It’s a few years back and I’m standing inside Radical Abacus, the small DIY space in the midtown industrial/Siler Road area, when Sex Headaches take the stage. Well, it’s actually just a corner of the room. They’re a two-piece comprised of local musicians Luke Henley and Angelo Harmsworth. They slay. A chaotic mix of fuzzy garage pop layered over a solid DK-esque punk rock foundation was just what I’d always wanted around here—and so it was.
It's roughly a year later and I'm drunk out of my mind inside Rockin' Rollers, the somehow-still-alien-themed roller rink in the same-ish area, and Sex Headaches, now a three-piece with second guitarist Sam Funk, slays even harder. For an hour. A full fucking hour. They achieve an even better sound, they're tighter than ever, I expect great things.
And then they disappear. Until now.
"I was really just looking for a drummer and a bassist," Henley says. See, the band is mainly his, the product of years as a musician, a writer and a self-described fan of angry music, and the upcoming show at Ghost is their glorious return to form.
Henley grew up in Tucson and came to Santa Fe by way of New York University, where he was pursuing a creative writing degree. "It was just too easy to be drunk and functional in New York," he says, "and Santa Fe University of Art and Design was really the only school where the requirements I'd already done would transfer."
But he never hung out with the other writing students, preferring instead to party with music majors. Previously, in Tucson, Henley had focused on DIY folk-punk or cowpunk styles as a performer, even though he'd gotten into bona fide punk rock from an early age. Santa Fe was his chance to revisit that love. "The big bands when I was in high school were, like, Dogbreth and Andrew Jackson Jihad, but I wasn't seeing a lot of the more punk or garage bands in Tucson," Henley says. "And I wasn't seeing bands like that when I moved to Santa Fe in 2013 either, which was kind of cool because I was like, 'Well, I can play these two-chord songs.'"
He recruited Harmsworth, and the pair played their first show at Pink Haüs, a no-longer-there house venue run by Storming the Beaches with Logos in Hand's Caitlin Brothers. "I didn't have many expectations, but seeing people really gravitate toward the music and seeing a really rowdy crowd was exciting and fun," Henley reminisces. "The first show I saw in Santa Fe was when High Mayhem brought Ty Segall, and I thought, 'Oh, cool—it's happening here'—the crowd was insane, and I could just tell it was like this huge release for them."
Of course, those of us who've lived around here awhile know that punk rock isn't always easy to come by, and that's what made Sex Headaches' appearance and subsequent quick disappearance sting so badly. But Henley never stopped writing, and now, with a little help from Treemotel's Mark Williams on drums and former Big Boo vocalist Mikey Rae on bass, Henley and original member Sam Funk are back at it. Thank God.
"We'll have new material," Henley says. "I'll write a song and show it to everybody else, and by the very nature of collaboration, it becomes something completely different. … It's important to me to have other people to play with; I don't like being a band director; I'm not good at it."
Still, the songs (some of which can be heard at sexheadaches.bandcamp.com) are killer, and it's great to have something different added to the scene, especially now that Henley has rounded out the sound with a bass player. "It's weird, but guitar-based bands seem almost uncool right now, and when I see a guitar-based band I think, 'Oh, how refreshing,'" Henley says. "It's another link in a very long chain, and it's kind of a regressive music, but that's what's so fun about it—if you play a catchy, pop-structured song and play it loud as fuck, people get excited."
For now, Henley is realistic yet hopeful.
"Not a ton of people are doing this, and it's easy to carve out a niche in Santa Fe with a strangely novel thing," he says. "It's personally and emotionally rewarding to make music here, but it would be cool if I had some T-shirts to sell, I guess."
Sex Headaches with Cult Tourists, Moonsong and T-Rextasy
7 pm Monday July 10. $5-$10.
2899 Trades West Road