Truck Stop Quickies
By Greg Hartman
Never count out an underdog who is willing to work harder and longer to achieve their vision. Billing themselves “The Beatles from the trailer park”, the Truck Stop Quickies are an unlikely, plucky group who are on the path to surprise a lot of music fans. Their music, performances, and vision is summed up with the difficult balance to make “charmingly gross” songs that will have people humming along with unexpected lyrics. As their first album nears release, the Truck Stop Quickies are excited to share their unique mix of irreverent garage rock with sugar coated pop harmonies.
The core of the Quickies has been childhood friends Sterling Gray and Scott Stephenson, who share guitar and vocal duties. The duo began writing songs together in high school and continue to be the core songwriters for the group. Three years ago, they started the band and found a few gigs, including opening slots at Mesa Theater. However, keeping a drummer and bassist turned into a constant struggle. Just as they were preparing to play the after party of Local Jam 2017, the band finally fell apart. Despite the hype about their sound and fan support, Gray and Stephenson couldn’t find the right people to complete their band.
The answer came with a new recording space, a warehouse shared with the flash in the pan punk rock group Black Gusto. As the Quickies were falling off, Sterling joined the NC-17’s on bass, along with Black Gusto’s drummer, Billy T. Billy. Just when it seemed that the group would be put on hold, Billy joined in on some TSQ practices and a new bassist phenom was found. While he’d never played in a rock band before, bassist Samuel Joseph became the rhythmic anchor needed to complete the group. The group tried adapting previous songs, but found the most success in writing new songs together.
Occasionally sharing the stage with their “sister group”, the NC-17’s, TSQ continued to gain attention. All four members share vocal duties, with Billy taking lead on some songs and Samuel providing backing vocals. Their performances are described as a trapeze act, with all four members pushing the limits of live performance while maintaining pop-quality vocal harmonies. Samuel makes a habit out of roaming the crowd during instrumental sections, while Scott and Sterling swap leads on stage. Some songs have definite punk influences, but the band pays tribute to the genre without being constrained. At times they sound like Social Distortion with better vocal harmonies, while others they sound like a gritty take on a 60’s pop rock band. Equal influences include Pink Floyd and hard core punk.
That punk attitude leads to lyrical content that belies their tight song structure and work habit. Included in that is a rock opera concept album that was never quite finished, but lives in on some of the group’s songs. They tell the story of Billy the Kid, a detestable, self absorbed person who tears down the world around him. His actions include murder and an eventual mass shooting, which can be shocking when taken out of context. Rock and roll has never shied away from explicit imagery and TSQ continue that tradition.
Earlier this year, the band began work on their debut album at Fusion Audio Solutions. The group dub Riley “The fifth Quickie”, as he helped them bring the right sound to the album: lewd rock songs with a glistening coat of pop sugar. Sterling and Scott’s long time vision became a perfectly flawed 11 track rock album.
The self titled album opens with “Hands in My Pocket”, an upbeat alternative rock song that’s just about hanging out and hoping someone will join in. It is a fun opener for the album, complete with backing vocal harmonies and a breakdown section that begs for the crowd to clap along. “Simon Says” follows, which introduces the Billy the Kid character after an opening chant of “Hey, Hey!”. Soaring, slick harmonies back up Billy’s threats that “Simon says that you’re better off dead”. With the character’s motivations established, the album continues to tell of Billy’s misdeeds on the third track bearing his name.
The fourth track, “Walk with Me” is a song that captures the joy of a dog going for a walk. “Little dog won’t you walk with me?” is delivered with the same passion as a 60’s pop love song, which shows off the band’s versatility. “Something in the Water” captures some Ramones magic, with backing chants of “hey” serving as punctuation as Scott sings “I think something’s in your water/ I think something’s in your brain”. Billy provides lead vocals for “Billy the Kid Pt. 2”, where he takes on the character’s persona for a braggadocious song where he claims “I’m BIlly the Kid, I’m Hitler, Osama/ Six shooting Rasputin with ten times drama”.
“No Name Happy Song” starts off with a slow guitar strum and cymbal rolls, building into crunchy guitar chords as Scott sings “It’ll all be fine”. The song clocks in at 4:27 and features a tonal shift from the first six tracks, showing off a music style that sits somewhere between Weezer and an 80’s rock ballad. It is a nice breath of fresh air before the Billy the Kid saga wraps up with the chilling “All The Way”. The song is a blistering hardcore punk rocker where Billy’s first strikes down his family, then takes his father’s gun to school, where he ends up in a shootout with the police. The danger and menace is captured perfectly, hitting a subdued chill when “Bang bang, shoot shoot/ their coming for you” is whispered over the bass line. Taken on its own, the song can be disturbing, and taken in context it is still disturbing, but it is effective storytelling.
The ninth track is a live favorite “Shoeless Blues”, a tonal shift of a regular bad day where Scott wakes up after a party and can’t find his shoes. The song’s tone would fit on many alternative rock albums and gives Scott a chance to show off on his vocal delivery. The song serves as a palate cleanser before the final act of the album, where the Quickies break out their classic rock chops.
“Wasted Youth” is a story about a drug addict overdosing and his eventual passing, set to soaring guitars and vocals that have a definite influence from The Wall. The song peaks with the soaring plea “Mama I’m coming home, but I just overdosed”, a psychedelic guitar solo, and the fading sound of a heartbeat monitor flatlining. “Little Bird” is the album closer, which starts with a syncopated rhythm as the same character deals with accepting his own death while pleading with a bird. The strong classic rock influence continues on the song, with a soaring guitar solo and pounding drums closing things out.
There is no denying the talent and vision of the Truck Stop Quickies. Their stubborn adherence to their vision and work ethic has resulted in a surprisingly well made album. Everything from their name to their song content is a red flag for turning people away, but their song craft and talent demand a listener’s attention. While many metaphors for their sound could be used, such as Cheap Trick on rocket fuel, all of that just deflects from what the Truck Stop Quickies are - a damn good rock and roll band.
The first single “Wasted Youth” has been released on the TSQ Facebook page. The release party has been announced for December 21st at Mutual Friends, along with The Wrong Impressions and The NC-17’s.