WINNER BEST INSTRUMENTAL BAND FOR 2002
L.A. WEEKLY MUSIC AWARDS
It’s a tall order to encapsulate the city’s diverse musical acts in one night, but the L.A. Weekly Music Awards came close…celebrating the cream of the crop…expansive surf-meisters Double Naught Spy Car.
–Natalie Nichols, L.A. Times
All-instrumental combo Double Naught Spy Car aren’t easy to classify. They’re not simply surf ‘n’ drag practitioners or lounge artists — they’re too freewheeling for that. Nor are they purely jazz-heads — their songs are too structured. Their music draws from a variety of genres they’ve made seamlessly their own. Danger High is the long-awaited follow-up to their 1998 debut, Comb in Blue Water, and like its predecessor, it shows Spy Car to be the bosses of instrumental music in a “roots noir” vein, but the addition of ace drummer Joe Berardi to the band makes them sound even better.
Spy Car’s music is ever more ambitious and complex, rife with tempo changes and varied textures, yet it’s always down-to-earth and loads of fun, with a humor evidenced by some of their song titles: “Naked Lurch,” “Pork Rendr’ns.” Spy Car have appeared on the soundtrack of a number of films and TV shows (as well as backing up Los Angeles crime writer James Ellroy on some of his spoken-word appearances), so it’s no surprise that Danger High often has a cinematic feel, evocative of car chases and drag races, tough gumshoes and noirish intrigue. Some of Spy Car’s melodies sound like theme songs to imaginary black-and-white movies or old TV shows that never actually existed.
One such “theme song” is the reggae-tinged “Helicopter,” which features an exhilarating guitar duel between Paul Lacques and Marcus Watkins, as well as Marc Doten’s virtuoso bass playing, by turns frantic and lumbering. Other highlights include the ferocious “Marina del Hayride” and the sinuous, resolutely odd “Crosseyed San Paku.” Throughout the record, Lacques dazzles on the lap steel. He makes the guitar wail, sing and speak (and occasionally complain and tell jokes), to the point where a vocalist would be superfluous. With its bravura musicianship, questing originality and offbeat wit, Danger High is an inventive work by a group of true originals.
–Gwynne Garfinkle, Los Angeles NEW TIMES
“This L.A. quartet sometimes lends their all-instrumental support to the readings of James Ellroy, that hardest of hard-boiled crime novelists. Like Ellroy’s novels, DOUBLE NAUGHT SPY CAR combines dead-on noir flavor with a modern perspective that’s both brutal and poetic. Many noveau-instrumental combos excel at retro vibe, but few mix the past and present so convincingly.”
— Joe Gore, Guitar Player Magazine
“Double Naught Spy Car rocks, socks, rolls, roils, and sizzles. This is a swinging, raunchy, bluesy, throaty, growling band. Their tunes rock, their musicianship rolls, their overall brainpower sizzles. Double Naught Spy Car rules. Woof.”
— James Ellroy, crime novelist
I’ve written much about my favorite LA band, Double Naught Spy Car, but I think I said it best the first time I wrote about them, “take a ride in a souped up GTO to a place where surf guitar rides shotgun with old smoky westerns and spy movie a go-go meanders through ethereal innuendo in a post-punk glamour world. Don’t miss the magic.”
–Teresa Stone, Grooves, Santa Monica Mirror
Playing a gig with my friends DOUBLE NAUGHT SPY CAR is always a sincere pleasure. Their old tunes are now classics and their new ones are soon to be. I love the fact that they never let their musicianship overwhelm the melodic beauty of whatever piece of music they happen to be chewing on at the time. If they would just remix all their material with a goofball corporate extreme sports hip-hop/techno groove they’d be millionaires by tuesday.
–Stew, Stew Says webpage
“Your guitar work is fabulous!” — Davey Allan
“Just some old fashioned love songs filled Spaceland Saturday night for a tribute to Paul Williams, the man behind such hits as “We’ve Only Just Begun,” and of course, “The Love Boat Theme.” The house was packed. Williams, who was in the audience, was thrilled by the variety of musicians performing his songs, especially DOUBLE NAUGHT SPY CAR’S surf-rock instrumental on “Just An Old Fashioned Love Song.”
— Lisa Derrick, New Times
“You guys blew my mind. It’s so great to see somebody do something original.”
“Have you ever wondered what King Crimson would sound like if they were a, oh, let’s say, ‘bar band’? Probably not, but that description certainly fits Double Naught Spy Car, a quirky quartet with leanings toward Captain Beefheart, surf music and prog rock. Yes, it’s just as wacked-out as it sounds, but what a sight they are to behold on stage. I saw ’em at Spaceland a few weeks back and the place was packed.
— Jim Freek, BAM Magazine
“Double Naught Spy Car had the room in a collective jawdrop which is saying a lot since the musicians in many of these bands are hands down the best anywhere playing anything. These guys went out on a limb, then just created more limbs to climb out on ad infinitum. Their influences are all over the place, from like Ellington to Beefheart and beyond–instrumental, jazzy, sometimes throw down rockin, with a lap steel that sounds like it’s from Mars.”
