I turn myself around, I’m moving backwards and forwards. I’m moving twice as much as I was before …
Before the Psycho Killers, a local Talking Heads tribute band, took the stage at the 9:30 Club on Oct. 30, the Writer’s Bloc had the opportunity to chat with the band members about all things music.
The group — consisting of Baltimore natives Jon Wood (guitarist), Ryan Porter (bass and vocals), Paul Weinberg (drums), Jon Brady (keys and vocals), Jackie Morgia (vocals) and Mikey Barnstein (percussion) — shares a passion for the iconic ‘80s band and hopes to bring their timeless dance anthems to this generation.
While sitting with the group in their dressing room at the 9:30 Club, sandwiches were delivered, gin and tonics were stirred and light jokes and laughs were shared. The band’s laid back, light-hearted nature, combined with their passion for music, are the qualities that make up the Psycho Killers’ demeanor and illustrate the energy fans can expect from their shows.
Q: How did the group get started?
Ryan: Paul and I have been playing together for probably 15 to 20 years. A long time. We were in a band called “The Bridge,” and we both left [the group] at the same time and were looking for something to do. We had another project for a little while, and we knew Jon from around the neighborhood, and we reached out to Jon and formed the Psycho Killers. I think that was about six years ago, right around now. I think our first show was in October.
Jon Wood: ‘08. Seven years ago.
Paul: Was it ‘08?
Ryan: So, we’ve been doing this for about seven years, and the rest of the guys … Jackie’s been with us for a few years, Jon Brady for a few years and Mikey’s been with us since the beginning. So it’s kind of like the core four of us, and then they added some color a few years ago.
Q: What is it about The Talking Heads that made you want to become a tribute band?
Jon Wood: I would say the music is timeless, for sure. It’s very dancey. It leaves lots of space for improvisation, which is something we really like to do, and it’s just really fun to perform. It seems like particularly in Baltimore, where we’re from, [Talking Heads] music is really appreciated because David Byrne is from Arbutus originally. So I think that all kind of ties together. The funny thing is, the project we were going to start was a Phish cover band, and we tried to play some Phish songs in my basement, and Ryan was like, “Do you like the Talking Heads?” and I was like, “Yeah,” and he was like, “Let’s play a Talking Heads song.”
Q: Speaking of you all forming in Baltimore, how does it feel to be performing at 9:30 with it being so close?
Jon Wood: Yeah, it’s great.
Ryan: We try to stick around the area. We don’t tour too much. We’re mostly Baltimore, D.C., northern Virginia, but this is awesome. This is definitely the premier venue of its size, probably in the country, not just in the area, so we’re super stoked to be here.
Jon Brady: [9:30] was the number one venue in the country for the last two years. Sound-wise, I think.
Paul: Jon Brady is our statistician.
Ryan: He only speaks in quotes.
Jon Brady: (laughs) Yeah, I only speak in statistical quotes.
Q: I know you said that you mainly stay local, but how long have you been touring around?
Jon Wood: We’ve been playing gigs since the beginning. I mean, I think that we booked a gig and then we practiced up to it.
Ryan: It would be seven years this month.
Jon Wood: Our main venue is the Eight by Ten in Baltimore, and we sell that place out every time we play. We’ve also done the Rams Head and Baltimore Soundstage. We play there on Black Fridays, starting last year we did, so this year we’re playing Black Friday and that will be a really big show. We’ve done the State Theater in Falls Church, the Avalon Theater in Easton, Rams Head in Annapolis. So, we move around a little bit, but we’re basically regional.
Q: What is your favorite venue to play in?
Jon Wood: I think it would be safe to say our favorite venue is the Eight by Ten. Mine is … but, I mean, this is my favorite venue. (laughs)
Ryan: This is our first time playing here.
Jon Wood: Jon and I play in another band called ELM, Electric Love Machine, and we’re kind of an electronic, dance metal band (laughs). Yeah [ELM] played here three times, and we tour. Oh, and that’s Mikey.
