When Throw Rag frontman Sean Wheeler and Circle Jerks/Weirdos multi-instrumentalist Zander Schloss came together to record their debut album, Walk Thee Invisible, in 2011, the two icons of the punk-rock scene showed off a lighter side.
More music is coming from them, too: Amid several tours and appearances at festivals such as Punk Rock Bowling and the Muddy Roots Festival, the locals have recorded a new album that’s due out sometime this year.
Not too long ago, they played their first show together after a short break, at Schmidy’s Tavern in Palm Desert. While Zander Schloss had played a high-energy show with the Weirdos at Pappy and Harriet’s in Pioneertown the week prior, it had been awhile since Sean and Zander had played a local show together. They are quite a sight to see: Schloss strums away on his 12-string acoustic guitar while Wheeler sings. It’s just them—with no bassist, and no drummer. The dialogue between Wheeler and Schloss is comical, as they call out their friends in the audience, tell amusing stories, and chat about anything—say, for example, the boots and clothing they are wearing.
The climax of their acoustic driven show is their song “Retablo,” which they can perform in several different ways—as an extended audience sing-along, or with added dialogue. During a show last year at the Ace Hotel, Wheeler led the audience in a conga line outside of the Amigo Room, out around the pool, and back in again—all while Schloss played the instrumental part.
Wheeler once lived a wild rock ’n’ roll lifestyle, and Schloss has years of experience with successful bands like the Circle Jerks, Thelonious Monster and others. In other words: It’s good to see the two musicians now having fun; after all, they’ve paid their dues—and then some.
“It’s more of an emotional outlet,” Schloss said about their partnership. “It’s also a great outlet for us to relax and have fun. We enjoy each other’s company without all the personalities of a band. It’s really nice to just have a couple of guys: It’s economical; it’s fun; and we let each other do what we do. Sean does something I can’t do, and I do something he can’t do.”
Added Wheeler: “We’re like wonder twins.”
While Walk Thee Invisible was an independent release, Schloss said they are currently looking for some distribution help for their next album, which is already completed and mastered.
“It’s better than the first record—which is saying a lot, because I love the first record,” Schloss said. “This record is much more soulful. We have different influences, and along the way, it’s become apparent to me what a great soul singer he is. We’re thinking he’s a soul man, so there’s more soul on the record.”
Both Schloss and Wheeler said that when it comes to songwriting, they try to share personal stuff to which people can relate.
“If you tell them a truth—good or bad—and you’re sincere, I think it transcends whatever comes through,” Wheeler said. “It’s mostly personal experiences. I’m trying to think if there are any songs I’ve written that aren’t directly related to someone I know. You have to be honest—or people’s bullshit detectors go off.”
Added Schloss: “If you tap into the spirit, and people are into the spirit, they’ll connect. There are a lot of people who aren’t open to the spirit, and we have to say to ourselves, ‘Well, it’s OK; they’re celebrating their life in a different way. This is the way we celebrate our lives.’”
They’re looking to a lot in 2014, they said: The new album; their first trip to Brazil, right before the World Cup takes place in that country this summer; and more touring. Their unorthodox, anything-goes touring style includes festivals, bars, opening slots for other bands, and gigs in small towns.
“We got together right around the time the economy crashed,” Schloss said. “We’ve actually been thriving. Economically, it’s great, because the travel (for just two) is less expensive. We can go to places where other bands can’t go. We went to Alaska with Flogging Molly … and we went up there a week before to play saloons. We actually took a ferry up the inland passage to Skagway, and took the train that used to take people out to the Yukon during the gold rush. We went into the rainforest and hiked up a glacier.
“Now, what bands can do that kind of shit? I’ve been touring with bands for 30 years, and I’ve never had richer experiences than I’ve had with this duo.”