In certain areas of Western Europe, in particular, Germany and France, there resides a romanticized and semi-fictional notion of the American Southwest and its music, evoking wild-west fantasies and country-punk outlaws. In other words, the transgressive and defiant rock 'n' roll band Texas Trash & The Trainwrecks, and the series of synchronicities, both unsettling and charming, that brought its members together, could have been concocted in some European record label boardroom, and it still wouldn't as interesting or definitive to Tucson as Gimmie a Hand!, the Trainwrecks' official debut album.
The Trainwrecks, led by singer Terry "Texas" Trash, had been simmering in various incarnations for years. "It was Terry and Ken's birthday, on the same day on July 6, 2010," guitarist Matt Marcus remembers. "I had just come back from Pittsburgh, where I used to live. On the drive back (to Tucson), my wife said, 'You're not allowed to not be in a band when you get back to Tucson.' About two days later we're at Terry's birthday party and he says, 'I'm starting a band and Ken Andree's playing bass,' and I'm, like, 'Fuck that guy, I'm playing guitar!'"
In 2012 drummer Rick Bailey joined, in a stunning feat of Keith Moon-style bravado, after convincing the trio that he was far more worthy of the position than anyone they'd been auditioning. The fully-realized Trainwrecks began playing quite often, honing the music that Trash says "sounds like a fucking noise that a dog hears when he cocks his head – that's what we sound like."
Listening to Gimmie a Hand!, this assertation makes complete sense: The Trainwrecks refigure The New York Dolls' "Subway Train," and the sonic reproduction of it, into a screeching, chugging locomotive storming a city's uneasy transition into modernity. It's not hard to imagine the brashly hilarious Trash as the conductor, and at this point maybe he is, but the band's name is a sardonic reference to a train accident that left him with a prosthetic arm and leg. The singer's wild and confrontational behavior on and offstage veil an intensely sharp and introspective man who quietly says that the accident, "was in some ways was the best thing that ever happened to me."
By all accounts, the making of the record was effortless. "The record kind of made it itself," Andree says. "It's not a Texas Trash & the Trainwrecks greatest hits record. Certain people had ideas of what Terry was, and of the songs, and a lot of those songs aren't on this record. This record is what we are, not what you want us to be."
"We recorded enough for two albums," Bailey adds. "And the stuff (that made the cut) is almost exactly the opposite of what I would have thought would have made the first record. I would have created a playlist like you'd create a set list."
Both Andree and Marcus are professional sound engineers, offering further insight into the band's meticulously crafted chaos. Andree says the quartet "spends a lot of time cultivating what we're doing in practice. (But live) it should (have a sense of) abandon. It should be like being on pirate ship. We're fucking old guys and it is about doing good work; it's about making something cool and fun. It's rock 'n' roll."
"It's not poker night," is a point emphasized by Bailey. "You know, years go by and things turn into hobbies. This isn't a hobby for anybody but it's also not some calculated thing. I'd equate it to how someone, young or old, would go out and surf every morning. Whether you're 15 or 50, this is what you do. It's fun and it's rewarding, but at the end of the day it's almost like you're going to fight Mike Tyson. To do it half-assed would just be embarrassing."
It's true. The Trainwrecks' live show is a singular and thrilling experience. "We did a show at the Bashful Bandit and one of our friends said 'you don't want to miss a Texas Trash & the Trainwrecks show because you just can't get it back.' That was a pretty good compliment," Marcus says.
Gimmie a Hand! is an exquisite audio documentation of a group of friends who refuse to accept subjugation at any cost, or as Trash says on his way out of the interview, "We're all just good friends and we all agree or it's no way – one way or no way. I'll say it this way: my favorite band is my band."