When a gig with two other bands at the Pour House fell through a few months ago, local rock band the Dead 27's were left as the headliners with little notice, and, scrambling for ideas, they converged on what they knew best — playing Hendrix all night.
"After that first Hendrix set, we were drained," drummer Daniel Crider remembers. "I mean, we had to lie down. It was like we did something that was just exhausting and incredible. That experience got us writing original stuff and trying to capture that spirit."
Since then, they've written several original songs recently and plan to expand their touring and release an EP in the spring. While they are psyched about growing with original material, guitarist Wallace Mullinax can't resist talking about his love of Hendrix like a nerdy, excitable kid telling his grandfather about the inner workings of a Ferrari.
"He's the patron saint of rock guitar — the mecca, the big grand mac daddy," Mullinax says. "He introduced so many techniques. There's this note on 'Machine Gun' on Band of Gypsies, it's like 16 bars, a bend from a high A to a B on the high E string. I've heard Miles Davis and Trey Anastasio and so many others say that note changed their lives. That would have been 2005 when I first heard it, and I'm still working on how to convey that damn note. He just sits on it and lets it spin around. It just sits there spinning, and the guitar is literally howling, crying, and screaming."
Bassist Oliver Goldstein digs the Jimi stylings, but he describes the Dead 27's current sound as, "vintage, everything vintage — jazz, Motown, blues, classic rock, but with our own take." He adds, "Even writing has been easy. The tricks were just form things, bridges and stuff. I really like our new songs. I've had them stuck in my head all week."
Crider, Mullinax and Mullinax — three stalwarts of the Charleston music scene — recently welcomed Greenville-based singer Trey Francis. All of the guys are a year or two past the famous 27-year musician's death threshold at which the band name pokes fun.
Originally, Mullinax, Goldstein, and drummer Jack Burg worked a backup project for their main band, the Freeloaders, featuring celebrated singer Elise Testone of recent American Idol fame.
"Jack couldn't do it as much because he has a family and other projects, so we started playing with Daniel and Trey some," Mullinax says. "Eventually, we moved the name over because the new band had some horrible name like Oliver's Bunko Squad."
The Dead 27's are developing their own sound, and they credit their own relaxed attitude, the ease with which they jam with each other, and the addition of the talented Francis as major factors in shaping their latest original material.
"We've been boot-strappin' it so hard," Mullinax says. "Now that we're setting out, it's just working for us. It's easy. It's an open canvas."