The Speedbuggy Story
The sound that Speedbuggy USA offers is direct, almost unstoppable. It’s the musical equivalent of a juggernaut rampaging its way across the Southern states, its precious cargo rocking and rolling in the vast space behind the driver, and with no stop sign capable of putting a halt to the speeding behemoth. — Liverpool Sound Magazine (UK)
Speedbuggy USA is one of the hardest playing bands in rock music, putting their nitro-fueled swampbilly, soul, cow-punk brand on the soundtrack of our lives… And the style? That’s theirs, too. Thundering razor-sharp guitars, rumbling bass, and infectious drum grooves with howling dark vocals.
Arriving at their unique sound through the prism of experience, Speedbuggy USA’s persistence and love is for some of the greatest music of the past. Inspired by rock and roll sounds of The Clash, The Who, Johnny Thunders, and The Rolling Stones, along with roots of Little Richard, Elvis, and Johnny Cash, as well as the hard twangin’ Bakersfield sound of Buck Owens. There’s also plenty of Los Angeles history in there, including influences from Rank and File, X, The Cramps, and Tex & the Horseheads thrown into the mix as well.
So many influences, it’s impossible to peg just one. A style loud and proud enough to cut through the noise of clubs, festivals, and roadhouses across the globe packed with crowds looking for something different but familiar.
“It’s honest heartfelt music,” says Speedbuggy USA’s lyricist and front man, Timbo. “We write songs about hard jobs, rough life, bad breaks, drinking, and loving. Real stories about real people that seem to be lacking in songs these days. On stage, Speedbuggy USA delivers an explosion of raw energy with true passion and plenty of grit. We give nothing less than our all and shake the stage like an earthquake.”
Timbo – Vocals, guitar
Steve Kidwiler – Lead Guitar
Skip Whiting – Bass
Mike McNamara – Drums
Greg McMullen – Pedal Steel
Prior to the release of “Sonic West” the band sat down with seasoned journalist Janiss Garza for a quick chat:
“Sonic West”, the latest release from Speedbuggy USA, shows a band comfortably in their prime. Effortlessly showcasing their rock and roll chops, the band weaves between swamp billy blues and cow punk twang. With a refreshing hint of deadly soul, Speedbuggy is a force to be reckoned with as they stand alone among the imitators.
Our new album is a journey, not just back to the early days of the band in the 1990s, but also to my own musical beginnings — bands from the 80s, bands from the 50s, everything from the Cure to Little Richard and Elvis. We’re still doing the American roots stuff, mixed with a little Crampsey vibe, but it’s so much more this time around. It’s closer to what we were doing at the beginning, 20-odd years ago, but it’s also so much more.
I think the beginnings of this direction, for me, go back as far as 10 years ago, when I had a brain aneurysm. I went blind for awhile,I couldn’t walk. It took years to recover. When something like that happens to you it shakes and rattles you. You can’t have the same priorities you did before. Then I met Mike in 2017, when I was starting to come back to life and music again.
I met Timbo at a spot in my life where I was looking for a fresh start. I’d all but given up playing music completely, my heart just wasn’t in it. But through our friendship and after some gentle goading, I found myself behind the drum kit again and just remember the feeling of pure joy when my sticks hit the drums again for the first time. I fell in love all over again at that instant. I dunno…. We BOTH were just having so much fun, that it just naturally developed into playing music and writing songs together as often as we could. We practiced constantly. We became obsessed.
We were offered us a support role in an upcoming tour. Skip suggested, albeit, insisted that I contacted Steve and see if he would be interested in the tour. I figured what the hell and called him. Surprisingly he was all in and we started discussing the tour and having him play on the Sonic West album. Not long after, we started writing together, and then Covid hit. Everything got cancelled, so we thought, ok, let’s concentrate on writing and recording, since there was nothing else we could do with all of the lock downs and restrictions on travel. Mike inspired and fueled me. I started listening again to those iconic L.A. bands I loved — X, Gun Club, Tex and the Horseheads & Rank and File. I think it brought me back to a place and a sound that’s more true to who I am as a musician. We sent Steve the tracks for Sonic, and eventually some rough demos for the next album. Mikers and I decided to travel out Arizona (where Steve lives now) and jammed in his garage. We were immediately stoked to hear his punk roots were still alive in the way he played from his early days with NoFx, and from the first inception of Speedbuggy. Steve had been on a long hiatus from both music and art for quite a while; working a manual labor gig to help bring in cash. But you would never have guessed. His playing is like a lightning bolt and his art is still amazing.
Yeah, I was pretty stoked to get the call from Timbo, not just for the band thing but, to just reconnect with a long lost brother. I think I agreed to return to the band without giving it much thought. I mean I really missed playing, but figured that train had pulled out of the station. So I went out to the garage and dusted off the guitars, and gave the album tracks a listen. I was pleasantly surprised with how good it sounded and the new direction of the band… and fueled me even more.
I decided to call the album Sonic West because for me, Los Angeles has always had this sonic appeal, this raw energy. Growing up in Louisiana, I was fascinated by L.A. and I always wanted to come out here. It’s got a California sound, but underneath it all is a small town Southern feel. All these years later, I still relate to the vibe of the Louisiana kid I was when I first arrived here in the big city, and these songs, I think, really capture that.
