Mikey and the Drags Come Roaring Out of the Garage

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A couple of months ago at downtown's Discovery Green, Mikey Drag sat behind a merchandise table near the big lawn.

This was after his band, Mikey and the Drags, had played a blistering set of garage rock as part of a Thursday night concert series to listeners whose mode of personal transportation ran the gamut from baby strollers to Medicaid-issued walkers.

Among the offerings spread out for sale were the usual suspects of CDs and T-shirts, but also copies of the band's 2013 EP, On the Loose!, in...cassette.

Cassette? Vinyl may have made a huge comeback, and Sony just introduced a new version of the Walkman. But how many music fans are clamoring for the return of a media format that can be munched up by a tiny roller or recorded over? Actually, more than you think.

"Yeah, it's something that we had to think about doing, but we were surprised to find out that a lot of bands are doing [new] cassettes today. And they sell!" Drag offers with a laugh. "Plus, they're really cheap to make!"

So, along with their self-titled 45, mp3s on their Facebook page and an upcoming full-length CD to be released on a German label in March, the music of Mikey and the Drags will soon be available on all viable media formats. Unless the 8-Track also makes a comeback.

The band -- which currently includes singer/guitarist Drag, bassist Chris Oddo, drummer Andrew Lee and organist Austin Sepulvado, got its start in spring 2012.

That's when Drag (whose previous band had been the McKenzies) and Lee (who also plays guitar with the Wild Moccasins) decided to start a group whose sound would be firmly rooted in the Nuggets era garage/surf rock sound whose heyday was the mid/late '60s. Their first show was at Mango's that summer.

The challenge, of course, was not just to ape the sounds and styles of groups like the Count Five, Seeds, Blues Magoos, Electric Prunes, Sonics, Wailers, Standells and ? and the Mysterians, but to create original contemporary music that wasn't just derivative.

Drag admits it's been a challenge, but the band has been able to succeed on tracks such as "Don't Be Afraid of the Dark," "I've Got a Bottle," "So Fine," "Hot Minute" and "On the Loose!"

"It's tough, because you want to make the songs your own," he says. "I would write and think, 'Oh, this sounds too much like so-and-so or this song.' And then I would try to put our own spin on it."

Drag and Lee added Oddo to the lineup, and they existed as a three-piece for a while. But as any self-respecting garage rock band knows, you've got to have the sound of an organ.

As there were no Vox Continentals or Farfisas lying around Houston music stores, Drag ended up getting a Yamaha organ and recruiting Sepulvado (also a guitarist/vocalist for Buxton) to complete the quartet.

"That organ is a vital part of garage rock, and we needed to have that sound. But no one had a '60s organ in town!" Drag laughs. "But I love the way [the organ] sounds. It just gets to you."

And while the band plays at several venues around town regularly, they feel most at home in the Continental Club/Shoeshine Charley's Big Top Lounge area of Main Street.

"The first time we played at the Continental was with Los Straitjackets, and it was cool," Drag says. "In fact, that whole corner has been our spot because the whole vibe is cool. They [club bookers] really brought us in."

For now, the band is looking forward to the release of its full-length debut, Make You Mine, on Germany's Soundflat Records. A rep at the label had expressed some interest in the group after hearing of some of their songs on the Internet by chance, and Drag continued sending him work.

"The Internet has been good to us. And our Facebook page. We wouldn't be doing a lot of what we do without it because it exposes us to so many people," Drags sums up.

And though he adds that everyone in the band has a day gig (he himself in a 9-to-5 office job), it's clear where his passion lies.

"I can't see myself not doing this. I just can't."

Mikey and the Drags play Friday, January 16, at Walter's Downtown, 1120 Naylor Street. 713-222-2679 or www.waltersdowntown.com

Also, visit the band's Facebook page.

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