Emerging from Santa Barbara in the early 80’s with a sound that combines Southern California surf rock with the sounds of the British invasion and 60’s garage rock, The Tearaways are now in their fourth decade as a power-pop-powerhouse and they’re proving to be as enduring as the music they revere.
With the recent addition of legendary drummer, Clem Burke (Blondie), joining the line-up of members; John Finseth (vocals/guitar/bass), Greg Brallier (vocals/guitar/harmonica), John Ferriter (vocals/bass/guitar) and David Hekhouse (guitars/vocals), the band brings even more fuel to their signature harmonies, hooks and high-powered performances.
Releasing five albums in the last four years and touring annually at major festivals and shows across the US and UK, The Tearaways continue to ignite audiences across the globe who still yearn for the nostalgic era music and good vibes. With their original songs, they emulate the vintage sounds of pop luminaries such as The Beatles, Phil Spector and The Kinks, while carrying the torch forward with their own diverse range.
Their latest released single, “The Wrecking Crew,” is the first recorded song to pay homage to the great session musicians of yesteryear and was heard by the crew's legendary drummer, Hal Blaine, just weeks before his passing on March 11th, 2019. The song was also recently recognized as the recipient of the weekly, “Coolest Song In the World” on Little Steven’s Underground Garage, and has since gained significant airplay on SiriusXM and affiliate stations across the globe.
The Tearaways are now back in Los Angeles for their upcoming show on April 6th at Molly Malone’s and AXS had the opportunity to interview John Ferriter and John Finseth at the band's L.A. studio.
AXS: The Tearaways have a long history but you guys have really hit your stride in the last few years. What led to this recent resurgence?
John Ferriter: The band was originally formed back in 1981 in Santa Barbara and I started playing with them in 1983 but eventually moved to Los Angeles to focus on my career in the entertainment industry. It wasn’t until 2012 that I synced up with them again. I had just left William Morris after the merger with Endeavor and Fin asked if I would play some shows with them in the UK. So I did. Then the guys asked if I wanted to rejoin the band and so I did. Since then, we’ve worked under the philosophy of write, record, release, promote and perform and always in that order. Touring and performing is always the fun part but I think the key to our resurgence is that we’ve been releasing new music.
We write really well together and we’ve been working with amazing producers like Earle Mankey who did our last four albums; Anthems and Lullabies, Esquire, and The Earle Mankey Sessions Volume 4 & 7. We’ve also been working with the legendary Ron Dante (The Archies, Cher, The Turtles, The Cuff Links, Pat Benatar, Barry Manilow, etc.) Aside from having one of the best singing voices ever recorded (“Sugar, Sugar”), Ron has an amazing ear and can either articulate or demonstrate the exact sound he is looking for. We’ve put out five records since 2014 and we’ve been getting a lot of airplay as well.
AXS: You guys have a distinct sound yet a diverse range of styles. How would you describe your music?
John Finseth: It’s hard to describe but I would say surf music meets singing, pop, rock music. We’ve always been a guitar-based rock band and we always combine a lot of vocals but we’re also trying different things all of the time too. We just give each song its own personality and embrace that into our sound.
Between everyone in the band, we have so many different influences like The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Bee Gees, Jefferson Airplane, Tom Petty, The Kinks, Oasis, The Knack, ELO, Cheap Trick, The Clash etc. So our music reflects that range with everything from 60’s pop-rock to 70’s new wave to 80s Britpop and indie rock.
John Ferriter: I like the fact that we can go play the Beatles festivals every summer but we're one of the bands that don’t have to put on wigs and play Beatles songs.
John Finseth: It’s been interesting because a lot of these Beatles cover bands don’t even want to risk playing something from Paul McCartney’s solo albums. Then we’ll go on in between these bands and just play our own music. We’re the band that’s influenced by a lot of popular 50’s and 60’s bands but we’ve always been more interested in the B-side songs. We just play what we want to play, and I like that quality about us. We have fun and we've been able to attract our own following.
John Ferriter: We definitely don’t go along with what everyone else is doing and that even extends to the equipment we use. Most of our gear is still original classic guitars from the 50 and 60’s and vintage equipment from brands like Fender, Hofner, Rickenbacker, etc.
AXS: How did Clem Burke end up coming on board as your new drummer?
John Ferriter: A few years ago our original drummer, Jesse Benenati, injured his hand pretty bad and was unable to play. I had been working with some other bands at the time helping them with the business side of things and through that, I had gotten to know Clem.
