“Back and Forth”—one of the best songs on Soft Targets, Earl Greyhound’s pseudo-glam-rock debut—is both a love song and a fight song. Over a stoner-metal guitar riff and a pounding beat, guitarist Matt Whyte and bassist Kamara Thomas take turns shooting insults at each other: He calls her a concubine, but she knows he’ll come crawling back. In real life, the two aren’t a couple; they’re more like brother and sister. “We’re each taking on a persona in the song,” says Thomas, a strikingly beautiful and stylish woman in her late twenties. It’s a hazy Sunday afternoon and the group is grooving to country classics (Johnny Cash, Loretta Lynn) in a bar near their practice space in DUMBO. “But we’ve had our battles.” She then ribs her bandmate with a smile, revealing a chipped tooth—the casualty of too much whiskey. “It’s a classic love song,” Whyte adds.
It’s also one of the first tunes the pair wrote together while gigging around town as a keyboard-and-guitar duo, performing originals and obligatory David Bowie covers in small clubs. Whyte and Thomas first hooked up in 2003, when Thomas moved to New York after she gave up trying to be an actress—”When Matt and I first met, all of a sudden the world looked bigger.” Of course, they needed a drummer to supply the band’s signature massive, pummeling stomps. After the first few recruits (including Chris Bear of the Brooklyn band Grizzly Bear) didn’t work out, Whyte and Thomas found a perfect replacement with Ricc Sheridan, a brawny dude who looks like a bodyguard and doesn’t say much. “It was a revelation,” Thomas says about the first time they played together. Everyone agrees. “It was the first time I ever got rockneck.”
To support Soft Targets, the trio will hit the road for a cross-country tour and shoot a video for “S.O.S,” a twisted multi-part opus that’s equal parts stoner metal and mannered glam. The band seems psyched, if a little nervous. Though their sound is huge enough to fill a larger ballroom, Whyte says the fledgling group prefers the intimacy of playing smaller clubs. “It’s easier to connect with the audience,” he says. “But we kind of have no choice but to really be on.”
Earl Greyhound play the Annex Saturday night, myspace.com/earlgreyhound.com.