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Last Year's Model

The members of Twiggy aren't exactly musical innocents. No earnest sentiments such as "we're really trying hard to land a record deal right now" or "I know I can make a living doing this" issue from their lips as they assemble in the cramped warehouse rehearsal space they share with two other Houston groups. They've paddled away from that particular Fantasy Island long ago.

But what these local live-music veterans haven't left behind is an honest love of playing. It's something that's carried them long after most players trade their beat-up guitars for imported leather attache cases.

"In a lot of the other bands I've been in, everything we did hinged on 'making it'," says Twiggy guitarist (and occasional Houston Press freelance photographer) Tom Callins. "With this band, we just hope people dig what we do. But we're not dying over making a huge [impact]. We just want to play."

Adds drummer Gregg Daileda, "Sometimes, I'll just come here and [rehearse] on my own."

But Daileda, Twiggy's most talkative member, has hardly been hunkered down composing material to present to the rest of the band. "I don't know how to play any ... " he begins, pausing for the right word.

" ... musical instruments," Callins jabs, cracking up other Twiggy mates Ransom Buller and Michael Redmond.

"No, chord changes," Daileda continues. "But of course, I am the only one who actually knows how to read music."

Callins sums up: "And don't forget, he also brings the beer."
The members of Twiggy, all of whom knew each other from years of playing in other groups around Houston, hashed out the idea of forming a band last summer. Redmond, 43 (ex-Kiljoys, Beans Barton); Buller, 43 (ex-the Reign); Callins, 38 (ex-Solid Goldsteins, Mulberry Jane and Personality Crisis); and Daileda, 34 (ex-Fab Motion, Shag) pulled what would become Twiggy together during bull sessions at their regular hangout, Rudyard's Pub. From there, they went on to play an open mike night at the Urban Art Bar. Their early sets consisted mainly of covers of classic tunes from '60s- and '70s-era British bands such as the Kinks and Mott the Hoople.

"We really liked the way we sounded together, and we just wanted to have some fun," Redmond says. "We didn't think anything would come of it."

But what did come of it was the decision to make things more permanent. Twiggy as a name for the band just kind of "popped into" Callins's head one day, though in retrospect the '60s English model of the same name provides a hint as to the band's classic garage-band sound. On Twiggy originals such as "Game," "Workin' Every Day," "Telephone," "Nightrider" and the incendiary "Subject to Change," the '60s/'70s rock influence is evident.

"We all play that kind of rock and roll, but each one of us comes from different spokes on that wheel," Redmond explains. "And we've blended it into a unique sound, which -- as far as I can tell -- is not predictable."

While his bandmates wax philosophical about their drive to play music professionally, Buller prefers to look at the rock musician's occupation as little more than good, dirty fun. "I wanted to meet girls with nicknames for their private parts," he offers bluntly.

The members of Twiggy polished their material last fall, then made their debut in December at Instant Karma, followed by a show at Rudyard's. Both went over reasonably well, and the band is eager to start building from there. The group has no set songwriting formula; one member might come up with a riff, some scribbled lyrics, or just hum an idea, and then all four set to work crafting the raw notion into a song.

"But nobody is married to their ideas," Daileda interjects. "If that was the case, the songs would sound [nothing] like they finally do."

Everyone except Daileda shares vocal duties, though the band is considering auditioning a "real" singer sometime soon. (Or maybe not.) The four musicians are also painfully aware of the problems involved in trying to be an all-original act in Houston -- or anywhere else. They're noticeably skeptical of the merits of so-called singer/songwriter-friendly towns such as Austin.

"It's the cover bands on Sixth Street that get all the [gigs] and the money," Callins says. "And [Austin original music groups] have the same problems we find here: trying to get somewhere to play, to get exposure. Original music, unless it's force fed, is hard to get someone interested in."

Although Twiggy's members initially seem hesitant to acknowledge their march toward middle age, Redmond is quick to turn their elder-statesman status into a badge of honor.

"We're still rocking after all these years," he says. "And no matter what else I'm doing, I still just selfishly dig the shit out of playing, and I now that sounds cliched, but it's true."

At this point, everyone in Twiggy has a day job, their more extravagant rock and roll dreams long since extinguished. Not that it seems to matter much.

"[We're looking for] young, well-built women," Callins says, pausing a moment. "But not for sex. We need help moving our equipment."

Twiggy performs at midnight, Saturday, February 7, at Mary Jane's, 4216 Washington Avenue. Cover is $3. Gasoline Alley and Under the Sun open. For info, call 869-

 
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