It could be said that Exbats drummer and frontwoman Inez Mclain was born to play rock and roll. The talented vocalist and songwriter was not only raised on the music of bands like the Hollies, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and the Monkees, but was even named for a Monkee - Mike "Papa Nez" Nesmith.
Still, there's nothing like parental intervention to give one's destiny a little push. Inez's fate was more or less sealed the day her father, Exbats guitarist Ken Mclain, picked her up from a slumber party with a new drum kit in the back seat."All kids need to learn an instrument," Inez remembers her dad saying that fateful morning. "Now, do you want to learn piano from some boring old woman like all the other kids? Or do you want to play the drums in my band?" Needless to say, she chose the band.
And so began the Exbats, a punk rock family enterprise whose early performances sounded something like (in Ken Mclain's words)"if the Partridge Family picked up the Cramps hitchhiking" or "a couple of misfits locked in the basement of the Brill building." Specializing in simple, two minute garage punk gems in the spirit of the Ramones and Flight of the Conchords, the pair played gigs in and around Portland, Oregon for a few years (along with a fateful pair of shows in Prague) before ditching the rat race for rural Arizona, in search of a place where they would "never have to run into a Walmart Supercenter."
By the time Inez turned 18, she and her dad had settled in Bisbee, AZ (a town affectionately described by locals as "like Mayberry on acid") and the Exbats had begun to find their sound. Turns out that all those years of playing, singing and "musical immersion therapy" had taught Inez a thing or two about songcraft, as had the strict template for songwriting that Ken had laid out for the band from the start. Write every song like it's a single. Hinge it all on a catchy hook. Purge anything unnecessary. Keep the whole thing no longer than about two and a half or three minutes long. It's a formula that worked brilliantly for the pop hitmakers of the 50s and 60s and it still works today.
Only, instead of Sun Studios or Muscle Shoals or Abbey Road, the Exbats record at Tucson, AZ based Midtown Island Studios, the home studio of Matt Rendon of the Resonars. And instead of PG rated songs about puppy love and doomed hot rod rides, the Exbats write about things like superhero sidekicks and television heroes, rock and roll icons and existential angst, hexing the patriarchy and fighting the barman who's carding you at your own gig.
The only parental guidance here is the kind that plays a mean guitar, sings backup vocals and trades licks with the bassist (newest Exbat, Bobby Carlson) against Inez's pounding heartbeat of a rhythm. This girl's got fights, she's got feelings, and she definitely has opinions, but she's not going to yell about them, she's going to croon and shout and serenade you and she's going to do it with drumsticks in hand. She's going to make her Papa proud, and not just Papa Mclain, but "Papa Nez" himself and Mickey Dolenz too. She's going to summon the spirits of the Hollies and Buddy Holly. And John Lennon and Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley too. Maybe a little Wanda Carter and a little Exene Cervenka for good measure. All the while reminding you that if you just gave Harry Styles a chance, you'd realize the man is a goddamn pop music genius.