Whenever all four members of Spokane’s BBBBandits are together at Neato Burrito, it’s usually late at night on a weekend, and they’re playing their brand of instrumental rock to an audience that twists and bobs right along with their muscular guitar lines.
But this is a sleepy Tuesday night and they’re the only ones in the joint, knocking back beers after a radio interview promoting the looming release of their first album.
It’d be easy to classify BBBBandits as surf rock: Their reverb-y, Fender-drenched style often resembles Dick Dale or the Ventures, the sun-soaked sound that defined ’60s surf culture. They’re a little more complicated than that, however, and their songs occasionally tip into the British punk of the Jam or the power pop of the Nerves.
“When we first started, it was lot more aggressive, more garage-y,” said guitarist Ryan Tucker. “When we played live, it was fast, and I feel like we’ve slowed down a lot.”
BBBBandits formed in 2011, a time when the Spokane music scene was scarily close to becoming a ghost town. “I think we were all in this dry spell where nothing was going on musically,” said bassist Colleen Vice, “and everybody was just bored with not doing anything.” Thus BBBBandits was born, following a series of name changes that included Financial Panthers (a “Simpsons” reference) and Motley Cruise Control. So what’s the story behind the name? Too many band names start with “The,” band members say, so they just stutter the first letter.
The band’s songwriting formula is refreshingly simple: Find a catchy guitar hook and run with it for two or three minutes.
“I’ve always listened to instruments, even in regular rock ’n’ roll songs,” said lead guitarist Gawain Fadeley (Tucker refers to him as the band’s “axe melter”). “I don’t really care about lyrics – a lot of people are lyric people, other people are melody people. I’m definitely a melody guy.”
Fadeley’s parts are essentially wordless vocal lines, that one piece of the song that will be knocking around in your brain the next day. As for the lack of vocals, Tucker said he didn’t want to sing and play guitar at the same time, and now it’s one of the band’s defining characteristics.
“Adding lyrics would be a game changer,” said drummer Jeff Glinski, and Tucker said the question they’re asked the most is, “Are you gonna have vocals, and can I sing with you?”
The band’s new album, “National Parks,” was recorded in December during a single five-hour session in Fadeley’s mother’s living room. The time crunch was less an artistic decision than a necessity – if they hadn’t knocked it out in a day, they don’t think they’d have ever gotten it done – and it captures, in 10 tracks over 28 minutes, the energy of their live shows.
“We’ve been together three years, we’ve never toured, we play here mostly,” Tucker said, gesturing to the corner of the now-empty burrito place. “We could tour hard, but we’re all in relationships and we have kids. We just wanna have fun with our buds.”
To which Fadeley added, “And that’s why it took us three years to finish this record.”