Thursday, May 2, 2013

As unstoppable as Gallagher's watermelon hammer, Tressels smash their way into The Note

From left: Brendan Floyd, Andrew Fullerton, Brian Sarkisian, Mickey Turner, and former drummer Tom Giachero.
The Tressels, the pride of Drexel Hill, Pa., are the kind of dudes who are barely impressed that you have Greg "The Hammer" Valentine's number in your cell phone. "Of course you do. Who doesn't?" was something to the effect of what percussionist Mickey Turner actually said in response to this actual revelation made outside of Mojo 13 in Holly Oak sometime in 2007. 

These 30-somethings, some of whom are married and settled down, still break stuff and get slammed and rock every ounce of sweat out of their bodies when they play live gigs. 

Singer/guitarist Andrew "Butch" Fullerton and lead ax man Brian "Dirtman" Sarkisian have been playing together for some 15 years, the last eight of which have been as Tressels along with co-founder Turner. This core is all that remains of the "classic lineup," but they're soldiering on for what some might say is the prime of their recording output - the ongoing "American Trilogy" that is now on part two, "American Midnight."

Earlier this week, in advance of their show with Nine Days and 20 Minute Tango at 9 p.m. Saturday May 4 at The Note, 142 E. Market St., West Chester, Pa., Fullerton took some time to answer an onslaught of questions from First State Rock, including some that have actual substance and a point to them.

First State Rock: On “American Trilogy” you guys really seem to be going for it, between the production, the photo shoot, etc. Is there a renewed sense of urgency here? Are you taking The Big Shot?

Andrew Fullerton: We've been around long enough now that we've had the opportunity to work with some really good people, and we felt going into this that the songs and the story we were trying to tell really deserved some extra attention. During "Midnight," our engineer Dan gave us a "you're putting too much pressure on yourself" talk, but I think the end result was worth it. I'm not even sure "the big shot" really exists, but if it does, then yes, this is the record where we put it all out on the table.

FSR: You guys aren’t in Rolling Stones territory age-wise just yet but you’re no spring pups either. Have you noticed any differences with the day after the show? Anything else?

Fullerton: Our show has always been pretty physical, and we've learned over the years how to better prepare for that, but I think the hardest part a lot of the time is going back to your day job the next day, especially after a great show. 

FSR: Other than the core of you, Big Dirty and Mickey Reds, you guys have had some turnover recently. How has that affected the band, both positively and negatively?

Fullerton: We used to let it affect us negatively, because even now it seems that people jump ship right when we are gaining momentum, but I think we've learned to embrace it and realize that we will never ever have a steady lineup. It's also fun to branch out and play with new people, it helps you re-learn your songs and rejuvenate stuff that may not have worked before. However, someone quitting your band always stings, more so at this level because there's hardly any money, it feels like the only reason we are doing this most of the time is because we love it and enjoy each other's company. When someone quits it feels kinda like they just don't want to be your friend anymore, or they don't like your songs. There's an element of self-sabotage in every musician, and it comes out at the worst times.

Roth or Hagar? ... Um, is that Extreme guy still an option?
FSR: One thing that plays in your favor is that the singer is still in the house. Is it even possible to continue without the original lead singer?

Fullerton: I don't think so, except for AC/DC.

FSR: Related: Van Hagar or Van Halen?

Fullerton: I used to be staunchly Van Halen, then they did that "Tattoo" song, and DLR rocks the headset mic now. I've warmed up to Van Hagar over the years.

FSR: Tell me about that core. You guys have always used alter-egos, and that always makes me think about you guys as characters, like wrestlers. If you all were classic WWF-ers, who would you be?

The Brain and the Brawler.
Fullerton: I think Big Dirty would be like Shawn Michaels, you know, the "women want him, men want to be him" type. Mickey would definitely be the crowd pleaser like Stone Cold. I always thought of myself more as The Brooklyn Brawler, or Barry Horowitz, the perennial jobber who gets his ass kicked but keeps on working.

FSR: You guys are known for your epic live shows, some of which have taken place at The Note, where you’ll play Saturday. Where does the Note rank on your list of favorite venues.