John Finseth: He had also seen us play at a few festivals before and liked what we were doing so we thought maybe he’d want to play a few shows with us.
John Ferriter: He started filling in and just never really left. He likes that we play all different styles of music and that’s exactly what we've always liked about Blondie. They could pull off so many different songs and styles and they all complimented each other.
What’s also great about playing with someone like Clem is that you really learn to listen and play better. I remember one of the first shows he played with us and we were starting into the next song that we all knew very well and then suddenly I heard what sounded like a jet engine firing up behind me. I had no idea what I was hearing and then I realized, “Oh yeah, that’s Clem.” He’s just that good and playing with guys like that puts things on a whole other level.
AXS: You guys have a huge following in the UK as well. How would you compare the audiences there to here in the US?
John Finseth: First thing I noticed, especially in England, is that they get what The Tearaways mean, so immediately it’s like finding your people. A “tearaway” is British term for a roughneck or rebel kind of guy. We wear the leather jackets and all that but our whole thing is about having fun. A lot of times we'll be out at the pub after a show and people will come up to us and comment how we seem more like gang of guys who just have fun playing music together rather than a band with a lead singer, guitarist etc. It’s pretty much what we’re all about and I think audiences like being a part of that.
John Ferriter: Another thing we’ve discovered playing in places like England, Scotland and Ireland is that they really like live music. They totally embrace it and they commit to the whole experience. For example, last year we played the Beautiful Days festival and we were a last minute addition so we weren’t really sure what to expect. I knew it was going to be a Grateful Dead, Phish kind of vibe and having previously worked as one of Jerry Garcia’s agents, I know that crowd pretty well and I wasn’t sure how well we’d go over. It turned out they loved us. They had never even heard our music before but they embraced us.
We realized the value of that connective tissue with the audience. Playing live shows and having fun and inviting the audience to have fun with you is what connects them to you. We also have great radio deejays supporting us like Rodney Bingenheimer who has been playing us off and on for years on his legendary show.
John Finseth: We also have a great fan base in the US as well but when you're playing shows where the audiences don’t know you, it's all so different depending on where you’re playing. For instance, audiences in the Midwest and places like Texas really come together and just love the whole live music experience. But in places like Southern California, people just don’t come together as much in general. I mean don’t get me wrong, we’re from here and we love it here but why did it take more than two decades for us to come together in Los Angeles and get a football team? We just don’t come together for music and sport events here like they do in the UK.
AXS: You’re latest single, “The Wrecking Crew” has been getting a lot of recent attention. Tell us about that.
John Ferriter: The Wrecking Crew recorded on so many of the greatest songs in history and yet nobody had ever written a song about them. So we co-wrote, “The Wrecking Crew” with Rodney Bingenheimer and then Ron Dante produced it. It’s a fun tribute to the days of Brian Wilson and Phil Spector, and fortunately, we had finished it and we were able to play it for Hal Blaine, just before he passed away.
Last week the song was named, “The Coolest Song In the World” by Little Steven Van Zandt who hosts Little Steven’s Underground Garage show on SiriusXM. Since then it’s been getting significant airplay on Sirius and on terrestrial stations all over the world.
AXS: What’s next on the horizon? Are The Tearaways married for life now?
John Ferriter: We have a show coming up at Molly Malone’s on April 6th, which we are really excited about and then we’ll be touring in the UK again this summer. We’re also working on some new music right now including a song of Clem’s, “What’s Good for You Is Good For Me.” It goes back to that disco kind of beat in, “Rapture” and “Heart of Glass,” but with a totally different feel.
Being in a band is like being married and when you learn to make it work and can collaborate together, it’s as great high as I’ve ever experienced. We love making records and we love playing together so that’s what we’re going to keep doing as long we can.
John Finseth: It’s really that collaborative nature that will always keep us going no matter what and whether we have good luck or bad luck, we all go through it together. I think also after playing together for so many years, we’ve really learned to accept and appreciate each other a lot more. We just know each other and our quirks and we know how to work together without the rigidness we had before.
John Ferriter: The acronym I use for it is “FAULT.” Forgiveness, Acceptance, Understanding, Loyalty and Trust. When you can look at it that way, it all works together like a glove and the other things don’t bother you anymore. That’s when you can create and play music together and have fun doing it.
The Tearaways will be playing in Los Angeles on April 6th, 2019:
Molly Malone’s (575 South Fairfax Ave. Los Angeles, CA 90036)
The show starts at 7:30 p.m.
Tickets available here.