Like any other town, Denver has its share of cover bands. For the most part, the outfits here don't merely perform somebody else's music; rather, they put time, energy and effort into really channeling the acts and eras they're emulating. And they often tend to get overlooked, because, well, they're playing somebody else's music. That changes today. Behold our latest feature, Cover Band of the Week (or, perhaps more accurately, every few weeks, because let's be honest: There's a finite number of bands). This week: Counterfeit Music Company.
Counterfeit Music Company is made up of some longtime veterans of the Denver scene -- singers Alan Currens and Marilyn Taylor, guitarist Pat Searcy, bassist Chris Reidy and drummer Mike Rice -- all of whom have played in a variety of acts, including Valor, Esovae, Judge Roughneck, Rubber Planet, Sick, Drug Under and the Quiet Room, just to name a few. These days, they're all having fun playing covers. We caught up with Currens and Reidy and asked if they get into Anchorman-style alley fights with other cover bands. They talked to us about a whole bunch of other stuff, too, including how they play the shit out of "Blister in the Sun" and why they'll never play "Talking in Your Sleep" again.
Alan Currens: I think it's important to note that Chris has gone from the drummer to guitar to now the bass player -- oh, and he's also the sound guy. I just think...I just think that is so frickin' impressive!
Westword: Wow. Okay. Are you gonna stay on the bass, Chris?
Chris Reidy: No, we're gonna start adding some songs with kazoo solos, because I'd really like to move to that.
Yeah, there really isn't enough kazoo playing in this world.
CR: I agree. You know, the cowbell's been played out, so I want to take it from a different angle.
CR: We're not into trends. There's not going to be a ukulele in this band...there's going to be a kazoo.
Okay, back to the band.
AC: Right. Okay. I'm actually a drummer, and this is my first band to ever sing for. I'm the singer, but I play keyboards and Latin percussion live.
Who started the band?
CR: It actually started with myself and Pat Searcy. We were the ones who kind of thought of the idea to start a cover band. Basically just to have some fun, make some extra pocket change and, you know, have a good time playing music, because that's what we love to do anyway. So we had a first version of this band a couple years ago, and it kind of ended before it started; we had a singer who didn't work out very well, so we had to go back to the drawing board, and that's when we had the idea of getting Alan involved.
Why a cover band?
AC: Hey, Chris, let me say something first, and then you can chime in and say something smarter. [laughs] Actually when they came to me, I had a business model put together [for a cover band]. Um, I'm at that point in my life where I realize it's quality, not quantity. I wanted to do what I love, and I wanted my kids to see me doing that. And I was talking to my wife, and I said "You know there's nothing I love more than music." And she's like, "Well, why aren't you getting paid for that then?"
Because I've been through it. I've been signed by Miller and Paramount, and I've been through the ringer. And she said, "You know, there's something past original music, and it's out there. There are guys out there making a living and having a great time." So I came to these guys with my plan, and the idea to have a female singer, and all this, and I walked right into their trap! Because they had the same exact vision, but had already laid the groundwork.
I like that it was a trap; you make it sound like this hellish trap! "They got me once again! Damn those kids!"
AC: They did! They got me! My arms were bound...
It's like a Scooby Doo episode! "If it wasn't for those darn kids..."
AC: [laughing] Okay, Chris. Now you can tell her about why you really did the cover thing and why you started this whole thing; this was my angle and how I got roped in, so fast.
CR: It was along the same lines because Pat, myself and some of the other folks have an original outlet that we already play with, so we're kind of getting our satisfaction from that, and you know, I hate to sound -- because you know, money was a big thing and cover bands make money -- but I wanted a quality cover band, not just a cookie cutter one that just play all of the stock, off the shelf covers.
I wanted to make something a little more unique that was a little more interesting to people. To me, it's not my lifelong ambition to be in a cover band. So I wanted to make it fun for myself. By playing songs that I like that I thought were interesting. And it not so eclectic that people are looking at it wondering "What the hell are they playing?" It's still mainstream; it's just not the off the shelf, run of the mill cover band.
