The Muslims aren't trying to sound like The Velvet Underground. But they do.
"I started buying Velvet Underground records after reading reviews saying we sound like The Velvet Underground," says 25-year-old lead guitarist Matty McLoughlin, who grew up in North County with singer Matt Lamkin.
"It's flattering, but it's not what we're after," adds Lamkin. "I think Margo [Timmons, singer for Cowboy Junkies] said it best: "We don't want to hear The Velvet Underground another time around.'"
But a lot of people might disagree. Any sound that's more than 20 years old is hot shit right now. And a throwback to '60s bad-asses like Lou Reed and Iggy Pop is no exception. If they play their cards right, the band could probably take that sound straight to the bank. But The Muslims are trying to get past that.
"Lou Reed's not one of my idols. He has a couple good albums, but so does everyone else," explains Lamkin after a few whiskey-sodas at North Park's Red Fox Room. "The point is, no, we don't buy into that shit. We think that's a cop-out. That's a shortcut. It's a lame excuse to start a band. If you're not gonna do your own thing, you're not doing anything."
Lamkin writes most of The Muslims' songs and says he got tired of hearing bands with too many parts. So The Muslims keep it simple. With crunchy reverbed guitars and Lamkin's repetitive lyrics (such as, "Hey all you killers/ Hey, hey/ Why don't you just call it a day?"), their music reflects a simpler time when all that seemed to matter was sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll.
Comparing those times with present-day San Diego, McLoughlin says, "People care too much. No one's doing unbelievably great. We don't know what the fuck we're doing. And that's why it sounds like The Velvet Underground. Because it has chords and my guitar is trebly. We like the E chord. It's simple. None of us listen to math-rock. We tried it, but it didn't work out that well. We're not bad, we're just not really good."
Many would disagree. Barely 8 months old, the band's already played a dozen shows in San Diego, including a performance on Fox Rox, a local TV show that featured underground bands before getting cancelled in March.
"They gave us bagels," McLoughlin fondly recalls of his television experience. Despite their early popularity, The Muslims aren't taking themselves too seriously. "This is our first band that got out of the garage."
Bassist Emily Neveu joined the band just four days before their first show, having never played the instrument. Neveu plays guitar and keyboard and sings beautifully in Clock Work Army, which is currently recording with Pall Jenkins of Black Heart Procession and Mr. Tube. Just this month, The Muslims hired a new drummer, Gabe Patuzzi of the Holy Boys, and are planning to record a full-length album this summer, possibly with Jenkins.
"Once we're recorded properly, we'll sound different," says Lamkin, whose vocals undeniably resemble the conversational style of Lou Reed or Jim Morrison. Still, he attests: "We're not retrospective or nostalgic. We're actually not going for that old sound. None of our songs were influenced by Velvet Underground when I was writing them.
"To be honest," he finally admits, "I'm influenced by The Byrds."
The Muslims play at The Ken Club with The Sundelles on Thursday, May 24. 619-284-2848. www.myspace.com/themuslims.