We had a guy write from Siberia," adds keyboardist Scott Anderson, a buttoned-down kind of guy who's been playing piano since he was six.
"And Moscow," Pervanje continues. "Our goal is to play live in Moscow. It would be the culmination of East meets West. Finally, the closing of the Cold War."
Of course, when four fortysomethings get together to rock out the Hawaii Five-O theme, initially finding an audience is something of a challenge.
"The first reaction is 'Spy music? What the hell is that?'" says Pervanje, an architect by day, as are Anderson and drummer Bob Yeager. "But pretty soon, people were saying, 'This is pretty cool stuff,' and they liked the idea that we had carved a niche rather than being all over the map. There's all kinds of bands that have one surf song on an album, or a spy tune. So many bands have covered the James Bond theme, but nobody has really kind of focused on the whole genre, and we thought that really set us apart."
The idea for the band, which formed in '97, sprang from a Hugo Montenegro LP that Pervanje bought in a Florida record store while attending a guitar show.
"It was a whole album of spy tunes that were done in sort of a lounge format," he recalls. "We were starting to try and put together a surf band at the time, I brought this album in, and everybody kind of laughed, because it was so far removed from any of us. I thought, 'Let's try and rock these up and do them in our own way,' because there were a lot of surf bands popping up at the time, and we just didn't want to be another surf band."
Though Spy-Fi's tunes are predictably reverb-laden, its members aren't prototypical Dick Dale devotees. Having all known each other for years (Pervanje and bassist Mick Zofcin also played together in a late-'80s rockabilly band), they share a loose chemistry that adds a lively, off-the-cuff feel to the chestnuts they tackle. Moreover, some of the group's best songs are originals, including the dirty limbo "Stampede" and the sweaty stomp "Beach Police."
"Obviously, we'll run out of those songs that are that familiar," Pervanje says. "We've been playing them for seven, eight years now. We just wanted to get them down on CD and get them behind us, so we can focus on originals and other select songs."
Spy-Fi has had a tough time scoring gigs, mainly because they don't exactly fit on most rock bills, with bands whose members weren't even born when these guys first started. They've played at various Borders bookstores and are starting to gain momentum, thanks to the CDs. This Saturday, they'll play the Cove, a hard-rock haven in Geneva-on-the-Lake. Up until recently, Spy-Fi has been mostly a labor of love. Or so they hoped.
"Tom kind of promised us Bond chicks, if we played Bond music," Zofcin says with a smile. "We're still waiting."
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