The Chop Tops
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The Chop Tops

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If you're in a rockabilly band, you need to have the pomp. Pomp is short for pompadour, a hairstyle where the hair is combed into a high mound in the front.
In order to get the pomp, you need a good brand of pomade. For the Chop Tops, the only pomade is Murray's, a company that has been producing pomade since 1925. Murray's has sponsored two bands in its 82-year history, the Stray Cats and the Chop Tops.
On a visit to the company, Murray's gave the Chop Tops about 20,000 mini-cans of pomade. "We were able to give those out for free along with our new release 'Triple Deuces' because the Berlin brothers, who own Murray's pomade, believed in the music," says Sinner, the lead singer and stand-up drummer. "They've been die-hard supporters of the Chop Tops, and we're blessed because we've grown up from knee high to greasing our hair back in this culture. ... That's the only grease we back."
The Chop Tops started about 11 years ago as a five- to six-piece band. "We had a sax, two guitarists; Sinner was up front," says Shelby, the guitarist. "Then in 2000, we trimmed down to a three piece, and that's how it stayed ever since."
The trio, Sinner, Shelby and Roddy "Hot Rod" Larsen, all just quit their day jobs to go full time with the band. "We're diving in headfirst into 200 gigs this year. We've been getting really strong support from our fans. Things are happening now," Sinner says. "If you go to a Chop Tops show, you're going to feel like you're on the stage, and you're part of our crew, and you're having a good time with us and we're your brothers. Our shows are parties; we're a down-to-earth, blue-collar, hardworking, revved-up rockabilly band."
Growing up and listening to rockabilly, all of the Chop Tops name the Stray Cats as heavy influence.
"We've opened up for all of the Stray Cats' solo projects," says Larsen, the upright-bass player.
Being able to play with your idols isn't always all that it's cracked up to be. The Chop Tops didn't care for Brian Setzer, the lead singer of the Stray Cats. "But Lee Rocker and Slim Jim (both from the Stray Cats), those guys are awesome," Larsen says.
The Chop Tops will play the closing awards ceremony for the San Francisco Independent Film Festival with the Copper Tones and the Struts, among others. If you don't have hair grease, Murray's pomade will be available at the merchandise counter to sculpt your pomp. - San Francisco Chronicle-Tony Dushane (February 15, 2007)


Head down to the Blue Lagoon for some whiskey and watch as The Chop Tops bring Santa Cruz flavor to that old offshoot of rock ‘n’ roll known as rockabilly. While The Chop Tops’ sound pays homage to the classic rockabilly that rose to great popularity in the ’50s, it also incorporates a distinctive surfer feel. The rich, resonant sound that can only come from a standup bass lays the foundation for catchy guitar riffs and lead vocalist Sinner’s gravelly voice, resulting in a sound that just as easily complements a day of surfing at Cowell Beach as it does an evening at your favorite dive bar. | Jose San Mateo - GT Weekly (July 27, 2007)


Refined and mature musicianship, lighthearted and well-written lyrics, and years of experience and talent are the hallmarks of Triple Deuces, the Chop Tops fourth release. A twangy and polished blend of early rock, honky tonk, rockabilly revival, roots, and blues is pounded in every direction with concise, surefooted delivery, especially on the frequent instrumentals. In line with the gold standard of the Blasters and Stray Cats, even on their cover of Agent Orange’s “Bloodstains.” –Jessica Thiringer (Split 7) - Razorcake - Jessica Thiringer


CORPUS CHRISTI — The Chop Tops, the Santa Cruz, Calif., trio that coined the term “revved-up rockabilly” provides Corpus Christi with a plan for having the perfect summer day.

That plan includes baking in the sun at the beach, firing up the barbecue pit and then coming to see the band play at the “El Diablo Summer Tour 2007” Wednesday at House of Rock.

Sinner, the band’s lead vocalist and drummer who plays standing up, began The Chop Tops in 1995. After finding guitarist Shelby and bassist TK, the band released its debut album “Tales of Hot Rods, Hot Broads & Lucky Odds” in 1999.

The Chop Tops opened for the Brian Setzer ’68 Comeback Special tour in 2002 and sold more than 10,000 copies of its third album “Evil Six.”

Sinner and the band released the “Triple Deuces,” album last year on the indie label Split 7 Media.

