The Limbs have chops. Singer / guitarist Gage Bickerstaff and drummer Jeff Bell conjure sultry rock with a twinge of blues—think late-’60s and ’70s rock infused with The Black Keys, The White Stripes and Robert Johnson.
The Limbs formed last August. In addition to guitar and drums, they've added synthesizer to fill in bass tones. Bell says they want to participate in the blues-rock revival while using digital technology both to create music and connect with fans. Bickerstaff does most of the song-crafting, writing music first, then lyrics. He runs the song drafts by Bell, who weighs in on rhythm and transitions.
A friend introduced them, they jammed together and dug the idea of a duo. And they’re now also roommates. Bell says living and creating together in such close quarters brings opportunities and challenges. Being at arm's reach allows for constant collaboration, but it also endangers the organic process of creating. “We don't want to force the music,” he says.
Both have studied music since childhood. Bell's mother is a music teacher, and he started piano lessons in the third grade. He shifted to drums in fifth grade, back in Little Rock, Ark., and played in bands throughout junior high. In high school, he studied with New Mexico Symphony Orchestra’s Jeff Cornelius. Having grown up performing classical percussion, he relishes standing up front and taking his cues from himself and his bandmate, rather than a conductor.
Carlsbad native Bickerstaff recalls immersing himself in soundscapes at 5 or 6 years old, even if his instruments were just air guitar or an ice scraper. He scored his first guitar from a pawn shop at age 10 and studied classical guitar at Texas Tech. After a stint in a cover band in Carlsbad, he sought out his big break in Los Angeles. A producer there offered to groom him for pop stardom, but he simply wanted to rock. Now, at age 21, he’s continuing his music studies at UNM.
Neither has a hard time nailing down their passion. There's no other option besides music, they say, agreeing it’s their calling. Bickerstaff says he wants to connect emotionally to society through sound. Bell agrees but also notes that his entrepreneurial studies have prepared him for the business and marketing end of The Limbs' endeavor. “In addition to keeping art alive, there's a practical way to look at being in a band,” Bell says.
The Limbs have a self-titled EP out and are working on producing a full-length for release in early 2013. It's tentatively titled Casa de Amor after their house, which was once a well-known party pad. “It's right across from South Lot, the tailgating center of the universe,” says Bell. People still come over looking to live it up.
The next phase of their plan is touring nationally. “I don’t see any other option,” says Bickerstaff. But that plan is on hold until they nab their sheepskins from UNM. They recently tested the waters with a four-day stint in San Diego. The Limbs shared a bill here in Burque with San Diego’s The Plastic Revolution. The southern California punk group liked what they heard and hooked them up with a couple shows.
Bell says audiences there frequently referenced Breaking Bad and said, “So this is what music from New Mexico sounds like.” He set them straight, explaining that Burque has a rich and diverse sonic landscape—including noise and experimental work, rock, metal, classical musicand jazz. And they want everyone to know about the scene here. “We want Albuquerque to be known as this mile-high music mecca in the midst of the Rockies,” he says.
The Limbs are going to drive the girls wild. On “Downtown Blues,” Bickerstaff sings, “All you pretty girls / You tangle up my mind / You’re sweet like candy but you’re bitter in time.” There’s a lot of attitude in their lyrics / but they aren’t cocky. And the two-piece does have a surprisingly expansive sound. Get to the show—also featuring Full Speed Veronica, Sputniq and Broken Animals—and judge for yourself.