Inspired by the era of honky-tonk music, Cruisin' Deuces don't just play the music, they play the part.
Formed over a year ago in Sydney's inner west, the band look and sound like they’re from America’s West in the 1930s. “There wasn’t really a band doing what we were trying to do; trying to marry western swing, honky tonk, traditional electric blues from the late '50s to the early '60s, and rockabilly,” says singer and guitarist Dr Zane Banks.
“In a fortnight we’re going into the studio. We’ve picked the songs: we’ve written about 35 originals but we’ve picked 6 that we want to do. I’ve been trying to get in touch with a Cajun Zydeco accordion player that we want to use.”
The Cruisin’ Deuces will head west for a gig at the Adelaide Guitar Festival. Zane will be pulling double duty. “I’m [also] playing a concerto at the Adelaide Guitar Festival, written by a guy called Andrew Ford, it’s for an electric guitar soloist and the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra.
“I’d been in touch with Slava Grigoryan who’s the Artistic Director of the festival, for about 18 months organising the details for the Andrew Ford performance and about 9 months ago he said to me, 'Would you like to have your band play?' I said, 'Of course, I’d love to'. The kind of music that we play, there’s not a lot of it being played at international festivals outside of rockabilly subculture and it’s a style that’s very heavy on blistering guitar lines. So it seemed more than appropriate for a guitar festival.”
Though it may be hard to name many other contemporary bands like the Deuces, it wasn’t hard for them to find kindred spirits. “The nucleus of the band is myself and my brother, who plays acoustic rhythm guitar and pedal steel guitar. We’d been session musicians for quite some time and had been talking about how we’d really like to do our own thing.
“We still love playing with other Australian country acts, but it’s nice having your own band where you can pick the material that you play and you can book your own gigs. So we decided about 18 months ago [to start the band] and we called up a few friends that we knew from the scene that we’d done sessions with and been in other bands with and they were really keen on the idea.”
In case you were wondering, yes, Zane is a real doctor. A doctor of philosophy, of course. “I was playing all the time, I was disinterested in my bike and my skateboard, I just wanted to play guitar. My parents could see that if I wanted to have a career as a musician, it would be a lot better for me in the long run, particularly if you want to teach in schools, to go to a university and get an actual piece of paper.
“The only way you can really do that is to study classical guitar or jazz guitar. When I finished my undergrad I was really interested in further exploring the role of the electric guitar in contemporary, classical music.”
Being a music teacher has more perks than 14-year-old Zane could have imagined, like the ability to buy a reliable automobile. “That’s what bought me the car that I’m in now. It has a seven-year warranty, which is just like seven years of not having to worry if I’m going to make it to Canberra or not for a gig. I had another car literally catch on fire last year while driving to a gig. Those days are hopefully over. For at least seven years.”
Cruisin’ Deuces play the Adelaide Guitar Festival 12 August.