Double Naught Spy Car is an eclectic group of guys who perform a bizarre mixture of surf, western, and mod rock. It is no mystery that some of the songs sound as if they are a mixture of early Pink Floyd and Frank Zappa, as the group was formerly known as Pink Floyd The Barber. With their numerous time changes and noir expressions, Double Naught’s songs are expansive, yet tight.
Each member contributes his own spice to this hot act. Tempo plays his drums with an expressive style that has substance and flair. On bass, Marc Doten thumps out box-like patterns that give the instrumentals a solid foundation. The double-edged guitar styles of Watkins and Lacques compliment one another like surf ‘n’ turf. Watkins executes confident ability with his Stratocaster while Lacques pulls off clean switches from lap-steel to a Telecaster like a seasoned pro.
What is so entertaining about this band, aside from their fine musicianship, is a personality not seen in many outfits. Doten prowls the stage with spooky and even campy mannerisms. Watkins gets on his knees screaming out his rich solos, while Lacques puts so much raw emotion into his siganture style it’s exhausting to watch. At one point the two guitars and bass were playing the same notes up and down the neck, producing chilling energy. These guys know how important it is to be tight and they certainly look like they’re having a blast.
Seeing Double Naught Spy Car lives proves why they’ve garnered plenty of local attention over the years. From movie soundtracks to theatrical gigs, these guys stay busy and know how to keep an audience attentive.
–Daniel Siwek, Music Connection
“Silver Lake instrumentalists DOUBLE NAUGHT SPY CAR have a nifty way with a song title. ‘Arrangement With A Dung Beetle? jan-michael vincent rehab.com?’ Hey, I’m already sold. But at the end of the day, when the cattle are in their pens and the cowpokes ride into town lookin’ fer kicks, what really counts are good songs and burnin’ instrumental interplay–and Double Naught Spy Car’s got ’em both by the wagonload. Spin Comb In Blue Water and dig the way the rawhide gallop of “Hybrid Vigor” explodes into double-time rock riffing, or the way Paul Lacques’ lap steel makes the aforementioned “vincent” resemble a sped up (and severely warped) Friends of Dean Martinez 45. “For Your Needs Away From Home” is a twangy ballad with a lovely, Mojave-like shimmer, while “I Rose In A Field” sounds like Santo & Jonny making themselves at home in Lee Perry’s Black Ark studio. In short, Double Naught Spy Car make great background music–but they’re even better when you pay attention.”
–Dan Epstein, L.A. WEEKLY
“Davie Allan biker burn banked with a layer of Chicago chug and huffed with a mean L.A. smog. Dig Paul’s dentals while feeling his lap steel lines rip up your back like space rays. Comb In Blue Water delivers its densities like few other recordings in this frangible digital age; so don’t try to use it as background sound, because it won’t leave you alone. Perspiration is permitted.”
— Greg Burk, L.A. WEEKLY
“Roots noir instrumentalists Double Naught Spy Car are one of the tightest and most innovative outfits on the local scene, as evidenced by their debut CD, Comb In Blue Water (11 Foot Pole Records). The band draws on influences from jazz to surf ‘n’ drag with a playful yet full-throttle approach.”
–Gwynne Garfinkle, L.A. Weekly
“The guitar wrangling smokes, ranging from smooth to strangle-city. Frank Zappa’s description of Johnny Guitar Watson’s fretwork applies here ‘It’s like an ice-pick in the forehead.'”
–Gerry Fialka, Flipside
TOP TEN L.A. CDs of 1997
“The Ventures on Valium.”
— Scott Lenz, Buzz Magazine
“Double Naught Spy Car rides a precarious space of coolness between surf rock, jazz, and (dare I say) country, offering up a highly original sound that puts them quite a bit above the typical tremolo-twanger instrumental combo of the 90’s. Oh, wait; it’s the 00’s. Well, then, there’s no better time for the Double Naught Spy Car, I’d say. This LA four-piece is tight as I wish my abs were, and with titles like ‘jan-michaelvincentrehab.com,’ ‘The Rube Cubist,’ and ‘Arrangement With a Dung Beetle,’ hip without coming off as simply retro. This stuff is just screaming to be used on film soundtracks. For every time some thinking-inside-the-box filmmaker uses ‘Miserlou’ or something to add ‘zip’ to their movie, it would be nice for someone with real taste to use DNSC’s take on Ellington’s ‘The Mooche.’ Slinky, unpredictable, and above all, consistently interesting.”
“The Surf meets the Transcendental Sun. You park your mind down the road; the air is full of promise. Come on child, Double Naught Spy Car is on stage, come on child; bring your lunchbox full of sand castles and swing. The beach finds its legs, begins to turn into a saxophone. All that bebop, all the Burgundy soft shoe. Cut loose. This CD’s name is Good Time.”
–Scott Wannberg, [sic] Vice &Verse Magazine