Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney based on a photo by Heather Browne, Sound engineering by Mike Gentry
It's quite interesting how some people get their little piece of fame, even when it doesn't come with a piece of the fortune. John Davis and Superdrag slipped onto the American music scene in the mid-1990s when a little song they wrote - a piss and vinegar number about the very life of artwork getting drained from it by the fickle, fickle gazes and ganders and the lukewarm receptions of everyone, for the most part - got onto MTV and the band went out on tour with Weezer during the "Pinkerton" days. The video for that song - "Sucked Out" - shows a hyper and kinetic band of boys tearing up a diner, playing every bit of the part of frustrated 20-somethings without many glimmers of hope, just minimum wage poverty and boredom. Davis, with some short pork chop sideburns, smokes his cigarettes, kicks shit over and rips guitar strings from his instrument, almost goading the camera, or those of us watching to get in the way of his buzz saw tantrum. His words, almost every single one of them, from that song - one that the band stopped playing for a while before Robert Pollard told them they were dumb for doing that - still have such presence and friction-al poise, maintaining a posterity that though it was the attitude of those just getting their feet wet, it was still a prevailing sentiment that could lived in still. Davis sings, with just one note having rung, "Look around, could it bring somebody down, if I never made a sound again. In your eyes, you've already spread my thighs and you're rockin' to the next big thing," and just seconds later, he adds, "Look at me, I can write a melody, but I can't expect a soul to care." It is, in just a few short lines, the thematic backdrop for every single bunch of kids who get together and make music that starts to get relatively popular only to see it all shift in mid-stream, with a dick still in the hand. It's hard not to consider the former angst in Davis when thinking about the breadth of the Superdrag catalogue, which did much to dig into those nagging personal demons that make so many people turn to copious amounts of booze and drugs to stunt and shut up. It's hard not to have already heard in some of his lyrics - even years and years before it happened - a desire to cleanse and to exorcise those black-winged creatures from his belfry and those painful insides kept in the shadows - exposed only when stoked to rage a little. He always maintained such an interestingly fine line between the hell-raising and deviant behavior and some kind of saving grace, or an appeal to someone out there who would listen, just for a few moments if that's all that they had, maybe through a couple verses and a chorus, or just a chorus. Without actually exploding and making a mess of everything, Davis was able to channel so much through his words on "Regretfully Yours" and one of the best rock and roll albums of all-time, "Head Trip In Every Key," that by the end of every song, even with a sense that nothing was completely right, amends were made and any kind of festering or build-up was lessening. The Davis that was an over-bearing and agitated lad gave way to that epiphany that sometimes happens and the anger that still comes out of him on stage, as his bald forehead shines with sweat like a moonlit lake, and the spittle flies from the corners of his mouth, is not the same anger. It's been managed. He has the skateboard parks around his Tennessee home to help tame. He's got a wife and children to tame. The band's single off its latest release, "Industry Giants," was inspired by a line of scripture from the Book of James about being slow to anger and yet, the anger really isn't the problem. It's what's done with the anger, as Davis has found, but he and Superdrag have always known what to do with anger.