Jenny Don’t and the Spurs are making their way across the country, playing songs from their brand new album, Lovesick Crawl, out now via Augusta, GA’s Missing Fink Records. Before hitting the road, the Portland, OR-based group’s founding members Jenny Connors and Kelly Halliburton took some time out of their day to talk about the Cramps, Dead Moon, Wipers, and the songs that make up Lovesick Crawl.
Catch Jenny Don’t and the Spurs when they play the Earl on Feb. 23, and Fink Fest in Savannah on Feb. 24.
Let’s talk about what you had in mind when you settled on the song and album title, Lovesick Crawl. It’s the word “crawl” that really grabs my attention.
Jenny Connors: We were listening to a lot of music by the Cramps. The cover art for the album is by Stephen Blickenstaff, who did the cover art for the Cramps’ Bad Music For Bad People, which is a really cool coincidence. We’d talked about doing something in the style of the Cramps, but nothing turned out sounding like the Cramps as it evolved. It’s essentially about being in love with someone—being infatuated—and you can imagine yourself crawling across the floor just to get their attention.
The song originally had an intro that was similar to the Cramps’ “Human Fly,” but we nixed that along the way. Then Johnny from Missing Fink Records approached us about releasing the record.
Kelly Halliburton: Stephen does a lot of the artwork for Missing Fink. Johnny contacted us less than six months before the record came out. We did the recording sessions in February 2022, and finished songwriting six months before that. The idea to channel the Cramps came to us before we knew that Johnny was working with Stephen so much. It added yet another layer to the strange coincidences surrounding this record.
How did the two of you meet and start making music together?
Jenny: I started stalking Kelly around 2008, until I finally whittled him down to date me. I was up front for a Pierced Arrows show and thought it was great. The drummer was super hot and I wanted to hang out with him, so I wrote to him on Myspace. That puts a date on it!
Kelly: Our relationship as a couple pre-dates the Spurs by about three-four years. It took a while because I was touring a lot with Pierced Arrows. The singer and guitar player Fred Cole started getting sick around 2012 or ‘13 so the band slowed down and eventually ground to a halt. Jenny and I had talked about doing something together. It wasn’t until Pierced Arrows wasn’t really a thing anymore that we had time to make it happen. Eventually all of our other bands broke up and this was the last one standing.
Jenny: Kelly and I have a pretty big age gap between us. I was just about to turn 22 when we met. He’s 16 years older than me and said, “I don’t want to date a 22 year-old.” But I said “Come on, I’m serious!” And here we are. We got married last year.
When we were talking about doing stuff together, Sam Henry and I started gigging around town playing a bunch of songs that I already had, which I used on the first album. Sam became the drummer for the Spurs.
Kelly: At first it was me and Jenny. I had an acoustic bass and she had an acoustic guitar. We wanted to keep it really stripped down, and not rely on anyone so that we could do this at any time, whether it’s on a street corner, in our backyard, wherever. It was purely acoustic and we sounded terrible. Something was missing. We didn’t have a ton of experience playing acoustically. All of our previous bands played amplified punk and garage rock. We wanted to keep it stripped down, but we asked Sam to play a snare with some brushes to keep time. Eventually there was a bass drum, then a high hat, and before we knew it, it was this loud, amplified thing with a full drum kit and electric instruments.
Jenny: Then we thought, “You know what’s really missing are guitar solos.”
Sam Henry was the original drummer for the classic Portland punk band Wipers.
Kelly: He played on the first three Wipers singles and the first album, Is This Real? They started in ‘77-‘78. He quit the Wipers in ‘80-‘81. I love everything [Wipers singer/guitarist] Greg Sage has done, but not everyone does. For most people, all you need are the first three LPs: Is This Real, Youth of America, and Over the Edge.
Sam quit the Wipers and joined Napalm Beach, which is kind of funny. Sam doesn’t play on the Wipers album Land of the Lost, but their singer and guitar player Chris Newman drew the dinosaur artwork, which is the weirdest cover, but they were all weirdos [laughs].
Jenny: When we were on tour, a lot of people would come up and say, “No way, Sam Henry from Napalm Death!” [laughs].
I was hanging around a record shop with a few older guys when the Wipers ‘96 album The Herd came out. They said, “Uh, this is gonna suck!” But I took the promo CD home, and even though it wasn’t cool to like The Herd, I loved it. The guitar playing is cosmic.
Kelly: Greg never deviated from his formula, so it’s not like anything on that record is all that different. He slowed it down, but it’s still dreamy, twangy, reverb-drenched guitar. He got more into the whole alien abduction thing. That album art has a fence around the world. That stuff follows Greg’s obsession with alien abduction. From what I understand, he firmly believes that he’s been abducted by aliens. If you look closely, that’s sort of a theme that runs throughout a lot of his stuff.
I’ll never hear “Alien Boy” the same way again.
