When the national press started sniffing around the Philadelphia psychedelic (for lack of a better descriptor) rock scene in the mid-2000s, a few remarkable bands were exposed to a larger audience, like Man Man and Dr. Dog. The Teeth, a ragged quartet that channeled the ramshackle energy of groups like The Kinks, were right there with them.
But as quickly as The Teeth began its rise to prominence, the band was gone, when in 2009, it dissolved without much fanfare.
For a few years now, three of The Teeth’s members – Peter MoDavis, Brian Ashby and Jonas Oesterle – have been performing together as Purples. It’s been a slow build, with a debut album, “Nancy,” released last year, and only a few shows, all of them in Philadelphia besides one outing in New York. Along the way, the band picked up a new member, Philadelphia-via-Scranton’s Mike Quinn, a guitarist/singer/songwriter from the no-longer-with-us Okay Paddy and And The Moneynotes who also boasts a handful of standout solo albums.
On Friday, April 17, Purples will make their second journey outside of the friendly confines of Philly for a show at The Keys (244 Penn Ave., Scranton) along with Heavy Blonde and Family Animals. We recently spoke with Peter MoDavis about the roots of the band, what Quinn has brought to the table and why it took so long for the fellows to release new material after The Teeth bit the dust.
What as that transitional period like after Thee Teeth broke up but before you started back up again as Purples?
Well, I think at first we were just pretty depressed for like a while, but I knew right away that (we would play again); it might not be as successful as The Teeth, but it’s hard to stop doing it (laughs), even if you don’t want to do it. This is pretty much The Teeth, except for one member, who is my brother. We always knew we were going to do it. I think a big problem with this was there was so much pressure, not that The Teeth were huge or anything, but it was really kind of scary to release anything (after The Teeth’s breakup), so I think that’s why it took us a while.
The debut album “Nancy” is celebrating its first anniversary. How would you describe the process of making that record?
It took a long time. The Teeth broke up and we started playing music again and we became Alec Ounsworth’s backing band for a tour or two. But then we went back and worked on the songs, probably overworked on them for years (laughs) and then we recorded for a year and a half, and that was all done.
What was the reaction from fans when you started playing out as Purples?
It’s always been really good. We’ve always been a pretty good live band, so that always helps. The usual people were coming out. We haven’t been playing out as much as I’d wish we would, but I think our live shows have been going over well.
Were you playing any Teeth songs at that point? What about now?
We played some Teeth songs when we had a residency at The Barbary, but right now we have the full album that we can play most of, and we already have enough music for more than another album, so we have enough songs to play for two hours without dipping into any Teeth songs or covers. So no, we don’t play ’em.
What has Mike Quinn brought to the band?
He’s bringing a lot to the band. For a three-piece, we were doing as good as we could. We had Jonas the drummer playing drums and organ, and he’s still doing that, but Mike’s bringing … well, he’s a great guitar player, first of all, and he’s a great singer, too – we can do three-part harmonies finally – and he’s writing great songs. Yeah, it’s great. That’s why we have so much output now. He’s only written two that we’re using right now, but we play some of his solo songs too.
What types of music did you grow up with?
Growing up, I listened to obviously The Beatles and I listened to stuff that was, ya know, current at the time. I liked David Bowie when I was growing up, still do. We listen to so much different stuff. We’re really into James Brown, all types of stuff, Burt Bacharach. Almost anything.
How would you describe the musical scene in Philadelphia when The Teeth were coming up?
Back then, we played with Dr. Dog a lot; I think it was a different scene back then. Back then, I’m not saying it was better or anything, but it seemed like it was different, like people were trying to do different things a lot more maybe. But there was a lot more pop, too. You know, you had Dr. Dog, obviously, a lot of the harmonies went off of each other; even something like Man Man is still more poppy than anything else.
You mentioned some new Purples material. What is your plan for those songs?
We recorded demos and we started recording at Agave studios, a recording studio in Philly. We just did two songs. … We talked about it yesterday. Maybe we should record an album, and my heart would say we should record an album, or just start releasing singles all the time, and my brain says that’s a better idea. So we might start doing that, recording songs and putting them out there quicker than an album.
What other plans are in the works for the band right now?
I think it’s all just writing right now. Scranton will be the second time we’ll play outside of Philly. We played New York once. So yeah, we’re trying to figure out a plan. I think our biggest plan now is to record again. Scranton’s the only show we have coming up, actually.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Not really, just that I think it’ll be a great show. We’ll play really good (laughs).
Check out Highway 81 Revisited’s recent premiere of Heavy Blonde’s video for “Shotgun Wedding” here.