The drummer didn’t show up to the interview. To this day, I have only seen Savage and the Big Beat’s drummer Benny Bailey on stage behind his kit.
I can only assume he’s a real person and not some trick of the light, or holographic projection, like so many long-dead Tupac Shakurs at Coachella. While he didn’t grace me with his presence, he did hold true to the drummer legacy set by greats like Keith Moon, they’re going to do what they’re going to do.
Band front man Max Brown and guitarist Kyle Irion did sit down and throw back a few brews.
The truly great Guy Ritchie movie “Snatch” was playing against the back wall. Bricktop was discussing the finer points of properly disposing of bodies and how best to take care of swine, as the duo walked into the bar.
Max leaned against a pool table sporting his green and narwhal-covered T-shirt and Kyle sat nearby by. Both looked at their watches, wondering when the third wheel would roll in.
Gunfire erupted from the speakers, marking a pivotal point in the film. Surrounded by booze, smoke, and now the sound of gunfire, we begin naturally with a question about heroin addiction.
“I would say no to addiction … umm … but you know what …” Kyle laughed as he spoke.
Max didn’t outright say no, but did say he had probably had as much beer as there is heroin around.
“I have never tried heroin but I like heroines … female heroes,” Kyle said. “I’m addicted, like if you watch a lot of Xena and that is your thing, then I could get into that addiction … strong women.”
Turns out strong women are central theme in Savage and the Big Beat songs.
“Women are either extremely dangerous or idolized,” Max said. “There is one song that goes out to my fiancé and it’s the title track called We are Defenders.”
We are Defenders is the newest album to drop. It is Kyle’s second with the band and Benny’s first. It is also marks a completely new direction for the band.
Savage and the Big Beat had been around, kicking out a lo-fi sound since before 2009. Max and then drummer Ryan were working the Denton scene as a true duo.
Several fans said if you like Queen, then you’ll like Savage and the Big Beat. While it wouldn’t be prudent to go so far as to make a direct comparison, the songs sound as if they were related. Related in the same way, that Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader are related … very close but quite different.
Max said the name Savage and the Big Beat came while he was playing in other bands. It is a combination of the character name Savage from a “A Brave New World,” which is one of Max’s favorite books and The Doors’ 1971 song Texas Radio and the Big Beat.
“I believe many of the songs are the character, Savage,” Max said. “Basically looking at why we live if we are not feeling something. If everything is already perfect, it defeats the purpose of experiencing anything. The primitive aspects of the Doors inspired me. Funny thing is Morrison was inspired by ‘A Brave New World,’ which I found out much later.”
Max saved the name until one day he decided to pair up and start his own group.
“When Ryan and I started the band it was a great thing,” Max said. “It was just two guys putting together bare-bones music. It was simplistic and that was good for what it was. With the newest songs, we have a complete band. You can hear these solos like you would have imagined. We have added depth.”
The band has also added more production value. The older lo-fi sound was more a product of less money and equipment. Despite that, Savage and the Big Beat has a devoted following.
“I was concerned that my presence would alienate the fans of the lo-fi sound, because these songs are way more produced than the older stuff,” Kyle said. “I met Max in 2009. I was a fan of Savage back in the lo-fi days.”
At the time, Kyle was living with a woman in an apartment above Max. He said he would listen to them practice. Years go by and he fell out of touch. But strangely in 2012, he was talking with a friend about bands they each loved and he said “I love Savage and the Big Beat, but it seems like they could use another element.” It must have been a real “put up or shut up” moment as Kyle’s friend basically said why doesn’t he do it.
“A lot of older Savage stuff is hard to compare to a concrete example. Maybe it’s a lot like Queen’s Seaside Rendezvous and other songs like that. It’s vaudevillian and quick; there are a lot of fills. You can hear a difference when I joined, Max can breath more and doesn’t have to fill every second all by himself. There is more variation in his parts now. He’s also writing with me in mind too. I’m not just retrofitted into these progressions.”
Benny came into the picture later. Already a staple in the local music scene and playing in several bands, Benny fit right in. The two laughed comparing Benny to Animal from the Muppets.
“It changes our dynamic in the fact that Benny does play differently than Ryan. He came in and recognized the style and what we were about,” Max said. “The great thing about him is that he is really willing to listen to everything we are doing and he accents that, but he also has great ideas himself.”
These aren’t just straightforward songs, like someone might hear on the radio. The lyrics tell stories of interstellar wars, mother ships, guns and bears.
“I usually write the songs and I won’t have any lyrics,” Max said. “I will feel the lyrics out and show them to the guys. Then the songs build. Our style will go back and forth but that keeps us fresh and it’s not necessarily the same over and over again.”
If you’re looking for a chorus to nod your head to for several seconds, you’re going to be taken aback. Each verse starts the next chapter. This style was hard on Kyle at first. With no easy repetition to cut down on all the line he’d commit to memory, the playlist seemed to be a monumental task.
“The songs that Max writes have six or seven parts and they are all unique,” Kyle said. “I was struggling. I remember playing shows and having my notebook with me and being terrified.”
By now “Snatch” had over for a while. The diamonds, the bookies, and gypsies had been retired and a swell of bad dance music was beginning wash over the scene as people wandered in, not knowing they had missed both an awesome flick and talking to a band with a truly great sound.
“We are picturing going somewhere completely new. We have some pretty basic songs, but anything that is about three or four minutes is a huge journey,” Max said. “It changes and changes.”