— Bobby Bush

If you go

What: The Chop Tops El Diablo Summer Tour 2007

When: 9 p.m. wednesday

Where: house of rock, 511 Starr st.

Cost: $5/older than 21; $8/younger than 21

Information: 882-7625 - Caller Times-Bobby Bush (July 6, 2007)


Playing the Vans Warped Tour has opened up an entire new world of fans for the Chop Tops, a California-based rockabilly group.

"It is a big honor to go out and really shop our music to a broader audience of kids who have no idea about the roots of rock 'n' roll," drummer Gary "Sinner" said in a phone interview from the road. "It is like giving a history lesson, only doing it with humility. It is grueling, hard work, but it has been as rewarding as any other tour date that we've done."

The Santa Cruz trio — specializing in a mix of straight rockabilly, psychobilly and surf rock — played select Warped dates before setting out on its own tour, which stops at the Surly Wench Pub on Saturday.

Band members only recently quit their day jobs to take on the music business full time.

Here is a closer look at who you'll be seeing.
Gary 'Sinner'
Instrument: drums.
Old day job: manager at a copy shop.
Influences: God, the devil and Johnny Cash. "Those are three massive influences on our music. God for obvious reasons, the devil for similar obvious reasons, and Johnny Cash because he is a badass. The guy lived a hard life and dedicated it to rock 'n' roll. You've got to respect that."
Favorite drink at a show: Red Bull and water. "I'm not really a boozehound. I don't drink anymore. I have already had enough to drink for five lifetimes."
Favorite type of venue: a toss-up. "I like the honky-tonks and rustic places with clout and class. At the same time I like the high-end new venues with the kicking sound systems and proper insulation."
Why Sinner started the Chop Tops: "I played in a few bands before the Chop Tops. I saw a lot of pitfalls, a lot of ego, people turning on each other. I left my last band, thinking I wanted to have a group where everyone has equal say. The history of this band has been a partisan relationship where we are totally listening to each other and making things work. We've had some turnover, but we've cut down the fat and come down to a really solid three-piece band of brothers playing together and having a good time."

Shelby
Instrument: guitar.
Old day job: Web site developer.
Influences: Carl Perkins, the Stray Cats and punk bands like the New York Dolls and the Sex Pistols.
Favorite drink at a show: Jack Daniels and Coke on ice.
Favorite type of venue: historical venues. "There is one in Brisbane, California, called Demarco's 23 Club. Carl Perkins played there. Eddie Cochran played there. Then there
place like Cain's Ballroom in (Tulsa) Oklahoma where the Sex Pistols played. If the sound system sucks and the venue has historical value, that's cool. If the sound system sucks and there is no historical value, then they suck."
The Warped Tour experience: "The Warped Tour is interesting. There are a lot of screamo bands. We hear a lot of screaming. I don't have anything against it, but when you hear it all day long, you can go a little crazy."
The Surly Wench: "I loved it. I even have a shirt from our last visit in 2005. That was a great, great crowd on a very hard tour."

T.K.
Instrument: slap bass.
Old day job: carpenter.
Influences: The Rev. Horton Heat, Stray Cats, the Hillbilly Hellcats.
Favorite drink at a show: Budweiser or gin and tonic. "I figure gin and tonic is really low-impact on your liver. I am trying to drink for the long haul."
Favorite type of venue: "I like playing the seedy dive bars. The flow is a little looser. There is no pressure to perform a certain way. You can let your hair down a little bit more."
His start in rockabilly: "I've always been an upright bass player. I used to play jazz and orchestral stuff. I was introduced to the slap bass by a friend of mine. I liked the way it sounded. I was used to playing jazz bass or playing it with a bow. I fell in love with how it sounded when it was slapped. I was offered a job with the Devil Heads and then joined the Chop Tops after that." - Arizona Star - Gerald Gay (July 5, 2007)


Discography

Tales of Hot Rods, Hot Broads and Lucky Odds (produced by Deke Dickerson, 1999)
Always Wild (Ronnie Weiser at Rollin' Rock Records, 2000)
Evil Six (released while on the road with Brian Setzer's '68 Come Back Tour, 2001)
Triple Deuces (Splt 7 Media, 2006)

