Detroit rockers find home, reality in BG

For a while, it seemed like the Detroit River had been rerouted to carry its musical exports directly into the mainstream. The English music magazines found their shaggy-haired goldmine in the Motor City, and it is them who may have been responsible for the fame that the White Stripes and Andrew W.K. enjoy today. Now that the hot spot has seemingly moved East to New York City, some forward-thinking musicians in Detroit are able to focus on action rather than fashion.

Thunderbirds Are Now! take the herky-jerky rhythms of Devo, lay them under sharp dance-punk guitar, and top it off with Attractions-on-speed synthesizers and yelped, spastic vocals. Live, they have all the spontaneity and energy of Iggy Pop. Most of their shows start with a calm introduction, and some have ended with blood, vomiting and nudity, albeit small amounts.

Their last Bowling Green performance in August filled Howard’s Club H with one of the biggest crowds the club has seen since the aforementioned Andrew W.K. played there last Winter.

Thunderbirds Are Now! will bring their party arms and their newest material back to Howard’s Saturday night.

Q: Who are the band members?

A: Ryan Allen: vocals, guitar; Scott Allen: keyboards, vocals, percussion, samples; Mike Durgan: drums; Marty Smith: bass.

Q: How did the band get together?

A: Marty and Mike started a band called One Trip One Noise. Their guitar player quit, so they asked me to join. I was playing drums in a band called Red Shirt Brigade at the time along with Scott, but thought it would be fun. We played two shows, then changed our name. RSB broke up around the same time, so we started focusing more attention to TAN!, and asked Scott to join on keyboards.

Q: What bands have influenced TAN!?

A: The Jackson 5 and Gang of Four.

Q: What has TAN! released?

A: One self-released record, an EP called Another One Hypnotized By… and a full length called Doctor, Lawyer, Indian Chief.

Q: Do you feel that being from such a rich and scrutinized musical region is an asset or a liability to your band?

A: The Detroit scene is really quite a joke. There’s more focus on the way bands look than on how they sound, and if you’ve got the right friends, you’re all set to become the next big thing for about twelve seconds. We tend to do things the old-fashioned way, by playing whatever shows we want, making friends with great bands/ people around here and trying to have a sense of humor about everything.

Q: Do you feel that TAN! is better experienced on a record or at a live performance?

A: It seems to vary. Live, we play really fast and sometimes it’s hard to tell what’s going on. On record, things seem to make a bit more sense. Live, I think we really shine. It tends to be best when people are familiar enough with our songs so even if you can’t tell what’s going on, you can sort of hear the song in your head anyway.

Q: What has been the biggest accomplishment that the band has made?

A: One of our greatest accomplishments is learning how to pee in chip bags and pop bottles while on the road. Another accomplishment was getting to play with tons of amazing bands that we look up to, and making great friends with some of them. Q: What is the band currently doing?

A: We’re writing new songs and demoing them to send out to a few record labels. And of course, we’re playing tons of shows. Q: What was your favorite record of 2003?

A: Mine was the Shins’ Chutes Too Narrow, but I know we all enjoyed records by the Mars Volta, the Decemberists, Prefuse 73, the Rapture and Jay-Z this year. Marty still really likes the Posies.

Q: How does playing in Bowling Green compare to playing in Detroit?

A: Playing in Detroit can be likened to doing a rock show in a morgue full of well dressed hipsters. Playing in BG is like doing a show in the middle of a zoo catastrophe, as the elephants, lions and tigers run loose on the grounds. We prefer the latter to the former. All the kids in BG have really treated us very nicely and have always come to our shows prepared to have a great time. We’re not sure if this has something to do with the mini-pitchers they serve at Howard’s, but we’d like to believe it’s because they like us.