Sam died in February 2022, but he plays on Lovesick Crawl.
Jenny: Yes, Lovesick Crawl features the last recordings that he made. At the end of our January 2022 tour, he wasn’t feeling well. We were heading to Seattle to record. His doctor said, “You need some rest,” so Sam told us he couldn’t make it. A lot went into scheduling, though, so we planned to wing it and go anyway. He heard that we didn’t cancel so he changed his mind and came with us.
We finished the recordings and were supposed to have a show in Everett, but he was in really poor shape. We canceled the show and took him to the hospital, which was the beginning of the end for him, unfortunately.
Kelly: He was diagnosed with terminal cancer, I want to say the day after the recording session ended. They gave him three months to live but he didn’t make it three weeks.
Jenny: Obviously, no one saw what was coming. We were at the end of a tour. He was older and everyone feels like shit after a tour. The doctor said, “Maybe you drank too much on tour,” which he hadn’t. But he did great during those recording sessions. He didn’t complain. He felt uncomfortable, and every day it was getting a little worse. Something was seriously wrong. In the end, it makes these recordings extra special for us.
Is there a song on the record where his performance stands out?
Jenny: The session as a whole stands out for me. But “Lost Myself” stands out because I think about when we were writing the song. He would say, “How about we try this,” or “I’m going to hit the drum like this.” I have a lot of memories associated with that song.
Kelly: It’s hard not to think about how difficult it must’ve been for him to get through those sessions. There are a couple of songs from earlier sessions: His drums are great on “Right From the Start.” We recorded that song not too long after we wrote it. Later, we did the session where the album version came from. There’s the single version and the version on Lovesick Crawl. The later version was recorded after we’d played it for a while.
Jenny: “Black Cadillac” is a good example of his ability to go all out, or scale it back. He’s mainly playing snare and the rim and clicking the drum sticks together, and adds dynamics throughout that.
Not a lot of players can entertain without playing the whole kit. They get bored. There’s a video of Sam playing that, and there’s never a dull moment.
It’s kind of a beautiful thing that he did what he loved doing till the end.
Kelly: If we’d gone to Seattle without Sam we wouldn’t be able to listen to these songs. The fact that he rallied and did it is a testimony to his dedication. He was 64 and he had a ball every time we played. He was an amazing person to be in a band with. There will never be another Sam Henry.
Jenny: After he passed away, Kelly, our guitar player Christopher, and I asked, “What does this mean for us as a band?” Collectively, we acknowledged that Sam dedicated the last 10 years of his life to this band, and wouldn’t want us to end at this point. We were all on the same page, and having that camaraderie helped with the grieving process.
Kelly: Sam was such a gregarious personality, and such an outgoing, loving person. He was a good counterpoint to someone like me who’s kind of a crab and wants to be alone most of the time [laughs]. He made friends with people all over the world. Everywhere we went there were people who knew and loved Sam. So everywhere we take this stuff when we’re out on the road it’s cathartic for people who loved and cared about him. We see a lot of teary eyes out front. There are a lot of people who are connected with Sam through this music.
A lot of what we’re doing now is for Sam. Why stop now? What’s the point in creating something that he cared so much about and letting it fizzle out.
It has to be rough for your new drummer fitting in as you move forward.
Kelly: Sam’s shoes are impossible to fill. It would be unfair for us to have those expectations for anyone. Also, the band is more than a working relationship. We knew Sam before the band existed. It worked better than any other band that we’ve been in. For someone else to jump in, that has to be hard and we respect that.
Jenny: For a new player, the songs have to fall into the structure they’ve been written in. But obviously if they bring other inspiration to it, it’s the band’s responsibility to respect everyone’s talents individually. Even though it’s called Jenny Don’t and the Spurs, we’re all equals.
Kelly: The band that came before Pierced Arrows was Dead Moon, which had an almost cult-like status. I stepped into an environment that was probably a lot like what anyone who’s playing with us is stepping into. The guy that I replaced with Fred and Toody was Andrew Loomis, who is universally loved. Everywhere we went for the first few years everyone was looking at me saying, “You’re not Andrew.”
Fred and Toody went out of their way to reassure me that I didn’t have to try to be like Andrew. I didn’t have to try to make my drumming style like his. Obviously I wasn’t going to do that anyway, but it felt good to be reassured. I want to extend that kind of welcoming courtesy to anyone who’s stepping into this band.
I joined Dead Moon in about 2007. They were on tour in the fall of 2006. They did a really long European tour and that was pretty much the end. They were all getting sick of each other. Initially Fred and Toody wanted to take a break, but Fred was always so restless. It didn’t take them long to form a new band. They called me out of the blue in March of 2007—maybe three months after Dead Moon played their last show.
