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HiFiDriveBy with the Stations

Friday, Dec. 14 at 9 p.m.

Pilot Light


Out of the Garage

Morristown's HiFiDriveBy moves up a room

by John Sewell

Though a certain mystique has been attributed to the heartland wonder of rock 'n' roll bands pounding out tunes in garages throughout suburban USA, the truth of the matter is that there is very little glory to be found from the DIY approach. America is rife with excellent bands that never will be lucky enough to find any more than even a moment in the limelight—and that all depends on what your idea of limelight is.

But Saint Warhol's oft repeated "15 minutes of fame" quotation is, sadly, misinformation. Fifteen minutes on a dinky stage in front of 15 disinterested hipsters, which would be an accurate description of Knoxville's current indie music scene on any given night, is probably more what the usual garage band gets. Nonetheless, hope springs eternal for an endless deluge of bands. Most of them are unmemorable, but some of them are actually great. Morristown's HiFiDriveBy falls in the latter category.

The DriveBys are probably better known as The Lovejoys, but the guys in the band got tired of being mistaken for several other groups with similar monikers. So the group has adopted the new name—which is either endearingly quirky or cheesy and obnoxious, depending on your perspective. These kids and their wack band names!

"There was already a band called Lovejoi from Nashville and a reggae band called the Natti Love Joys," says drummer Seth Gourley. "And we had people going to see these other bands thinking they were us. So we had to come up with something new."

"HiFiDriveBy was actually what I'd planned to call the album before we had to change our name," explains singer/guitarist/songwriter Keith Carpenter, founder of the band. "So we just kind of went from there. I mean, we just didn't have too many other ideas. We thought about calling it The Simpletons, but that name was already taken too. Nobody else has come up with HiFiDriveBy that we know of—at least, not yet."

Luckily, the new name doesn't portend any radical sonic departures for the band. They'll stick to their basic, no-nonsense approach to melodic pop/rock—a well-crafted sound that utilizes elements of everything from Buddy Holly to Big Star to Badfinger to The Buzzcocks. The band has been honing their approach since the fall of 1998.

"Just last week these guys were telling us that we sounded like The Cars meet The Get Up Kids," says Carpenter. "I like The Cars and I like The Get Up Kids, so that's OK. But if I had to say what we sounded like, I guess I'd say power pop."

The thing that makes HiFiDriveBy so cool is their lack of pretense. Of course they've done their homework, and their music displays a keen sense of rock history in all its variations. These guys are by no means neophytes, but they've still got a kind of wide eyed innocence about them, coupled with a decidedly Southern twang that would do Roy Orbison proud.

And you've just gotta love 'em for their persistence. In the last year, the band has distributed around 500 copies of their debut album (recorded as The Lovejoys) Don't Forget To Smile. The album was recorded in their basement, engineered and mixed by band members, printed up at home on CDRs and handed out at their shows for free.

At present, HFDB is working on another album as yet untitled. The band is amid recording sessions at Knoxville's hardcore/indie hideaway, Severe Sound. The CD will be released in the winter of 2002, this time with an actual price tag attached.

HFDB's recordings seem to veer toward the pop side of things, while their live show is more of a full-on raw power sonic assault, abetted by harmonies, of course. The X factor of the DriveBys' sound is guitarist Dave "Hotrod'n" Hamilton, formerly of the Helldorados.

"You might say that I'm the rock 'n' roll guy in the band, I dunno," says Hamilton, surely one of the loudest, most Marshallized players in the area. "I'm half deaf, so I have to play really loud." (Later in the evening, Hamilton was mistaken for a member of Nashville Pussy, who were actually playing across the street. Though Hamilton by no means looks like a member of Blaine & Co., Hamilton's gearhead/greaser/rebel style might lead one to that conclusion.)

HFDB has busied itself playing weekend shows around the area. Their orbit of rock travel includes Knoxville, Johnson City, Jefferson City, Bristol, Lexington, Murfreesboro and Morristown, where they have drawn their biggest crowds.

"We just keep playing because it's fun," says Carpenter. "I mean, we definitely lost our butt giving away all those CDs."

"And if we get a big crowd, that means that we're opening for somebody else that actually has a bunch of fans," adds Gourley, laughing hysterically as usual. "Playing music is just a curse—we can't stop. I'd say we're a garage band just because sometimes we can't see beyond that reality."

"But really, we're more of a living room band," adds Hamilton. "We've got enough class that we play living rooms instead of garages."

November 29, 2001 * Vol. 11, No. 48
© 2001 Metro Pulse