Can the Husbians go home?

by Jordan Green

Can the Husbians go home?

A scene erupts out of nowhere, and then disappears pretty much for good. That is, unless four guys decide to strap on their guitars or slide behind the drum set again. There aren’t many artifacts around to commemorate their triumphant stand, not many sites for the tourists to gawk at. The hole-in-the-wall club where they once played in Boone has been converted into a frat bar. The record into which they poured their distilled passions was never released. The label has been liquidated. Thirteen years after the demise of the fabulous Husbians, its four members have mostly stopped playing in bands. They’re regular workaday guys, husbands, fathers. The Husbians reunited for a brief moment in late August when their drummer, Todd Reid, came down from Pennsylvania for a weeklong visit in North Carolina. They played in Winston-Salem on Friday, and in Charlotte on Saturday. “My wife had always wanted to see the punk-rock me,” Reid says before the band’s appearance at the Garage on Aug. 28. “Two nights — that’s a big tour for a bunch of old guys,” singer and guitarist Rick Randall adds. They formed in Boone about 20 years ago to create a rock scene where there hadn’t been one before. It gave them something to do, and a reason to get out of town. “Boone was a very deprived scene where people were really excited to see you,” bass player Steve Pusser says. “It was not like Chapel Hill, where people sit back and judge you.” They played with like-minded bands such as Greensboro’s Geezer Lake, and developed an enthusiastic following by playing around the Southeast. The Husbians were signed to Mutiny Records in the mid- 1990s, and decided to record their first album at Easley Studios in Memphis. “Rick found out about the studio,” guitarist and singer Fred Hutchinson recalls. “What made us excited about it was that Sonic Youth had recorded there…. It was fairly close, if you consider 10 hours close.” All four of them hold fond memories of that recording session, which produced their first and only album, Unpopular Flips. They came home and received a favorable write-up in a New York City music industry publication, prompting a flurry of phone calls from other labels. They received a letter from SST, the label owned by former Black Flag guitarist Greg Ginn, saying, in Randall’s words, “that he loved us and wanted to do something with us.” Obviously, they were already committed to Mutiny. Meanwhile, Reid, who had dropped out of grad school when the Husbians were signed to Mutant, decided to quit the band and resume his studies. The band relocated to Williamsburg, but failed to find a drummer who could replicate the sound Reid created on record. “Nobody could rush tempos and overplay like me,” Reid explains. Hutchinson relates to the notion of turning shortcomings into strengths. “I come from the punk-rock school of guitar, so that’s where the full-on thing comes from,” he says. “In my mind, the concept of the band is Rick writes really catchy tunes, and I ruin ’em with my guitar.” As wives and friends gather for this reunion, the question remains: Can they rock again? In a word, yes. From the first few bars, the Husbians’ sound is fast, lethal rock and roll with sharp edges. Pusser and Reid thunder in combination. Hutchinson and Randall plow through songs using furious punk-rock chord changes. Randall sings with a siren call, while Hutchinson works a more battered instrument. The music seems somewhat out of place in this orderly listening room. It’s easy to imagine the Husbians creating mayhem in a basement house party in Boone 20 years ago, beer spilling and sweaty bodies crushed together.

Fred Hutchinson, Steve Pusser and Rick Randall (l-r) of the Husbiansprove that punk rock never forgets during a recent reunion gig at theGarage in Winston-Salem. (photo by Quentin L. Richardson)