I didn’t even play drums. I’m barely a bass player, but they wouldn’t take no for an answer. With so many expectations, it was terrifying at first. Not only am I not a good drummer, I’m also stepping into this kind of high profile situation where I’m in front of all of these Andrew Loomis-Dead Moon fans.
People were brutal about it. I was at a bar in Portland shortly after Pierced Arrows got going. There were fliers wheat-pasted on the bathroom wall. There was a Pierced Arrows flier with a photo of us and someone had drawn an arrow pointing at my head and wrote, “Worst drummer in Portland” [laughs].
Honestly, I couldn’t argue, but that was the level of hostility that I faced in that band. People warmed up after a while. It was also funny, because people invented a feud between Andrew and I—like Andrew was pissed because I took his spot. But Andrew and I would get together and laugh about it. He was as sick of Fred and Toody as they were of him.
Jenny: Another layer to all of these weird coincidences that lined up to where we are now: When I moved to Portland in 2008, I randomly moved into a house where Andrew hung out a lot. He introduced me to Sam, and then we started playing together. Small world! I didn’t know anything about Dead Moon and Wipers before I moved to the big city of Portland from Acme, Washington.
Kelly: In a bizarre, round-about sort of way, the existence of this band owes something to Andrew Loomis, which is awesome.
You have a new drummer now?
Jenny: His name is Buddy Weeks and we’re enjoying his presence in the band. Hopefully, if he still likes all of us after this tour, we’ll have a long relationship together.
Kelly: Playing together is one thing, but we love being on tour. Luckily he’s had a lot of touring experience. That’s almost as important as being able to play, because it ain’t easy. Putting four people in a tin can and carting them around the country for six months out of the year … There are only so many masochistic personalities that can endure that.
Jenny: You’ve gotta be able to play well and you have to be a good hang. You have to be funny. You have to be able to connect on some things outside of music a little bit, so you enjoy each other’s time together. There’s one hour of playing and 23 hours of being around each other.
Kelly: Christopher March has been playing guitar with us for almost six years. We’ve got him wearing a lot of hats. He’ll have the lap steel set up on stage, then he’ll play a baritone guitar for a couple of songs. We don’t have him literally juggling on stage yet, but we’ll incorporate that at some point, just to make his life that much more difficult [laughs].
There are moments throughout Lovesick Crawl that remind me of Hank Williams Senior’s recordings. It’s also rooted in punk rock mingling with country music—stripped down and rough-and-tumble. You roll with the mistakes.
Jenny: We enjoy it more when it’s stripped down and not super polished. We like music that’s a little rough around the edges.
Kelly: That’s certainly the music that I’m drawn to. I still own every piece of music that Discharge ever pressed to vinyl. A lot of people say that punk and country music are coming from these disparate places, but I’m not so sure their worlds are all that different.
Jenny: If the crowd is really entertaining and you mess up while you’re jumping around on stage … Entertaining is a lot more fun than worrying about perfection.
Kelly: Dead Moon was genius in their own way. No one in the band was a virtuoso musician. It was a lot more emotive than technically flawless. That resonated with people a lot more than these bands that really try to be total shredders. There’s a place for that, but there’s also a place for raw, emotive expression that comes from a different place than musical virtuosity.
That’s what attracted me to music in the first place. When I heard Black Flag for the first time I thought, this is it!
Kelly: Exactly, it doesn’t get more raw than “Nervous Breakdown.” It’s just a few minutes of raw aggression and teenage frustration. That set the template for a lot of things that are still important to me now, and I’m in my 50s!
Some of my earliest studio experiences, going back to when I was 19 years old, the drummer for Poison Idea, Steve Hanford, “The Slayer Hippy,” was a renowned producer. He did a bunch of studio work with some of my old punk bands. I learned a lot about recording while working with him. One of the things he would put into practice was if you can’t do it in a couple of takes, just ditch it and move on. Maybe come back to it in a couple of takes, maybe not. He always felt that the energy would dissipate if you ran it into the ground. I don’t know if it’s true that Poison Idea did that, but he always maintained that Poison Ideas stuff was done in one or two takes. That’s kind of our approach.
Jenny: The magic will go away if you do a solo 50 times. When I do a vocal I’ll do it three times. One warmup and two runs through it. It’s how I sound and it’s not gonna sound better if I keep doing it. On any recording you can listen and think about how you should have done something differently. When you’re in the studio you can do something over and over, but you learn to be ok with imperfections. This isn’t for us. It’s for the listeners, and they’ll make it their own.”
Jenny Don’t and the Spurs play the Earl on Thurs., Feb. 23, with Andrea and Mud and the Resonant Rogues. $15. 7:30 p.m. (doors). 8 p.m. (show).
Jenny Don’t and the Spurs also play Fink Fest at the Lodge of Sorrows in Savannah on Fri., Feb. 24, with Los Rumtones, the Creature Preachers, and Electric Frankenstein. $20. 7 p.m.
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