AC: Here's what's so cool about that; when I came into the band, I'm a stage junkie. There's a lot of guys that are like me, like Danny from Five13, Scottie Brown, and all these guys who are just champions and who are just addicted to performances. It's like they were born to do it, and I always wanted to be like them. And I came in thinking "Covers? Ugh." I wanna do this thing; I wanna make money, but there's that stigma -- playing the same stuff, but then I saw the set-list, and that's the difference. Counterfeit actually plays to the musician in you and allows you to feed that stage monster.
Holy shit. Stage monster is a great band name! So what kind of makes you guys stand out? When you're speaking about your "eclectic music selection," what songs are so vastly different then, I don't know, "Like a Prayer?" Or is it the way in which you perform them that's so different?
AC: I think there's one thing that you said..."the way you perform them" -- having Latin percussion on stage, I mean, I can't believe they let me do it in the first place. As soon as we all did, we realized what a nice flavor! You know, you've got all these bands out there playing Rick James, but who's rolling in the Latin percussion?
And to answer the other question about the songs we're doing, I do think it's really unique to hear a band go from Alice in Chains to Stevie Wonder and then back out into disco. That's what it is! It's contrast. The set-list was built on contrast. And it just seems that we're going back and forth so quick -- to the extremes, but staying accessible.
CR: Right. And I agree with all of that. You know, the thing I like about this band is there is not a common thread with our set-list. Like he said, we're going from the Alice in Chains to the Rick James to a Bruno Mars to a Hall and Oates. We're all over the map, and that's what I get the biggest comments from the audience; they can't believe we're so diverse in what we're playing, but it all just works out. We're playing all these places. We're playing corporate events, we're playing weddings, we're playing bars, and we're giving something to everybody.
So since you were speaking about the songs you play, if you both had to pick one song, what is your all time favorite song to sing?
AC: The song I love to sing every single night when we take the stage is "I Wish" by Stevie Wonder. It's what I look forward to every night.
Really? All night, you're just waiting? Do you have a specific time you play it every night? Are you staring at your watch?
AC: I sure do! When we're getting ready for a gig, when I'm driving there, I warm up singing Stevie. He...I can't believe I can sing him! Like I told you, I'm a drummer, and when I joined this band, I couldn't sing the low stuff, so my co-singer at the time pointed out some lessons to me and guided me, and now I'm a tenor, so I personally get off on the fact that I can actually sing the songs that we're playing, and I never knew in my life that I could. But Stevie is the epitome of that for me.
Awesome. Okay, Chris, what about yours?
CR: Well that's always a favorite night of mine, as well, but I think others...I mean, I love playing "Maneater" by Hall and Oates. You know, it's just one of those songs that I love. I like... uh...oh! When Marilyn does AC/DC or Lady Gaga, she does them so well.
Wait. So she does every AC/DC song brilliantly?
CR: Yes! She can sing anything.
And Lady Gaga? I mean, I fucking hate Lady Gaga, but going from AC/DC to Lady Gaga is pretty impressive.
AC: Yeah. We're built on harmony. Marilyn and I are both harmony freaks, and we both enjoy the harmony as much as the lead, so you kind of can't shut us both up. We're both just singing along with each other all night. And she's just the best singer to do that with.
If you had to pick a moment, what is your favorite crowd reaction to a song? Favorite memory?
CR: This is gonna be the part that kind of contrasts what I said before, you know people love what they're familiar with, so every time we play "Livin' on a Prayer" by Bon Jovi, people lose their minds. And that's just one of those things, you know. We also do a great version of "Baby I love Your Way" by Frampton...
AC: Big Mountain.
CR: Yeah, Big Mountain. So we do that version. And to me, before you asked what my favorite moment was and to me, that's probably mine. Because as a bass player, I'm playing that reggae vibe.