From label mates 20 years ago to working on this record together, all it took was a conversation with over a pint, and my evil plan was set in motion. First I surprised myself by suggesting that I join on bass since the post was vacant, and then I started planting seeds in Timbo’s mind and before long, founding member Steve Kidwiler was back in the band. It only took me two years, but my joy is that, at least on this record now, both Seth and Steve are playing guitars against each other in such beautiful ways. And Steve lifted our energy in the studio in such a profound way. It wasn’t to be continued live but it sure worked in the studio.
The record wouldn’t be near what it became without Seth Von Paulus’ production input and arranging. He truly laid the groundwork for Steve to shine in my humble opinion.
My favorite part of working with the unstoppable John X? Our shared sartorial fashion sense. He’s my fearless Studio Spirit Animal. As he is in fashion, so shall he be in sound. He brings that fearlessness to the records he works on. He definitely brought it on ours. And a lot of laughter.
It was a breath of fresh air for me to step out of my comfort zone and take on a different instrument playing bass with these guys. To step back from my own front man role and be a part of the support structure surrounding Timbo has, I like to think, dragged the rest of SB through my dirty pop mind just enough to add something to the resulting record that wasn’t there before. And it has inspired new approaches in my own music. So I’d say it’s been a win win for everyone in SB.
Musically Timbo and I meet in the middle at The Clash, so I decided to begin my bass approach to these songs with the inspiration of Paul Simonon. But where his grooves came from, the Jamaican music he was surrounded by and what influenced them. Motown. Anerican Soul. It was important to me that these songs swung and seduced, they didn’t just muscle their way in the front door. And that’s what informed my writing contribution to these songs as well. Pushing the hooks and progressions that Timbo and Michael were writing out of ordinary spaces into something that was their own, while still serving the songs themselves.
“Sonic West” Song Breakdown
Timbo: We wanted to write a song that would kick off the album inspired by my love for Duane Eddy & The Ventures . Skip’s idea to add an old Western radio monologue really helped set te tone for the record
Let It Roll:
Mikerz: This was a fun one that came together almost immediately. I had this kinda B-52’s idea that I came into practice with and Timbo just took it and turned it into this whole other Cramps like thing. We wrote the chorus on the spot and had one of those moments where we looked at each other and knew we had a live one on our hands
Steve: I really liked Seth’s lead, so I just learned it and we ran it along side his and I it turned out pretty cool!
Mikerz: I wanted a song that had a swampy drum beat like the Stones’ “Ventilator Blues” in it, so that’s kinda how it started for me. But, as usual, once the song started to take shape it turned into something far greater. I can def hear a dose of The Clash along w/ a spoonful of The Who that makes up the Jambalaya dish that is Bad Reaction
Steve: I felt it needed a little kick so I channeled Randy Rhoads “No Bone Movies” for the intro and sought Tom Waits’ “Whistling Past the Graveyard” to mirror Mikers’ drum beat.
Timbo: John helped blend these songs into something really special. For example, “Burn,” which includes pedal steel from Greg McMullen, who plays with us sometimes. Originally, it was slower, but John said, “Forget this. We’re not putting out a honky tonk record again. Speed it up, play it sloppy.” And it clicked! It added a Replacements feel to the honky tonk vibe.
We took these songs into the studio with John X producing. He’s been in L.A. for a long time, and worked with bands we love and respect like Joe Strummer, the Stones, David Bowie. He’s also a good friend of mine, really nutty and off the wall, but an amazing guiding light
Run w/ the Wolves:
Timbo: I wrote it about werewolves, but also I was listening to a lot of Rank and File and X.
Just Gimme A Reason:
Timbo: It’s got a Stones-y, New York dolls feel. Cindy’s (of Dead Rock West) harmonies brought out the desperate love emotions of the song.
Left All Alone:
Timbo: I hung out with John Fogerty and we talked about our love for Trucker songs, so I went home and tried to write that I could imagine CCR playing
Mikerz: Timbo and I both really love those early James Brown crooner records, so we set off to write something like the “Godfather of Soul” would. Did we achieve that? No. But…. we DID end up w/ this song
One Tough Son of a Bitch:
Timbo: The inspiration for this song came from everywhere. I was going for something along the lines of “Bad Bad Leroy Brown” but if it was about a Charles Manson like cult figure instead. We blended the Bakersfield sound with my gritty New Orleans roots.
How Soon is Now:
Timbo: When we got Steve back in the band, one thing I asked him was what cover he wanted to do — and he said “How Soon Is Now.” I was, like, “Hmmm…” And I listened to every song by the Smiths, trying to find a different song! I didn’t know how I’d be able to sing it or play guitar on it. That’s when Mike said, “Just take a breath and let’s make it our own.” And that’s what we did. In the video for it, we’re zombies in this creepy basement area. We’ve actually shot four videos so far for the album.
Steve: My favorite Smiths tune. While listening to it one day I though, “ I’d like to cover this but how?” Leave it to Timbo and Mikers to come up with the killer arrangement! I wanted to stay true to Johnny Marr’s riffs, and once Skip and I synced that up…wabam!
Hitch My Wagon:
Timbo: I wanted to write a space ballad love song to close out the album. it’s about Roy Rogers and Dale Evans floating up to heaven.
Steve: The boys just said go nuts at the end. The addition of Andrew’s organ playing make it a beautiful, harmonic train wreck