John Eberly Brings The Excuses Home
The early and mid-1980s were a fertile time for Wichita music, with a series of bands playing original music at clubs such as Woody's Back Door or The Coyote Club. Bands such as Klyde Konnor or Roach Egg Invasion or The Mumbles or didn’t really sound like each other.
Former Mumbles frontman John Eberly says that his band occupied a particularly odd space in that climate.
“I think the space we filled was kind of a dark space,” he says. “I think we were kind of a heavy metal punk rock band that nobody knew they wanted but they seemed to like it.”
Eberly says that The Mumbles had an especially rare chemistry.
“You can throw something together with a bunch of guys and it’ll sound pretty good, and sometimes it clicks,” he says. “But The Mumbles thing, I didn’t think I’d ever run into that kind of chemistry again because we had all grown up together. We grew up playing garage bands when we were junior high kids. I knew that by the time we were in our thirties that that was why that band really meshed. We could just look at each other and know what the other one was thinking.”
Since The Mumbles disbanded in the early 1990s, Eberly has played with a succession of musicians in bands and as a solo artist. He says that his current group, The Excuses, is the group that comes closest to replicating the chemistry he felt with The Mumbles.
“The four of us really have the best chemistry I’ve run into with a band since The Mumbles. It just works real good,” he says.
Some of that chemistry may be down to the band's dedication, something that, in its way, inspired the band's simple but memorable name.
“It seems like when you have a group of guys and you try to get everybody together for practice, everybody’s got the excuses, so that’s where that came from,” Eberly says.
The Excuses don't play many gigs in any given year, and the pace at which the quartet releases new music is fairly slow. Though Eberly remains passionate about music, he says that no one in the group is thinking too much about life beyond the next rehearsal or gig.
“I don’t know if I was ever very interested in impressing anybody, but I think I had a lot of ambition in my thirties as a writer and a cartoonist and a musician. I was trying to do a whole lot of things,” Eberly says, “and now, at this point in my life, I’m just kind of settled in. Don’t care what happens as long as it’s enjoyable. Playing in the band is kind of like boy’s bowling night.”
When The Excuses take to the stage on Saturday night, it will be at a place that's familiar to Eberly from his more than 30 years as a live performer in the Wichita area: Kirby's Beer Store.
“The walls are infused with the cellular memory of times gone by, and so many good bands and so many good people who just wanted to get up on that stage and find the freedom to do whatever they want,” he says. “That place just represents freedom to me. It’s a tiny space, it’s a dive, but it’s just got a rock ‘n’ roll vibe that’s rare.”
The Excuses perform at Kirby's Beer Store Saturday night with O! Handsome Navigator.
Jedd Beaudoin is the host of Strange Currency. Follow him on Twitter @JeddBeaudoin.
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