AC: I've got two! What I like is every time we play Spacehog "In the Meantime," it seems like two or three people in the crowd light up because you never hear a band do it. And that's a small ratio, but they just can't believe that we actually did Spacehog! So I like that the best, but here's my favorite: We're playing down at Herbs, downtown lodo, Herb's Hideout, and we do that song, "Blister in the Sun?"
Oh yeah. Yeah.
AC: And again, crowd loses their minds and this guy, the whole time he's raising his hands in front of me like he has a question. So we finish, and I'm like "Yeah? You have a question?" and he's like, "BLISTER IN THE SUN!" I said "Yeah, we just did that." And he's like, "NO! NO! DO YOU HAVE A PEN???" So, I give him my pen, right? And he writes down "BLISTER IN THE SUN!" and he hands it to me on a napkin. And he points to the napkin and yells "BLISTER IN THE SUN!!!"
AC: I know! I saved the napkin. I couldn't believe the conversation. So that's my favorite request of all time.
That's awesome. You can't experience anything more beautiful than a drunk person at a concert. It's my favorite. Those are the best memories.
AC: Their guard is down, and you see stuff. I mean you see a forty year old or a fifty year old doing stuff that reminds you of when they were sixteen, and you're like, "Now that's why we do this. Man, there's the kid. There's the kid that came to see the show."
Now that we're talking about crazy fans. Have you guys ever received a crazy gift from a fan or something weird? I mean other than the "Blister in the Sun" napkin?
CR: We received hundred dollar tips to keep playing; one hundred dollars per song.
Whoa! What was the song?
CR: It wasn't one song it was actually just, "Keep playing and we will give you $100 for every song you play."
Oh my fucking God. Really?
AC: Yeah! Oh, here's one of my favorites. Some guy came up to me, and he asked if he could request something, and I said "Well, are you gonna tip me?" and he said "Yeah!" So he gave me a $20 bill, and he happened to ask for a song that was next on our set-list. And I was like, "I'll do that for you right now!"
Well sure you will! "Let me take all of your money!"
AC: I told him later [about the set-list]. I told him later, and he said to keep the money, but wow, what cool timing.
What song do you absolutely, 100%, refuse to play?
AC: "Talking in Your Sleep."
Wow. That was quick and angry.
AC: We played it and then we all had to go wash our hands and rinse our mouths out. It was so horrible. It was the weirdest feeling. You know?
Why such a dirty feeling? Are you sure that was the song?
AC: It's a fun song. We all got excited. We worked it up, we played it and I think it was the reaction we got. We were all just like "Wow. I don't like the way they're looking at us right now."
AC: I have nothing against the band or the song, but didn't we, Chris? We were like, "Okay. That's it. Never again."
So do you guys have a favorite artist? Like right now?
CR: Bruno Mars for me.
AC: Maroon 5 for me. Bruno Mars is my second. Maroon 5 tops them for my personal favorite taste because I sound like that guy, so I'm happy to sing him.
Awesome. So, Chris, do you sing ever?
CR: Oh just a little backup. Very little backup. I can't carry a tune by myself, but I can blend in with a bunch of people.
Me too! It's like karaoke.
CR and AC: [crickets]
I'm kidding. It's nothing like karaoke. So, what's the cover band scene like? Is it pretty harsh out there? Are people getting in fights? In my mind, it's like that scene from Anchorman when everybody kicks each other's asses. When I close my eyes, I want it to be like that. Is it like that? If it's not, just say, "yes."
AC: What's that movie where Marky Mark plays the singer for... oh, Rockstar, and they have that argument in the parking lot about hair pulling? It's more like that.
CR: It is very similar. What I've found, and I'm just shocked that it is this way, and that there is that competition. A few things have happened throughout our history that...
AC: More than a few.
CR: Yeah, I'm just shocked. I'm thinking we're just a cover band! Who really cares?
AC: We're [mostly] just friends and musicians that want to have fun... Generally it's good camaraderie, but there are a couple of people out there that just get really weird about it.
Yeah, haters gotta hate, you know.
AC: Yeah, you're right!
