Byron Brown and the Derelicts

Byron Brown and the Derelicts are trouble. 

I know firsthand.

I had anticipated the standard interview: How long have you played together? Who are your influences? You know the drill.

The three-piece band showed up at my Wailuku office at roughly 3:15pm on a Friday.

“We’re going bowling,” Brown, sporting a pair of gigantic rock star sunglasses, said.

Impossible, I thought. There’s one bowling alley on the island, which happens to be down the street, but it’s always closed for league play. Besides, slipping unnoticed past the honchos during business hours is a challenge in my office.

Yet somehow within 15 minutes, there we were, sucking down BYO Heinekens, hurling rocks toward the pins and taking turns strumming Brown’s Takamine between rolls.

I was among derelicts. The only question to apply from here on out was, why not?

Drummer James Bowersox, who has been part of this project since it began three years ago, is not the most phenomenal bowler I’ve met. But I found out at their Dog & Duck show the following night that he is one of the best drummers I’ve seen. His kit includes at least a dozen pieces, including toms and snares ranging in tone, all of which he uses.

Bass player and backup vocalist Alan Jacob fared better at the game, and coached me on my own. The soft-spoken Galveston, Texas native has been with the band all of three weeks. Anyone who needs proof of his lifelong devotion to music need only observe the symmetric f-shaped soundholes (the kind you see on a cello) tattooed on his upper arms.

Brown rolled on intermittent turns, but didn’t keep score. He was jamming most of the time, as he had convinced the woman behind the counter to let him play inside. Between turns I would ask him to explain some of his lyrics.

The song “It’s Cool,” a funky, catchy tune that you can hear on their MySpace page, is about breaking up with a girl who isn’t taking a hint. “Old Man Barbarino” is about a guy who sells second-hand clothes out of his trunk. Brown says that a lot of his lyrics follow a narrative, and many are composites of various experiences he’s had.

We were asked to leave the premises at around 4:30pm, surprisingly not due to bad behavior but because that was when the place actually closes.

We headed to Iao Valley to finish the interview and jam some more.

Brown explained the depravity that inspires many of his lyrics as well as the type of music one can expect the band’s shows. Their sound, he says, is “all over the place.”

Their influences range from Marvin Gaye to various genres of Latin music to, yes, Dave Matthews Band. Their sets comprise mostly originals, but they throw in a few covers including Weezer’s “Say It Aint So” and Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get it On.”

“What about ‘Sweet Home Alabama?’” I asked. “I hate that song.”

“I’ve never wanted to be that band and I never will be,” Brown said.

They delivered me, mildly sloshed, back to my office shortly after dark. I agreed to check out their show the following night.

Saturday’s show started out pretty low-key despite the band’s volume and energy, but by the end of the night the patch of wood that serves as the Dog and Duck’s dance floor was pretty packed.

I turned my attention to those in attendance. The bar perked up as soon as the guys started, and the room’s energy stayed consistent throughout. The music seemed to have power over the audience—heads bobbed during the funky, high-energy tunes and faces appeared wistful when they broke out slower tunes, especially during “Say It Aint So.”

Toward the end of the night Bowersox busted out with a five-minute drum solo. Everyone was floored.

I partially expected debauchery or violence, given that I was among derelicts, but was (somewhat) relieved to find little of either. But there are stories. Brown says that a former bass player once passed out on stage mid-song (he had been playing while lying down). Another time, he tells me, a man carrying a cane topped with a replica of his own head threatened to stab Brown in the chest.

The band doesn’t play out all the time, but they do have a couple of shows in the coming weeks. They’re set to open for jam band Supertrout at Charley’s and The Cellar 744 this weekend, then will tear it up at Wailuku’s First Friday in the courtyard of Maui Time’s very own lair.

Expect a little trouble and a lot of funk. MTW