Mad River Union
TRINIDAD – The lead singer makes his entrance, dressed as Elvis, but wait, there are elements of David Bowie and something else. This is Elvis as you never imagined him and the band is Psychedelvis and the Rounders.
The keyboard player is classically trained but also plays ragtime and Delta style blues. The lead guitar player is a member of so many honky tonk-type bands that we've lost count and the drummer has been around the county for so many years we all know him.
The bass player has played in rock and blues bands ditto. They all add up to a jam style band that pays homage to both Bowie and Elvis but transcends those limits. They recently won the Classic Cover contest on The Point radio station and they'll be playing the Logger Bar in Blue Lake on New Year's Eve.
Tim Breed, the Elvis/David Bowie/what-else-guy explained the name of the band. "One of the carpenters on a job I was working went to Kate Wolf and brought back a photograph of a mural on a side of a van, showing Elvis as a many armed Shiva. I hung the photo in my music studio and a friend saw it and said, 'That's a crazy painting,' I said 'It's pretty psychedelic.' The name Psychedelvis came into my head and I said to myself, 'I guess I'm not done'."
Breed had stopped doing his Elvis singing telegrams and playing in a cover band, Elvis and the Hound Dogs, when his daughters were babies. "I wanted to do my own thing, not be somebody else," he said. He'd spent the last few years on the Elvis path but was ready to do the singer/songwriter gig.
It all started on a Halloween in 2005. Breed had dressed as Elvis and was hanging out with friends who finally asked him to talk like himself again. "OK, Tim," one said, "we get the point. Can you talk like yourself?" He answered in an Elvis voice, "What do you mean? I am talking like myself."
"I didn't let the character go until bedtime," he recalled. "The next morning it hit me. I could learn some songs and do singing telegrams." He took out an ad and did just that, playing various venues such as Applebees, The Palm Cafe in Orick, senior centers, and birthday parties.
"I invested in a white suit from Vintage Avenger and I'd show up and do three songs."
Elvis and the Hound Dogs made their debut at Trinidad Town Hall in a benefit for the Westhaven Volunteer Fire Department. Local ladies made a buffet of all of the favorite foods of Elvis and Tim strolled in, grabbing a "nanner" sandwich on his way to the stage. That's a deep fried peanut butter and banana sandwich to the uninitiated. The band killed it and the screaming in the hall sounded like something from the Fifties. The band stayed together for two years until the bass player went to the East Coast to go to graduate school. Elvis went on hiatus.
'The cover band got boring," Breed said, "and with Psychedelvis we could free it up. I started compiling some karaoke tapes and customizing them. My friend Jason did a treatment on "Suspicious Minds" and I did that with Dee Hemingway. Then I met Turtle and Lizard on a construction site and we got to talking about music."
Soon Psychedelvis and the Rounders was born. It included Breed on vocals and rhythm guitar, Turtle on lead guitar, Lizard on keyboards, Motorhead on bass, and Bob Smith on drums. Smith seemed like too normal of a name for the mix but he was a great drummer, only leaving the band for personal reasons last year.
Chuck Kircher now holds down the drum spot and didn't have to assume a one-word moniker to do it. They've been together for "two years and two months."
Deaths have played a part in the formation of the band. Breed's brother, Dan, committed suicide this year at the age of 48. "Dan was the inspiration behind Elvis, doing so much for me," Breed said. "He took it on to get my first actual jumpsuit made and he made a pair of custom shoes for me and did some great artwork for the backdrop. I had quit after his suicide but Motorhead said 'You have to keep this up for Dan.' His spirit is behind the whole thing."
David Bowie's death also made an impression on Breed. "I purchased a Time magazine with a large Bowie spread where I read that Bowie shared the same birthday as Elvis. He was also quoted as saying that as a young man he aspired to be 'Britain's Elvis' so I knew that I had to include him in the act and that his persona would add the 'psychedelic' element of Psychedelvis."
Local artists are part of the mix with Coop doing paintings for backgrounds and Jinkie designing both a new Elvis suit and making action figures from the leftover materials. The Psychedelvis experience is one of collaboration.
Audiences are sometimes surprised when "Elvis" emerges from the back after the first set with Bowie style face paint and a pink and black diamond printed suit. It soon becomes clear that this band is jamming on all cylinders, in the tradition of the Grateful Dead. Song choices and arrangements are never what could be expected of a cover band but that's part of the appeal of Psychedelvis and the Rounders.
Come hear them on New Year's Eve at Blue Lake's famous Logger Bar. It's a free show and starts at 9 p.m.