Honky-Tonk Surf Rock

Boom Chick is on a mission to make sure that early rock 'n' roll doesn't get swept aside

The deceptively simple musical recipe of Brooklyn, N.Y.-based duo Boom Chick includes only guitar, drums and voice. But guitarist-singer Frank Hoier and drummer-singer Moselle Spiller use those basic ingredients to produce an engagingly primal sound based on early rock 'n' roll, blues, country and surf music.

Hoier says he and Spiller both appreciate the authentic source material from which they draw inspiration.

"We never really had a problem liking the same sort of music," he says. "We came together over a shared interest in simplified drum and guitar sounds, and gravitated toward early rock 'n' roll because it was sort of this raucous dance music at its essence.

"I think what has drawn us to that era of music is that it was focused on real songs with really strong melodies, and from those basic elements, all of the different styles of (modern) music have branched out from that beginning."

Boom Chick will play its first Tucson gig on Friday, July 27, at Solar Culture Gallery. Tucson's Quiet Please will open the show. Like Boom Chick, the local group consists of a husband-and-wife duo: John and Kelli Sweeden.

Boom Chick started about four years ago, when Hoier demonstrated for Moselle a basic drum beat, from which derived the band's name. He says she was a natural right away.

"When Moselle first sat at a drum kit four years ago, I showed her this beat. I'd been teaching off and on for years. I said, 'Play this boom chick on the numbers one, two, three and four,' and she stuck right to it."

They jammed together for a year, mapping out their sound before officially deciding to become a band.

The first Boom Chick album is the eight-song Show Pony, recorded at home and released in late 2010. It is a scintillating document of the sound the duo describes as "honky-tonk surf rock." Earlier this year, the duo also released a three-song single, "Shake Can Well." Both recordings are available via the band's website, boomchickboomchick.com.

Hoier and Spiller—31 and 28, respectively—recently finished recording their second album, Want to Give, which will be released in October. "Shake Can Well" will be included.

Although Spiller comes relatively new to the music business, Hoier comes from a family tradition of music-making. His great-grandfather, also named Frank Hoier, was a "wild-man fiddle player" who played in Western swing bands.

"And my grandfather played piano in an Army band and was a music teacher all his life. My dad got a guitar at 12, and played in rock 'n' roll bands for several years before he got burnt out on it."

His dad, John, played with the Messengers, a 1960s Minnesota bubblegum/psychedelic-rock band notable for being the first white group signed to Motown Records. After leaving the Messengers, John Hoier started a Los Angeles studio and worked for several years as an engineer and producer.

John had long since ended his music career by the time Frank was getting started. But the younger Hoier says guitars and recording equipment were always around the house when he was growing up in Los Angeles. He and Spiller still use only vintage instruments and recording gear.

Hoier admits that Boom Chick occasionally gets compared to fellow guitar-drums duos such as the White Stripes and the Black Keys, which he thinks is inevitable and shows how some audiences are concerned with superficial qualities.

"We like both those bands. I think we are a little more blues (than those groups) in a little bit more of a weird way. I think people are so concerned with branding, they see a duo and immediately have a false understanding of it, and it has to fit in with what they have seen before," he says.

He adds that when listeners actually hear him and Spiller, or see the duo live, they often comment on how Boom Chick doesn't sound like other groups.

Although Hoier and Spiller revere the music by the likes of Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis and Bo Diddley, they aren't purists. "I don't like to get on my high horse and say, 'This older music is better than everything,' but we like it better," Hoier says.

At the same time, he doesn't shy away from a little musical proselytizing.

"Sometimes, I do feel like it's my mission. I kind of feel like it's my calling, in a way, to bring attention to the sort of early rock 'n' roll that gets pushed to the side as new trends come along."

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