Gather ‘round, children, and listen to the story of Superhorse, a rock ‘n’ roll band that began nearly 20 years ago, amidst the beer fumes and cigarette smoke of a cold, boxy rehearsal space inside a downtown building that burned in 1998.
The Lamas building is no longer as it was, and there are no more cheap practice rooms to be had in Savannah.
But the seven–headed Superhorse — and the magnetic attraction of pure, sweaty, undiluted rock ‘n’ roll — remains as strong as ever.
“It was a really nice environment for things to happen,” says Keith Kozel, the band’s lead singer and a man who’s been rocking in Savannah since the ‘80s. “Upstairs in Lamas it was all open studio space – and then there were a bunch of vacant storefronts on Broughton, and they were studio space.
“There was nothing to do except get in trouble. So we would go and get fucked up and all be within three blocks of each other. We’d all just go see each others’ band practices, and join in on each others’ band practices.”
Musicians of like mind and reference–frame tend to find one another, no matter the town, no matter the garage. In those days, just about all the Savannah players wound up in one of those dingy Broughton storefronts.
“Everyone that was in that kind of younger age group that was playing, we were all there,” says guitarist Kevin Rose.
“There really isn’t a place like that now. Everybody sees each other at the bars or whatever, but it’s not like it was. I wish there was a place like that again, but rents being what they are ....”
Adds Kozel: “I think the desire and the energy for it is still here, but not the actual, affordable space.”
Superhorse began as an offshoot of GAM, a band formed by Kozel and Rose to promote outrageousness, unpredictability and theatricality (the glammy group actually began as a vehicle for a space–rock–opera they’d written). They were famous for costumes and onstage pyrotechnics.
“Theatricality isn’t really a part of Superhorse,” Kozel explains. “I’m a front guy, a singer foremost as a musician, so there’s a certain amount of that that comes with the job. But it’s nothing like GAM, where there’s madness going on, a psychedelic freak–out going on. Here, there’s just a little rock ‘n’ roll poetry and punk rock energy.”
Superhorse plays Saturday at the Jinx, the band’s first gig in two years. Life, to quote John Lennon, is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.
The only reason the guys haven’t saddled up the ‘horse more often is their day–to–day commitments: Most of them hold down day jobs (Rose, as a matter of fact, has three), and there are quite a few kids to raise.
Kozel is usually the one to make that first phone call. “It’s hard to get everybody together,” he says. “I’m always ready to play music with whoever, whenever. I just sort of put myself in that position. I’m not qualified to do much else.
“I’m always out doing stuff, but the rest of the guys aren’t as much. So you just kind of wait for everyone to be like 'You know, we should play soon.’ I’m always ready.”
Rose, for all the appointments in his day planner (he runs Elevated Basement Studios, where just about every Savannah musician records), will always make time for his Superhorse buds. “Basically,” he says, “it’s playing rock music with friends. It’s more like family at this point. It kind of organically grew out of something, and it’s going to take a really heavy pesticide to kill it.”
Now, as then, Superhorse includes drummer Jim Reed, bassist Gene Lyons, keyboard player Jason Anderson, Kozel on vocals (and the occasional rhythm guitar) and six–stringers Rose, Sebastian Edwards and Bob Holman.
It’s a heavy guitar sound — how could it not be? — which draws equally from classic Rolling Stones, dark and decadent Velvet Underground and the powerhouse early Ramones. With Southern soul and urban grit.
There’s a whisky–soaked honky–tonk side to Superhorse, too, a little bit of Flying Burrito brotherhood. They once put out an EP called Country Lovin,’ with the twangier stuff that didn’t work, thematically, with the gloriously slamming material on their 2007 album The “High Impedance” Majesty of Superhorse.
In the beginning, Rose points out, Superhorse “was about the energy, but it was more about songs. There’s any of a number of ways to go with a band. Sometimes bands are all about the pants. And this was about the songs. We really didn’t think much about it, it just happened and it stuck. And the nice thing was, there was never any pressure with it.
“We played a gig years ago at Jim Collins’, and there was a guy there from Sony who said ‘Man, I gotta get you guys hooked up,’ and we said ‘That’s all right. That’s fine.’”
Superhorse declined. “It was,” Rose recalls, “one of those deals where we were just doing it to actually play together.”
According to Kozel, Superhorse’s piledriving hybrid was his idea in the first place – if you can call it an idea. “I had a few songs that weren’t really appropriate for GAM,” he explains, “because that band was really trying to do something specific.
“I started trying to recruit people. ‘Will you be in this band with me?’ Back then, I pretty much couldn’t play an instrument at all, so I was like, ‘I need you to do this, I need you to do that.’ People to help me flesh these things out. And they were excited about it and we all had a good time. It was a lot of inebriation and laughter.”
The concept – if you can call it a concept – was “we wanted to combine classic rock with punk rock. It was more like ‘We love punk rock, and we love classic rock, and let’s see how we can mash them together.’”
So here we are, kids, all these years later. It’s the same seven guys, the same attitudes, and talent, and desires. The same lust for life, rock ‘n’ roll style.
“The goal of this band is to have a really sincere rock ‘n’ roll party,” Kozel says. “Rock ‘n’ roll danger, good times and fuzzed–out guitars.”
Rose brings up a movie he likes, the 1981 documentary Vernon, Florida. It’s populated with eccentrics, straight–shooters and the odd hillbilly visionary.
“There’s this old man standing there, and he’s saying ‘People ask me about God, and I try to explain, it just happened. Whatever you say, it just happened, and that’s God.’
“And that’s kind of what Superhorse is like. It just happened. And to try to describe it is almost impossible.”
Where: The Jinx, 127 W. Congress St.
When: At 9:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 12
With: Fancy Pants & the Evildoers