Singer-guitarist Jeremy Porter, the veteran punk/garage rocker who heads up Jeremy Porter & the Tucos, got his start at an early age. By 16, he was playing in the Regulars, a legit punk group.
“It was pretty cool,” he says of the experience via phone from his Michigan home. Jeremy Porter and the Tucos perform at 9 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 13, at the Happy Dog. “We were in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan on the shore of Lake Superior. The winters were long, and there wasn’t a whole lot to do there for kids. A friend of mine’s mom worked at a record store in Ann Arbor, so he had all the newer records by the newer bands. We dug into those and played punk rock and garage covers. We were a little ahead of our time. It was a great experience. I learned a lot, and to this day, I carry a lot of that with me."
As much as Porter infuses his music with a punk rock ethos, he also brings something very melodic to the table. When it comes down to it, he says the Beatles, Beach Boys and Stones all influenced him as much as anything else.
“I have Black Flag records and Dead Kennedys and a lot of metal,” he says. “But we listen to a lot of different stuff. From the very earliest days, it was those pop hooks that got me. I will never forget hearing ‘I Want You To Want Me’ from Cheap Trick for the first time and what better hook is there than that? I will never forget that moment. I just liked the way it made me feel. It could be anything. It doesn’t have to be a vocal melody either. I’m really attracted to the idea of taking a melody like that and putting it up against a distorted guitar or even a minor key or some lyrics that are dark. The melody could be bright, and the topic of the song is not. I like that contrast, and it makes for some interesting art.”
Coming out of another punk-garage band, the Offramps, Porter formed the Tucos in 2010 with the intention of “taking the reins because nobody was on board as much as I am,” as he puts it.
“I thought that if I didn’t do that, I'd be struggling to wait for people to catch up,” he says. “I decided to do a Jeremy Porter and the fill-in-the-blank band. If someone comes and goes, I don’t have to start over. I didn’t want it to be me and a couple of hired guns, either. The band has always been collaborative. [Drummer] Gabriel [Doman] and I have been together since the start. We’re now on bass player No. 4 but every one of them has been a collaborator. It is my name just because I couldn’t be switching gears every few years when someone has a kid or is suddenly married to their job.”
Last year, the band released its latest studio album, Candy Coated Cannonball, and this year, it’s put out the retrospective Bottled Regrets: The First Ten Years. The best of compilation includes a greatest hits album, a live album and a rarities album.
“It was a lot of work,” Porter says of the album. “I thought it would be a quick and easy thing. The live album was the most work. I mixed and edited that myself. The best of was the easiest. I just had to deliver that to the mastering guy. The rarities was in the middle. It ran the gamut from professionally recorded outtakes to basement demos. I’m more careful with my archiving now. We’ve done a Christmas song and a contribution to a Guided by Voices compilation. I’m being very careful where I keep the mixes and masters, so when the time does come, it’ll be a lot less painful. I’m also trying to be more diligent about tracking live shows, so I have a bigger pool of material. That is the plan. Nothing would make me happier than to have the band go another ten years and have another two to three CDs to put out. It’s been received really well.”
With its raspy vocals and introspective lyrics, the new single, “Tonight Is Not the Night,” evokes the Pleased to Meet Me-era Replacements .
“It feels like a party song,” Porter says of the track. “The B-side is called ‘DTW.’ That’s an instrumental. That was written a couple of years prior for an animated series by a guy here in Detroit. You never know what to call an instrumental. Rush has a song called ‘YYZ.’ It’s the abbreviation for their airport in Toronto. We though that we could call it ‘DTW.’ Thanks to Geddy [Lee] and Alex [Lifeson] for that one."
Porter says his band has played the Happy Dog a few times in the past, and he’s particularly excited about the lineup for the upcoming show, which features two terrific local acts.
“We’re playing with my good friend Doug McKean,” he says. “He was in GC5 and Boys from County Hell and Bedroom Legends. I was in a Clash cover band, and we used to play with his Pogues cover band. He’s a great guy. The records he’s been putting out are just fantastic. He doesn’t get out much, so it’ll be really special to get him on stage. Duo Decibel System is also playing. They’re a two-piece, and they play dirty blues rock 'n’ roll. It’s the first night of our tour. We’re going on a long run down South, and we’re starting it off in Cleveland. We’ll play songs from Candy CoatedCannonball and dig back into the catalog. Maybe we can get Doug up to sing on a song with us. It’s going to be great."
Jeff has been covering the Cleveland music scene for more than 20 years now. And on a regular basis, he tries to talk to whatever big acts are coming through town, too. If you're in a band that he needs to hear, email him at [email protected]