Jackie: He’s in the band.
Jon Wood: Mikey, say hi.
Q: Do you guys have any albums out right now, or any in the works?
Ryan: No, we’re a cover band, so …
Q: Oh, yeah, okay I wasn’t sure how that works with cover bands, so I figured I would ask.
Paul: Yeah, no, we don’t have any albums. I think really we kind of look at it as a good opportunity to … I mean really the reality is we don’t have much time to practice. In a way it’s good because these are songs that we can listen to, and we usually get out say one practice in before a show unless we play shows like two weeks apart, three weeks apart. Like, we just played a show on a boat, Party on a Boat, a couple weeks ago, so we feel like that was our practice for this show.
Jon Wood: We learned the bulk of our repertoire early on, so we just kind of get together and go over stuff that we aren’t sure about, and we’ll occasionally add new songs.
Ryan: We’ve got the catalog, so now we just draw from that and kind based on the show and the timing, if we get a chance to practice, we determine, “Okay, which ones do we feel comfortable playing,” what we don’t really need a whole lot of practice.
Q: What is your favorite song to perform? I would assume that it would be “Psycho Killer,” but correct me if I’m wrong.
Paul: Man, so many good ones. I guess if I had to pick one, it would probably be … man, I dunno … “Making Flippy Floppy” maybe?
Ryan: “(Nothing But) Flowers,”
Paul: “(Nothing But) Flowers” for Ryan Porter.
Jackie: “(Nothing But) Flowers” for me, but also “Born Under Punches.”
Jon Brady: Probably “Cross Eyed” or “Slippery People.”
Jon Wood: I like some of the older tracks, like … what was the one …
Jon Wood: Yeah, “Swamp” is my absolute favorite. No, I don’t like that song.
Paul: “The Book I Read?”
Jon Wood: Oh yeah! “The Book I Read” is one of my absolute favorites. That is a great song. And “Houses in Motion.”
What about you, Mikey?
Mikey: I’ll have to get back to you on that one.
Q: What would you say is your biggest or proudest group accomplishment?
Paul: I would say selling out the Eight by Ten the second show we played. We came really close the first time, and then the second time played we sold out, and then we sold it out every time since then.
Jon Wood: This Black Friday show we’re playing November 27th, Thomas Doldy will be joining us. He wrote the song “She Blinded Me with Science” from the 80s, and he’s also like a synth wizard. So he hit us up about doing a show sometime last year, and he got sick and couldn’t do it. So we hit him back, and he’s going to do some songs with us. That’s going to be really cool.
Q: What can fans expect from tonight’s set?
Ryan: Pure, unadulterated bliss. (laughs)
Jon Wood: Jeremy Schon, the guitar player from Pigeons, his dad, Lou—Dr. Lou—he’s going to get up and sing “Wild, Wild Life” with us, and he got up and sang with the Foo Fighters at Fenway Park.
Jackie: He actually was Dave Grohl’s orthopedic surgeon.
Ryan: The other cool accomplishment, I didn’t say this, was that the Talking Heads actually liked us on Facebook. Which is pretty cool. That is a cool accomplishment.
Q: Where would you like to see the group go in the future?
Jon Wood: Vegas!
Jon Wood: That would be sweet! We could do like a several night run, and have them pay us to go out there … and our families. I think that’s the long term goal. That’d be sweet.
Ryan: I could probably make that happen if you’d really want to do it. I mean, I don’t know how much money they’d pay us.
Jon Wood: That’s what we should be doing.
Paul: Presidential Inauguration, maybe?
Ryan: It would be pretty cool to get one of the Talking Heads members to play with us, at some point.
Featured Photo Credit: Guitarist and vocalist, Jon Wood (left), vocalist, Jaqueline Morgia (middle), and bassist, Ryan Porter (right), of the Talking Heads cover band Psycho Killers during their performance at 9:30 club. (Cassie Osvatics/Bloc Reporter)
Jordan Stovka is a freshman journalism major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.