Take the twang of Hank Williams Sr., the prose of Dylan, the buzz of the Ramones, the muscle of the Stooges and the swagger of Johnny Thunders and you have the Cowgirls' high-octane formula for continued success on their adopted West Coast.
And not unlike the unimaginable Stones without Jagger, this definitive Los Angeles-transplanted rock-and-roll outfit wouldn't exist today without Todd, its volatile, balding jumpin' jack flash, commanding the spotlight. After almost two decades of rabid albeit limited acceptance on the grinding punk club circuit, what keeps the energetic, 40-something Todd interested?
"I love playing music and travelling all over," he said last week from his base of operations in Sherman Oaks, Calif. "Playing is very emotionally satisfying to me. It's really my calling. I love doing it, so how could I stop? I think that we're better now than we've ever been, and it's more satisfying to me than it's ever been. Sometimes it's frustrating that we haven't reached a wider audience, but the bottom line is that we love playing music and believe in what we do. So at worst, it's just a minor annoyance."
Despite being a tireless promoter of the Cowgirls' raison d'être (check out www.lazycowgirls. com for proof), Todd has never become disillusioned by the exhausting grind of touring back and forth across the country year after year in a smelly, cramped van, playing sometimes to just a handful of enthusiastic fans.
"I've always had tons of energy, and I'm surrounded by good people who inspire me, so it's never struck me as that much of a grind," he said. "I happen to like driving all over, seeing the country and meeting people. It's one of the few times I feel free and I'm doing what I really love to do. I actually think it's a pretty romantic thing. If it was good enough for people like (Delta bluesmen) Robert Johnson or Son House, then I can't complain too much."
On their latest album, Somewhere Down The Line, released on Sympathy For The Record Industry last April, the Cowgirls boast a set of more acoustic-edged material that has some hardcore followers wondering if they've (gulp) mellowed with age.
"You could say that we've matured and expanded on what we do by trying different things," Todd confesses, "but I think we're still doing what we always did, which is playing the music that makes us happy regardless of whether it's a stompin' rock-and-roll or acoustic number. It's been said that our last couple of records sound like Exile on Main Street meets the Ramones, with a sprinkling of Blood on the Tracks."
In lieu of the noticeably countrified styling of the latest CD, several songs like "Another Lost Cause," "But It's Alright Now" and "Back Down In The Basement" are more explosive than a Molotov cocktail filled with napalm.
Longevity aside, don't ever refer to the Cowgirls as the oldest touring punk band in America (apologies to the Dictators and Real Kids, who still gig sporadically).
"Well, first of all," Todd states, a little annoyed at the line of questioning, "we don't think of ourselves as a punk band. We think of ourselves as a rock-and-roll band. As far as the age thing goes, I think when you see us play it just goes to show how unimportant something like that can be. As far as our longevity goes, when you're having fun and feeling good about what you do, and you feel like you're getting better at it, well, who would want to get off the bus?"