There's a concrete box at the end of the alley next to Raleigh's Basement Studios. Tonight, it's filled with sweating, bouncing people whose ears are being slammed repeatedly by the music ricocheting off the bare walls. The ringing will last for days, but the crowd doesn't seem to mind.
Neither do The Loners.
The punk duo--Eddie Taylor on guitar and vocals, Chris Jones on drums and backup--are obviously inspired by '60s garage rock, but as they tear up their songs it becomes obvious that The Loners tap into a deep musical well that has nothing to do with what year it is--or what name you give their style.
"It's got a genre title, I'm sure," laughs Taylor, sitting on the floor of the practice space the band shares with Raleigh's Rosebuds, "but I'm not sure what it is. R&B kind of punk, maybe? We have an ounce of blue-eyed soul in there somewhere, without trying to be blatant about it."
"I was reading an article about the Cynics today," says Jones, "and it reminded me how many sub-genres there were--mod, freakbeat, surfbeat, psychedelic surf, surf R&B ... I mean, there are actually groups of people who live out that 'mods versus rockers' thing. But it's all rooted in the same stuff. If it rocks, it rocks. You don't need to fight about it."
The Loners definitely do rock. If you haven't seen them yet, here's all you need to know: They have impeccable taste in music and write raw, stripped-down songs in the '60s punk tradition, which they proceed to gleefully rip into shreds.
Since the Indy talked with them last June, the band has released its self-titled debut CD on the Raleigh-based Mouthful of Bees label. It's already turned a profit.
"Jennifer Thornburg liked us and just put up the money," Taylor says. "No contract or anything. She recouped her costs on it, like, within the first three or four months."
"And then we split the rest of the CDs," adds Jones. "She got half to use however she wants and we got the other half to sell at shows. It's great. Very simple."
That handshake-deal spirit continues. As The Loners talk with labels in other states, another local fan has already volunteered to fund their next single. More releases are in the works, and the band has stepped up its regional touring, including recent jaunts to Knoxville and Virginia.
The Loners are poised to take things up a notch. They've certainly toiled in the trenches enough. Taylor moved to Raleigh five years ago with his country-rock band Big Joe. As the "alt-country" hype heated up, however, he found himself drawn more and more back to his punk roots.
"I didn't feel like hanging in that whole movement," he says. "Ryan Adams was being shoved down our throats and I thought, if that's the way that whole thing was going, I just wanted to rock. Not be the next Graham Parsons."
"I was born in '60," Taylor adds. "I remember being a kid when 'Satisfaction' came out. I remember growing up hearing garage music on regional radio in Kentucky. My dad loved the Stones and was a huge Kinks fan." He laughs. "He listens to Bocephus now. I don't know how these people do it--grow up and forget what good music is."
For his part, the 29-year-old Jones had stopped playing music completely after fiery stints in three classic Raleigh bands--Vanilla Trainwreck, Picasso Trigger and Cherry Valence.
"I quit playing music, just hung it up," he says. "I needed stability. When I was on tour with Cherry Valence, I was extremely unhappy. Every night we played I tried to get people to beat the shit out of me. I'd spit on them, scream at them, do everything short of pummeling them. It's hard to sustain that for very long."
The two jaded musicians discovered a shared love of early punk when Taylor started coming into Nice Price Books, where Jones works. Seeing each other regularly at Kings, where Jones also works as a soundman, cemented the relationship.
"He convinced me to play the drums," Jones says. "Within our first three practices we had eight songs."
Do they find playing as a duo limits them in any way?
"Almost every night we play, someone comes up and wants to play bass for us," Taylor answers. "But I think we're stronger with less. If we turned into a three-piece ... I dunno, we'd just be another three-piece band."
"It's a lot easier with two people," Jones says. "There's no camps. And it's easier to lock into that groove."
"The communication factor," says Taylor, nodding. "It's more stripped down, more primitive, too."
Jones shrugs. "I don't do anything fancy. Eddie doesn't do anything fancy. If it inspires you enough to dance, go pick up a guitar and do it yourself."
And the punk spirit staggers on for another day.