Deadweight, Baggage, and Cadger — the three scroungy characters who originally formed Bankrupt and the Borrowers in a northeast Massachusetts town of Westford — started out as a New England garage band making boozy, punky blues-rock. Nearly three years ago, they pulled up sticks for Austin, Texas, to pursue a career in creating the most elegant beer-fueled anthems they could muster.
"No full names. Just one name, that's it," says Cadger, speaking from the band's van last week on their peculiar one-word monikers. The Borrowers were en route to Baton Rouge for another gig behind the seven-song album Beer on the Bible. "We like to keep it simple. Each of us sings lead on different songs, and me and Deadweight trade off on guitar and bass."
While Baggage and Deadweight grew up in Westford, Cadger came up in a nearby town in Connecticut. "We first got together in Deadweight's parents' basement," remembers Cadger. "We started the band really quickly, wrote a bunch of songs all fucked up one weekend, and then turned them into real songs. Deadweight started living in New York, so that's where we hooked up to practice and play shows."
The band kind of shrugs off the move from the Northeast to the Lone Star State as a low-key trek across the country "in a mostly disastrous, and largely worthless, tour of open mics, house parties, and empty bars" where they arrived in Austin "sleeping in their van and eating Thanksgiving dinner at the Dirty Dog Saloon."
Deadweight admits he was lured to the capitol city's blues-heavy band scene. "We were trying to think of a new place to go, and Austin seemed like a good option. I thought it would go for our sound," he says. "I walked down Sixth Street, and I was excited to see all these blues bands playing and all this music going on all over the place. But there's definitely not an Austin sound right now."
Other than being shitty-broke in a shitty economy, the funny-but-bleak tone of the band name has as much to do with the style trad-cool rock band names.
"Before we started entering into this national recession, all of us were already broke," laughs Deadweight. "We had been broke for quite some time, so we found it to be an amusing and appropriate name. Plus, I always liked the idea of band names like Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears or Eddie & The Cruisers — I like that whole idea."
Much of Beer on the Bible sounds like four drinking buddies having a killer band practice, but there's more to the music than sloppy fun and buzzed-up riffs. Highlights include the wha-wha trombone and trumpet in the slumpy but swingin' "Old New York," slow-staggering "Sweetheart," the raspy redneck lament in "Jodi" (the closest they get to emulating the Drive-By Truckers). While the minor-key guitar oscillation and arpeggiation matches the Thom York-style singing on the unexpectedly magnificent "Dumpster," the shouting and carryin-on on the trashy "Holy Roller" resembles the distorted-guitar rambunctiousness of early Replacements and Black Flag records.
Closing number "I Love You Baby" — an anguished hangover plea for redemption and relief in lumbering 6/8 time — features Cadger screeching, "Now honey, I'm begging you please ... I've been searching now for 10 years for God and truth/Now I'm droning in your twisted tears, lyin' wounded on Fatalism Avenue." Have mercy, y'all.
"I think we'd all like to get to a point where we can continue to tour around, make music, and make a living off it," says Deadweight. "I don't think any of us are interested in the wild fame route, where you're loaded with cash and start acting like assholes or anything like that."