Interviewing The Gluey Brothers is like folding bed sheets in a hurricane. Endless interjections, spontaneous singing and stories of debauchery peppered with memories of gurgling bong water and shower-less road trips, make it difficult to stay on task.
The band members, who go by the stage names Clarabelle, Lief Rakker, MC Tahina, King Hummus and Dollarstore Cowboy, have been making music for the better part of 15 years.
The Gluey Brothers are a challenge to label both musically and as performers. If you close your eyes and think back to the late ’90s pseudo-funk/punk/ska scene of Sublime, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Urban Dance Squad, the Brothers would fit squarely into the mix.
But there are also theatrical elements as the band performs skits between sets. Like the majority of the Brothers’ songs, these often amount to anecdotal humor, inside jokes or vignettes about friends and acquaintances that often bewilder the audiences.
Though the stage act may be a touch sarcastic the band’s success isn’t. The Brothers once played 100 shows per year, toured in a converted school bus, played on national television for Penn & Teller’s Sin City Spectacular and entertained Val Kilmer and guests at a private gig on his ranch. It played its last gig in Santa Fe in 2005 at the Paramount, days before the club closed, and now keeps its touring down to about three shows per year. For one of those shows, the band returns to the local stage in full polyester regalia in support of its DVD release, Rio Vista, Visuals: Volume One (see video below), which captures the Brothers throughout its history.
“There’s video footage spanning 15 years, even from our first show that we ever did in LA at an Irish pub,” MC Tahina, one of the band’s founding members, says. “I recently saw the rough cut and it’s like a play, it’s not even a band at all. We’re just yelling at the audience. I’m seeing it much more objectively and it’s totally different from what we do now.”
Tahina and fellow singer King Hummus started The Gluey Brothers in Los Angeles, around 1993, as a duo with a drum machine. They would rap songs with titles such as “Donut Quota” at open mics. Meanwhile, the Santa Fe band Mobius Trip moved to Los Angeles to work with the Dust Brothers—the production team behind the Beastie Boys’ Paul’s Boutique, Beck’s Odelay and the Fight Club soundtrack. Mobius Trip and The Gluey Brothers eventually met at a house party where Mobius Trip was playing.
“Everybody was like, ‘You gotta meet these guys, the Gluey Brothers, they’ll be here later, they’re great,’” Mobius Trip drummer Rakker says. “So they came up when we were playing and got on the microphones and we started playing until the LAPD came with its helicopters and I thought, ‘Wow, this big time.’”
After Mobius Trip disbanded in 1994, Rakker, local Santa Fe guitarist Clarabelle and Tahina’s childhood friend Dollarstore Cowboy became the Established Gentlemen, a permanent backing band for the Brothers, which then relocated to Santa Fe in 1995 and became a steady presence in the music scene until 2002, when Tahina and Hummus returned to California. Tahina eventually returned to Santa Fe permanently in 2005.
“It was like street theater,” Tahina says about some of the early gigs. “We would lurk into a venue that we were playing in full costume. The audience might have seen us in their peripheral vision, but they didn’t know it was the band until we got up on stage. We would confront people and make them nervous, especially our bass player. He would dress like a homeless person and would have trash bags full of his wardrobe changes. So this became part of the appeal of the show.”
Tahina says LA audiences wanted the theater act, while the rest of its audiences “just wanted to dance.” Eventually, the band turned its focus to its music. Despite its tightened stage show, popularity and high-profile gigs, the band never scored a record or distribution deal. But it did manage to squeeze out three recordings on its own, Stiff for Elders, Luncheon Meat of the Giants and Sleece Live!
“We wanted to be Public Enemy. The white Chuck D and Flav,” Tahina says.
Usually these kinds of remarks from musicians who have stood at the threshold of fame and fortune are accompanied by a tinge of regret and perhaps a longing for something that might have been. But Tahina, Rakker and Clarabelle are excited when they think about their past, which is now captured and edited into a slick DVD that includes not only footage of the band, but also animation created by its fans.
“Other people have created their own art that was spawned or influenced by us,” Tahina says with huge smile. “And that is just the greatest thing.”
The Gluey Brothers with DJ Rocque ranaldi and DJ Cocqui
8 pm Friday, Aug. 8, $8
Santa Fe Brewing Company
35 Fire Place