I still remember how I fucked up the hearing in my right ear: crushed by the crowd and pressed up against the P.A. at the Dingo Bar for the cacophonous trash ’n’ roll of The Drags.
Playing lo-fi, manic garage rock, C.J. Stritzel (guitar/vocals), Lorca Wood (bass/screams) and ex-BigDamnCrazyWeight Keith Herrera (drums) debuted at the Golden West Saloon in 1992. With ex-bandmate Scott Parsons, Herrera ran Albuquerque’s Resin Records. In 1994, the 10-inch My Kid Shot the Principal at Resin Jr. High compilation was released with the earliest cuts by The Drags, along with Flake Music (later The Shins), Elephant and Triskadeckaphobia among others. The Drags’ own 7-inch debut “I Like To Die” followed one year later.
A plethora of 7-inches were released in the next few years and the band made a name for itself regardless of imprint: Resin, Rat City Records, Kill Rock Stars, Empty Records and most notably Estrus Records, to which The Drags would always return like a stray dog. In 1995, Dragsploitation ... Now! hit big in garage rock circles, but by 1997 times were tough. The Estrus warehouse burned down and The Drags were burning out. Herrera left town and later formed other bands like The Detonations.
With Scared of Chaka drummer Ron Skrasek there was one last brilliant if underappreciated hurrah on the resurrected Estrus label. Featuring clarinet, harmonica and a second guitar player, Set Right Fit to Blow Clean Up sounded little like previous releases: The remaining Drags hooked up and recorded with ex-Monoshock bass player Scott Derr (Blackjack Records). He and girlfriend Christen McClelland had recently moved from Oakland, Calif. to Edgewood, N.M. Derr was a master in perverting all manner of “instruments” to his evil sonic will, like cheap digital keyboards for kids and See n’ Say toys. I recall Derr trying unsuccessfully to connect a pager he found on the street to his mixing board. A bed spring nailed to a two-by-four and wired for sound was a favorite.
Set Right Fit ... is a classic in its own right with the fantastic warped country tune “Jet Lag” and the rippin’ jam “FM Shades,” but even that wasn’t quite the end. Derr and McClelland’s American Barnrock Laboratories (actually located in their barn) was crammed full of beat-to-hell audio equipment. I somehow found myself at the Lab for New Year’s ’98/’99 while a bunch of people—including Stritzel and Wood—traded instruments to record a few hours of crazed off-the-cuff songs later privately released by Derr as New Year’s Eve In the Nutward Vol. 2. Each of the 21 tracks was credited to made-up bands like The Run For Cover Lovers, Lardass Laura, Judas Prince and The Fartknockin’ Turdburglars.
In 1999, Empty Records compiled 45x3, a retrospective of 23 Drags singles from various labels. By 2001 C.J. Stritzel and Lorca Wood relocated to Portland to raise a family instead of a musical ruckus. The last time I heard from them, Lorca was asking about sources of New Mexico green chile for a sidewalk burrito cart business. Keith Herrera’s latest project is the garage duo The Kill Spectors, which has started playing in Albuquerque. And my right ear is still fucked up.