Fullerton: The Note is a great venue, and we're looking forward to playing there again. They're definitely one of the best places we've ever played, and West Chester has always been great to us, even back in the Rex's days. I remember though, when we got the opportunity to play The Khyber for the first time that felt like we had made it. That was always a great place to play, Mickey got wrecked and went stage diving. I hear they're going to start doing music again upstairs, which is amazing.

Old-school: The Tressels at Mojo 13. Them were the days.
FSR: And since this is a Delaware-based blog, tell me about the Good Ol’ Days at Mojo 13. How does Mojo Main compare?

Fullerton: We've had some rowdy nights at Mojo 13 too. Near fistfights in the parking lot, I smashed my guitar, we left Santa behind. It's been part of the new Tressel initiation to play Mojo 13. We've never played Mojo Main, I think the first time will be in July with Graham Repulski. We will initiate our new drummer Matt Orlando there!

FSR: What do you think about all the new band vehicles online, the Bandcamps, the Reverbnations, etc. I feel like they’re all cool in their own way, with new bells and whistles, but it seemed to me like MySpace did a better job of bringing bands together, and now that feels lost. Can you speak to that?

Fullerton: Those sites are great for, what's that yuppie buzz word, oh yeah "building your brand," and they are a total necessity, but I think the best way to network is the good old show swap. That's how we met our pal Alex Vans, we've played a bunch of shows with him now, he did his record at the studio where we did "Sunset" and "Midnight," and his guy mixed and mastered our record. Even with a really huge, sparkly, online presence, you still have to go out and do the work. 

FSR: The Tressels’ meat and potatoes has always been those sick long-play jammers, like “Brothel Blues,” “Prison Wine,” “Denim Jacket”…but every once in a while you’ll throw out some power pop tune, like the oldie “Motorcycle” or the more recent “Nothin’ But Your Love.” Where do those come from?

Andrew Fullerton: That's me, I'm a power pop guy at heart. 

What’s up with “Stolen Kiss.” Granted, it’s a Big Dirty track, but even outside of that it’s just kind of out of left field compared to typical Tressels fare. What’s the story?

Fullerton: My brother works for Sherwin-Williams and had given Big Dirty some swatches to check out colors for his apartment. I guess him and Mick got drunk one night and saw one of the colors was called "Stolen Kiss," so they immediately had a title, and I know that "me and my bank account" line had been kickin' around for awhile. They left it on my voicemail that night. I wish I still had it, that would be great on the rarities compilation.

FSR: You guys have been known to throw out some covers. What are some of your favorite songs to cover and why?

Fullerton: We've been doing "Young Lust" by Pink Floyd lately. It's a little weird for me because I don't play guitar on it and I'm not sure what to do with my hands, but it's great because I can just watch the rest of the boys jam out and be proud of how sick my band is now.

Doobies: Butch says yay.
FSR: On a related note: Doobie Brothers: Yay or nay?

Fullerton: Yay.

FSR: What’s some side things, other than beer and smokes, that the Tressels are into. You guys dig scrapple? Are you all RBI Baseball dudes or more into Techmo Bowl?

Fullerton: Scrapple yes. I think our bass player Fuzz is most active in his non-Tressel related activities. He plays in the Loyola University Alumni Jazz band too. Our new drummer Matt plays in a bunch of different bands. None of us have really had any hobbies other than drinking and playing rock music. Mickey makes some amazing art work.

FSR: Were any real animals harmed during the making of “Wolves”?

Fullerton: Ha, no that's just stock footage. 

FSR: In all seriousness, in that video, Reds says he wants the band to go on and on, with young Tressels inheriting the band. That’s wishful thinking, but how long do you really think ya’ll will keep on doing this?

Fullerton: There have been at least three times during our eight-year history that we've seriously thought about packing it in. It always comes down to "Do we still like playing music?" and the answer so far as always been "Yes." And for me as a songwriter, I always ask, "Do I have anything else to say?" And the answer has so far been "Yes." Now, it sometimes is a test of wills, when everything else in our lives goes wrong we always turn to The Tressels. It's important to us, and we've outlasted venues, rival bands, marriages, and friendships. Come to think of it, it's actually kind of unstoppable. When we get too old or one of us dies, we'll just sell the name to someone else, like Gallagher. Yes, The Tressels are unstoppable. Just like Gallagher.


  1. I laughed, I laughed, I cried, I laugh-cried, then I Gallagher'd.

    Great interview.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.