Westword: Well, I'm gonna stick with the Anchorman image. I think that since you don't do that now, you definitely should do it moving forward.
CR: LOUD NOISES!!
LOUD NOISES!! That is my favorite of all time! Okay, have you ever met a celebrity, or a rockstar, and if so, who? And was it memorable or did it suck?
AC: God, there's a long list. Go ahead, Chris.
CR: I've met a lot of people and some are great and some are awful people. But for the most part, everybody I've met have been pretty nice. There's the exceptional tool.
Do you have a favorite or, if you've got balls, the worst one? Or you can stick with bubbles and cake and just give me your best memory.
AC: Okay, I was in a band called Valor, and then it was the Dark, and this was in like 1990, here in Denver, and we went on Star Search, and we did a lot of really cool stuff. We toured, and in all of the bands we met, only two were ridiculously rude and obnoxious. So I won't go there because I'm a positive guy. But of all the current big awesome names, my favorite was we did this grand prix jam. We were the host band and Craig Chaquico from Jefferson Starship was one of the "stars" who played with us; he is the coolest guy I've ever met in my life! Humble and flattering and polite.
Well that's nice. Did he give you words of wisdom?
AC: You know, no. The guy that did that for me was Frankie Avalon. I was driving a van for a hotel -- I was eighteen, and he got up in the front seat with me instead of being chauffeured around. And I said "I'm a musician! What advice do you have for me?" You know, like a typical eighteen year old. And he said "You know, kid, just never give up. If you love what you're doing, you'll never give up."
That's a nice little warm story. It's all fuzzy. Good for you. What about you, Chris?
CR: Well I think, and this just happened this past weekend, Judge Roughneck, we have done a song that's gonna be on our next CD, and we did it with Angelo Moore the lead singer of Fishbone. So we flew him out to perform with us last weekend at Red Rocks, and he turned out to be one of the neatest guys. I didn't really know what to expect out of him because I've heard them play live many times, and he's always just very, you know, very out there, and I didn't know how it was going to go. But he turned out to be a very, very neat guy.
And then one of my worst experiences was I met, uh, one of my idols Steve Vai. And this is partly my fault, but I met him...he was signing pictures. I was just a dumb, star-struck kid, and I go up to him, and I'm like "Hey Steve! Here, sign my picture. My name's Chris! Put something cool on it!" So you know what he did? He wrote "To Chris: Something Cool. - Steve Vai" And I just looked at it, and thought "You are the biggest jackass."
I hate that! Why do they have to be dickheads and try to be clever?? Don't mix the two.
CR: I agree! If I had people idolizing me, I would probably put something very nice, so they could keep it and show their friends and say, "Boy, what a nice guy!" But no. He just had to do the worst possible thing that I actually asked for.
Well, he's a douchebag. There I said it.
CR: LOUD NOISES!
[laughing] Tell me about how your shows breakdown?
AC: Summers are crazy. Judge Roughneck gets booked like crazy. Mike Rice is one of the most sought after drummers in town, so we kind of let the leash loose on him. So he plays about 22 different shows a month with about seven different projects. So we all just relax in the summer. I've got a solo gig I do, and a little trio on the side. We all take a break.
In getting back together, we can refocus our goals; we like to play the casinos. We like to play Baker St. and a couple of other local venues, and we love the corporate gigs and weddings. We love the big events the most -- we get to really relax and open up on a big stage.
So corporate America, those shin-digs are always my favorite because from my experience working in corporate America, those people are so tense. When they have an event and there's a band, like they really fucking let loose. They get drunk and dirty and...
AC: And loud. YES!
Why does that happen? Are they all just so tense?
CR: Gimme a break! They're all just like bubbles in a soda, and somebody shakes the can all year, and then when they pop the top it's Christmas! There's also all this sexual tension and all these things going on inner office. And then add alcohol, and Counterfeit Music Company, and wow!
It's all sex! I don't know what's happening at the corporate office parties. It's gross.
CR: If we can make some HR issues come Monday, we have done our job. You're welcome, HR.