By Jena Ardell
By Brian McManus
By Chaz Kangas
By Sound of the City
By Peter Gerstenzang
By Katherine Turman
By Chris Kornelis
By Brian McManus
It's balls-cold frigid on the LES and the members of New York City's debauched blues guitarorrists Endless Boogie meander inside their favorite hub, watering-hole-in-the-wall Max Fish. Boogie have been jamming and growling out slop-rawk epicness since 1997, and like the Fish, they are one of the last vestiges of downtown's vanishing grit.
Guitarist Jesper "The Governor" Eklow—in no rush to be quizzed about the band he co-founded in 1997 or ponder new scorcher Long Island—scarfs down a slice and a drink. His grizzled Boogie counterpart, Paul "Top Dollar" Major, smokes a butt outside. The super-steady combo of drummer Harry Druzd and bassist Marc Razo stroll outside; Eklow will soon follow suit on the pre-spiel cig break.
Endless Boogie began as a weekly jam session with no ulterior motive—no plans to record, play a show or tour. But Eklow did devise the Tuesday night jams mainly to lure the reclusive Major out of his pad. "The beginning was actually an excuse to get Paul to come and hang out with us," Eklow recalls. "He would just be sitting uptown in his apartment and we'd never see him unless we went to his house. So, it was like 'If we get Paul out once a week, we can hang out with him and jam.' That was the whole idea. Seven o'clock every Tuesday, Paul's gonna show up here [to jam]."
Sixteen years, countless live shows (they gave in after Pavement's Stephen Malkmus prodded them to fill an opening slot in 2001) and a bunch of records later, Boogie candidly admit they still don't have their shit together. An amusing grouch, Eklow rarely minces words when running down the litany of his band's shortcomings, spurring chuckles all around. They loaf when it comes to shows ("We're pretty bad at advertising it ourselves. It's not like we are secretive on purpose. It's just we're a little lazy."), cash at hand ("We have zero money. Always.") and merch ("There are T-shirts. We're just really bad at re-ordering them. And it's too much to carry.").
Being picky isn't Eklow and Major's forte either, especially when band-members leave. Decisions aren't based on technical prowess but rather convenience; both Druzd and Razo work at the Fish. "I just wanted these guys in the band so I can drink for free here," quips Eklow. Interviews? They don't top the Boogie priority list, especially for Eklow, who typically relegates press duties to Major. "I'm not used to it," he explains. "I always make Paul do them. He's a better talker."
Sixty-something and a self-described "music freak," Louisville native Major may be the official pontificator, but the rare record dealer and Gibson SG-slashing marvel embodies Boogie's virile action. As Eklow creates a rhythmic wall of filthy sound, Major plays the kindly freakazoid. Situated at center stage, he unleashes gnarly six-string histrionics whilst drowning beneath his bangs. Grunting and howling bombastic dude-speak about "steak rock" and "smokin' figs in the backyard," he's ostensibly Boogie's main attraction.
Not the case, according to Boogie's de facto fifth member, Chavez's Matt Sweeney. "Endless Boogie is Jesper's vision," the guitarist writes via e-mail. "His playing is a huge influence on the way I play and hear music. His whole idea with Boogie is to give Paul a framework to work from. In that process, Jesper's written some of the coolest circular riffs and a couple of perfect thug-rock songs."
Major himself even echoed Sweeney's take in a recent interview. Eklow, however, dismisses it, instead doling out credit to his Boogie mates. "While I might be the more driving force when it comes to coming up with new jams, it wouldn't be anything without Paul and these two because I can't solo for shit and he's pretty good at that," says Eklow. "It just wouldn't be music [without them]. It would just be boring. I'm just more of a catalyst or something. I need to have my own rhythm because I'm really bad at mimicking others so unless I start it myself, I can't really play it that well. That's probably how Boogie started. I'll come up with some theme and [Major will] make it good."
Last week at the Mercury Lounge, Major made it all good. Flanked by Eklow and Sweeney, he proclaimed "Long Island is coming to New York City!" before tearing into ear-bleeding marathon "The Savagist," the opening track off Boogie's just-released, third album proper, the 80-minute dirty lick and wah-wah journey, Long Island. Both Major and Razo agree it's "barbaric" while Eklow chimes in on the title's significance. Naturally, it fits the Boogie's slackerdom archetype. "You mean 'Lawn Guyland?' Well, we're big fans! It sounds and looks good. We're also amazed that no album is called that already."
Long Island's cover art—a freakish likeness of Major's mug—is also vintage Boogie. "We were in Oslo and we went to the Munch Museum," Eklow recalls. "I was looking at a book, and the guy I was with said 'Dude, this is my favorite guy. He's super hip amongst the death-metal bands.' I went back to the hotel and looked him up online. I then found this image and it looked just like Paul, and the dude did it in 1902! I thought it was a pretty amazing, remarkable likeness and had to be used somehow. I found out that it was public domain, and we can just use it," Eklow says laughing. "I hope."
Like its jamfare predecessors Focus Level (2008) and Full House Head (2010), Long Island—with standout chugger "Taking Out the Trash" as the should-be-hit—is zero-pretense masculine rock.
But Eklow remains unsure what niche Boogie fit into. "I don't think we belong to any genre, really," says Eklow. "We're definitely not a stoner rock band or psychedelic. We're not a garage band, either. But we love all these things. The only thing that we set out to do was we wanted to play like the Groundhogs or something. We wanna be a heavy rock band, but we're a little too inept for that."
Major digs at least one descriptor of Endless Boogie's racket. "A number of people who actually said something about us, and I was like 'Okay, that made sense' is we're like Kraut Southern rock." The Swedish-born Eklow agrees. "Yeah. A little bit. Because I'm European, I add the Kraut, but then I pretend I'm American and play Southern rock."
Endless Boogie plays the Cameo Gallery on Friday, February 15, to celebrate the release of Long Island (No Quarter).