Photos

Bio

The Chop Tops began when Sinner found two rocknroll renegades who loved Rockabilly music just as much as he. Sinner's penchant for playing standing drums was only equaled by his love for the roots rockabilly, early punk, & psycho vocalists he grew up listening to. This led him to develop his own wild style of singing lead vocals while playing standing drums. He teamed up with Gretsch guitar extraordinaire Shelby, after witnessing one of Shelby's blistering guitar performances in San Francisco. It was obvious that Shelby shared Sinner's passion for a frantic Rock n' Roll beat and songwriting. Last, but not least, came an upright bassist that would glue together the Chop Tops stompin' singer/drummer and livewire guitar slinger into one red-hot, rockin' band. Sinner's childhood friend and Santa Cruz slap bass pioneer Hotrod completed the band and set The Chop Tops wheels a rollin'.

In 1999 the band released its debut album Tales of Hot Rods, Hot Broads & Lucky Odds produced by guitar great Deke Dickerson. They soon headed out to tour the US. They must have been doing something right! A buzz was generated from the band's smoking live shows and highly polished songwriting skills. This caught the ear of Ronnie Weiser, president and creator of the legendary Rollin Rock Records, whose label hosted such heavy hitters as the Blasters, Gene Vincent and Ray Campi, to name a few. He immediately signed the band and at the end of the tour they headed back in the studio to record the highly praised Always Wild.

"We barely had time to catch our breath," said Sinner. "Things happened fast but we were ready, this is what we dreamed about as kids. There's no rest for the wicked, the dream had become reality and we were ready for it. We were all real excited about recording a album for the label that had released Gene Vincent's last recordings, The Blasters first album, & so many other greats!" Always Wild was released in July of 2000 and another US tour ensued. The boys played to packed houses up and down the states.

After some well deserved time off, it was time to go back into the studio. 2001 saw the release of their 3rd album the rock n roll fist-to-cuffs Evil Six, which they premiered as the opening act for Brian Setzer's '68 Come Back Special tour. Proving once again that this band is no one trick pony!

"Always Wild was a very successful album, and we could've gone back in the studio and recorded Son of Always Wild, but I dont think we wouldve been happy," said Shelby. "We needed to do something different. Something a bit more edgy, you know, get back in touch with our punk roots, while still retaining the sound fans have become accustomed to. I guess whatever we did worked. Evil Six is currently sold out!" (Update: Evil Six has since been re-released three different time and has currently sold over 10,000 copies!)

August 2005 the band embarked on a non-stop west to east coast 25 city tour. "It was great to finally play in the east and the crowds were really receptive" said Sinner. "New York was a blast!" added Shelby. "They really know how to rock!"

2006 was a busy year for a band who don’t fit in the emo/screamo, post hardcore, boys-who-wear-girls-pants world. The Chop Tops started the year off well playing the Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekender in April. They released Triple Deuces, their fourth full length album, and toured with Nekromantix and Shark Soup to support the release in early summer. Straight from that tour they headed out with the Warped Tour for a few dates, being asked to appear on additional dates after Kevin Lyman saw their energy and crowd draw. September was a crazy month further cementing their diversity– playing with rockabillies and psychobillies at the Hollywood Showdown (Knitting Factory), and punk ska-metal legends Fishbone later in the month.

It was towards the end of the year when they decided they had to either do it full time, or give it up. Luckily for us, they went with the former!

As always, The Chop Tops are out playing everything from dive bars to big tattoo festivals like the Queen Mary Ink & Iron Festival where they opened for The Reverend Horton Heat. The Nekromantix returned in April 2007 to release their latest CD, asking The Chop Tops to play their mini-tour as main support... Who could say no?! In early June, The Chop Tops took German psychobilly legends Mad Sin for a whirl around the West Coast. And after striking off on another stint at the Warped Tour (June 29-30, July 1, 2007), they will be heading out on their own 20 city barnstorm– El Diablo Summer Tour 2007– July 5-27, 2007.

The My Curse Summer 2008 Tour is well under way, gas prices be damned. The Chop Tops relationship with their fans is like Ford and the flathead-- one perfectly complementing the other. The Chop Tops look on their fans as friends, part of the family, and recharge every summer when they get to tour the country meeting new people face to face.

The old adage “they’ve paid t