It’s two-for-one happy hour at Motor City on the Lower East Side, and three-fifths of New York rabble rousers the Dirty Pearls quaff cheap suds to a soundtrack of the Heartbreakers, the Ramones and the New York Dolls.
The Dirty Pearls fit right in with such musical brethren of the ’70s, as well as the dank, hipster divey-ness of the afternoon’s locale. As Queens-born singer Tommy London explains: “I wanted to put together a band that was like something out of The Warriors; I thought that in rock ‘n’ roll, a gang was missing. I haven’t seen a gang since Guns N’ Roses.”
Drummer Marty E. and bassist Dougie Wright-the original trio that comprised the band–nod in agreement. Rounded out by guitarists Sunny Climbs and Tommy Mokas, four years of hard work and play scored the coup of selling the Bowery Ballroom four times, not to mention opening slots for KISS, Andrew WK and the New York Dolls. Now, with the recently released attitudinal aural statement that is Whether You like It or Not, and a tour with Lady Gaga (sort of–more on that later), the Dirty Pearls are ready to conquer the airwaves.
“Rock ‘n’ roll is the underdog in this day and age; it’s a hip-hop pop world,” observes London, whose original ad to recruit players referenced “Aerosmith meets Wolfmother.” “We’d broken ground in the city, but how do we get a 13-year-old kid to think, ‘this is rock,’ while it still has this sound that’s on the radio. I was thinking so far ahead,” laughs the business-minded front man. “I mean, what I liked and listened to at 13, and you liked, you still like. I’m looking for the long haul. I felt Billy Idol had it right–a guy can shake their fist to him and a girl can shake her ass. I want that pulse, not of dance, but that the Clash and Cheap Trick had.” They’ve captured that on Whether You Like It Or Not, thanks in part to mega-producer David Kahne (Paul McCartney, Sublime), as Marty E. explains: “He mined the songs for every hook and nuance that would make it sparkle and shimmer–all those fucking adjectives.” Memorable tunes like “Who’s Coming Back To Who” and “New York City is a Drug,” done with the band’s dynamic “New York pulse and urgency,” got an amazing vote of confidence from Kahne, who agreed to produce without any upfront payment–he’ll wait until the band makes money before he takes his fee.
Another believer is Lady Gaga, who namechecks the band on her song “Heavy Metal Lover”: “Dirty Pearls and a patch for all the Rivington Rebels/ Let’s raise hell in the streets drink beer and get into trouble.” Gaga’s DJ, Lady Starlight, met London and Marty E. at St. Jerome’s, a bar where he DJs. Cut to 2013, where the Dirty Pearls hit the road playing all official after parties for their pal’s tour. In LA, for instance, Gaga plays the Staples Center; post-show, Lady Starlight spins at the infamous Viper Room and the Dirty Pearls perform live. Sounds like a fancy gig, but the band demurs. They’re touring with no crew, in a van, and they quip, “we’ll be camping out in your backyard.”
But the Dirty Pearls aren’t complaining: like any good rock band/gang, “Everyone gets into trouble, but gets out of trouble. We’re all for one and one for all, and we get done what needs to get done. Besides,” quips London: “We’re not reinventing the wheel; we’re just putting a new car on top.” Whether you like it or not: Ladies and gentlemen, the Dirty Pearls.
The Dirty Pearls play the Bowery Ballroom on Friday, January 4.