Music News

The Night Marchers Walk On

"Depending on how long you live," says hard-driving singer-songwriter John Reis, "I don't think you're ever too young for a midlife crisis."

Nevertheless, Reis doesn't attribute his decision to shut down Rocket From the Crypt, the Sultans and Hot Snakes, three groups he's fronted in recent years, and start a new one dubbed the Night Marchers to his advanced age; he's in his late thirties, a mighty venerable vintage by punk-rock standards. Rather, he grew tired of segregating his musical interests. "Over time, I was like, I can just wrap everything I'm interested in into one band, one voice," he notes. "And in the Night Marchers, we can do anything we want to do."

Indeed, See You in Magic, the Night Marchers' debut (co-released by Vagrant Records and Reis's own imprint, Swami), pulls together many of the styles that he's touched upon over the years: punk, early rock, superpowered R&B and more. He first began exploring such varied sounds in the late '80s as part of the burgeoning San Diego rock underground, and by the dawn of the next decade, he was part of two highly influential groups: the aforementioned Rocket and Drive Like Jehu, a fascinatingly noisy combo that teamed him with Rick Froberg, his mate in a previous combo, Pitchfork, who would go on to join him in Hot Snakes. In the end, though, Reis grew frustrated with what he saw as Jehu's insular qualities. "It wasn't about connecting with people at all, really," he maintains. "If people liked it, cool, and if they didn't like it, who cares."

In contrast, Rocket, as well as the Sultans, a party band that included Reis's younger brother, Dean, and Hot Snakes, which shares two members (bassist Gar Wood and drummer Jason Kourkounis) with his current combo, were all built upon a foundation of fun — and the Night Marchers continues that tradition. "That's not to say the music can't be dramatic and turbulent and tense," he stresses. "But I think a lot of the philosophy for bands I've been in is, when you're sharing music with people, to pretend that it's the musical equivalent of oral surgery isn't presenting us in a manner we'd like."

Of course, Reis could decide tomorrow that he'd like to start another band. For now, though, he's enjoying the novelty of being in only one group and sees no reason why his veteran status should bring this particular march to an end. "I see people still playing who are quite a bit older than me and still kick a lot of ass," he points out. "I must admit that there's something really appealing about that."

Visit Backbeat Online for more of our interview with the Night Marchers' John Reis.

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts