Tell someone that you play in a punk band and it’s forgivable if the receiver conjures up certain stereotypes. We’ve been flooded with images of rebellious young guys with mohawks, leather jackets and more tattoos than brains for decades now, but what if a group of respectable, middle-aged guys make the claim? David McLean, Danny Bayer and Adrian Foltz, collectively known as the Raving Knaves (www.myspace.com/theravingknaves), may not necessarily pass the punker look test, but it only takes one look at their rsums to know that they’ve paid their dues. When McLean isn’t playing the ad game as the head of Greensboro agency King’s English, he’s splitting time between the Knaves and another band, the garage-pop Sin Tax (syntax, get it?). Bassist Bayer spent some time playing demonstrations and rallies as a member of Boxcar Bertha, while Foltz drummed for psychedelic garage-rockers the Droogs in Los Angeles to round out the threesome’s punk pedigree.
Those dues, however, are not necessarily the ones that land the big arena shows, or even the occasional club date, and their histories don’t involve major recording contracts. Instead, the Raving Knaves make no qualms about their individual daytime preoccupations being priority one. Yet, there’s something to be said about the dignity of holding a regular profession five days a week, yet still playing steady gigs of original material on the side. There’s even more to be said about doing it for 30 years and counting, almost as if it’s a means to living out a part-time rock reverie.
Take their recent St. Patty’s Day date at Caf Pasta, for example. The power trio was sequestered atop the split level dais overlooking the bar and blaring out over what’s normally merely a quasi-attentive crowd for live acts. Many obviously came explicitly to hear their brand of early ’70s Brit punk, while only a few others milled about at the bar before heading to their next Irish-themed destination. But being a band whose front man puckishly wears women’s clothing onstage on occasion, the Raving Knaves seem unconcerned with performing as a commercial venture.
“I’d much rather play for free in places where people are listening than get paid in those where they aren’t,” said Bayer. The band started as a quartet in late 2007 with a keen interest in the punk rock of the late ’70s. Drummer Andy Foster and guitarist Chris Micca left due to other obligations, as Micca was splitting time between the Knaves and the Malamondos. So McLean and Bayer organized with Foltz, who had just moved back to the area after 25 years in Los Angeles. Losing a band member undoubtedly changed the group dynamic, but McLean says that it hasn’t affected the health of their music one bit. “We’re real lean, so we can change things up rather quickly if we need to,” said McLean. “We have a very compact 12-song original set, though we added two covers to stretch it out a little.”
Even if a decrease in numbers resulted in greater agility, it doesn’t mean their depth of sound has suffered one bit. Like any classic punk act, they play fast and put forth a wall of overpowering, yet melodic sound. They draw their primary influences from British second-wave punk and though the likes of Lou Reed and Iggy Pop are also deeply entrenched in their sound, it’s no fluke that McLean’s style is derived from the era in which he first started writing music.
“It kind of dates me, but to me that’s about a little bit of what rock is about.”
The Raving Knaves’ next performance will be April 24 at Solaris.