By Arrissia Owen
Davey Warsop believes in fate. The British bandleader who heads up mod/R&B revivalists Suedehead, named for a ’70s sect of mods who favored Northern Soul and dogtooth suits, has lived out his share of kismet connections.
Warsop’s path has taken him from the small working class English town of Bromsgrove, just outside of Birmingham, to sunny California via a record deal with his first band, Beat Union. His last move to California eventually led to fortuitous connections and his job as a recording engineer at Hurley Headquarters. It was there that Warsop met iconic Social Distortion frontman Mike Ness, whom he affectionately calls “Nessy.”
Ness, after hearing an early version of Warsop’s soul-tinged rock, offered an opening slot for some of the band’s local shows, particularly the massive homecoming show at Verizon Wireless Amphitheater in Irvine.
A short tour with Flogging Molly followed, along with time under an Indio tent at a little thing called the Coachella Music and Arts Festival, to which Warsop had not so much as scored a ticket heretofore. Coachella bestowed internationally impressive bragging rights on Suedehead, zeitgeist-y enough to even score points with grandmum over a Sunday roast.
Along the way, the Costa Mesa-based band was nominated for two Orange County Music Awards. Three EPs out and the next stop on Warsop’s trajectory is Pomona, as Suedehead headlines a show at The Glass House Saturday, Aug. 11.
But Suedehead’s genesis starts much earlier, even before Warped. Rewind to when 11-year-old Davey’s friend’s brother turned him on to the 1991 movie The Commitments, which depicts the struggles of a working class Irish soul band. “It had a huge impact on my life,” Warsop says. “I got obsessed with it.”
The film’s realistic depiction of the band’s pursuits of rock and roll fame struck a chord with Warsop. “There are things as a kid that just capture your imagination,” says Warsop, who scrambled home from primary school daily to put in at least 30 minutes of Commitments, researching his future. “That certainly captured mine.”
Fast forward to the Beat Union, which landed Warsop on the Warped Tour where he met most of the guys who he would later call on for Suedehead. The tour also led to his day job as a music engineer at Hurley, helping out on albums by the aforementioned Social D, plus Weezer and Alkaline Trio, with a sweet side gig modeling and interviewing artists for the hyper-hip lifestyle brand’s website.
Hurley thrust him into the path of one more pivotal figure. Known for his acute Carnaby Cavern style, Warsop couldn’t help but notice another snappy dresser in his midst rocking a Small Faces-style shag. After passing his soon-to-be guitarist Chris Bradley near the front desk, he turned the corner and inquired, not knowing that Bradley was doing the same.
The two eventually compared notes and realized their shared love of disparate influences like Get Happy-era Elvis Costello and Joe Jackson mixed with Black Flag, The Descendents and a little Dinosaur Jr., the perfect mix for their next project. Their atelier leanings just added to the attraction. “It’s definitely a bromance kind of thing,” Warsop says.
The two started gigging, playing with various musicians until solidifying their sound, aesthetic and line up, rounded out by Korey Kingston (Aggrolites, Hepcat) on drums and brass, Mike Bisch on bass and Greg Kuehn (TSOL, Berlin) on Hammond organ.
Keuhn’s contribution is an integral part of Suedehead’s sound, moving listeners toward the dance floor by way of B-3 harmonic percussion. “We’re essentially a rock band, but it just takes it to the next level,” Warsop says. “You put Hammond on anything and it instantly has soul.”
To match that swagger, Warsop looks to acclaimed songwriting stalwarts Holland-Dozier-Holland for inspiration, the Rock and Roll Hall of Famers known for Motown classics like The Marvelettes’ “Please Mr. Postman” and much of the Four Tops and Supremes hits.
“For myself, that is who I admire,” Warsop says. “They were writing hit after hit. Those are the people I look up to.” When he gets into his songwriting headspace, he goes at it with with his own sort of commitment to rock ’n‘ soul.
Suedehead, Army Navy and DJs Rodi and Scott Weaver of The Good Foot at The Glass House, 248 W. Second St., Pomona, (909) 865-3802; www.theglasshouse.us. Sat, Aug. 11, 7pm. $12.