The Exbats live high up on on Black Mountain. That's not a song. It's on the Navajo Indian Reservation. See, this actual father/daughter power pop duo—Inez and Kenny McClain—fled the increasingly trend-driven and inclusionary life of Portland, Ore. for the rolling mesa country of Piñon, Ariz. (pop. 895) back in 2013. All true.
"We sometimes joke that there are four restaurants, the best is the gas station and the fanciest is the Subway," Kenny says, The Exbats guitar whiz and school teacher by day. Inez, who drums and sings, is a high school senior. "There isn't much to do here, so instead of going out I spend most of my indoor time on Tumblr and video games," she says.
They do other things too. Like record a rock 'n' roll albums so sticky-sweet and pure it could send you into a diabetic coma. A Guide to the Health Issues Affecting Rescue Hens (Burger Records, 2016) was recorded in Tucson at Midtown Island Studios, helmed by pop godhead Matt Rendon.
The Exbats—named, you'll note, after ex-battery hens rescued from factory farms—formed in July '09 when Inez was all of 10.
"We had our first shows at a deceased punk club in Portland called Slabtown," Kenny says.
"We got good about three years ago," Inez adds. The two are close.
"Plus," Kenny says, "she is still sorta the only person I hang around much with, I really like her and I trust her instincts and ideas totally.
Inez: "I'm in the band because it means a lot to my dad—and he sorta insisted."
The band's garage pop is a pop geek's amalgam. "I was introduced to three main bands as a child: The Monkees, The Beatles, and The Rolling Stones," the high-schooler says. "I've recently discovered that '70s music is the best, because it had such a variety of popular music; glam rock, rock 'n' roll, punk, disco, folk, etc. As a drummer I find most of my inspiration from Micky Dolenz of The Monkees and Charlie Watts of the Rolling Stones, strictly because of fun personality and attitude towards drumming."
As for Kenny, "Growing up outside Portland in the '70s and '80s I really liked going to this place called DJ's Sound City, they had this whole wall of 45 singles. The first one I bought was Bay City Rollers' 'Saturday Night.' I followed the Top 40 the way some other kids were probably collecting baseball cards. When I write songs, I'm trying to write something that can be heard as a 45 that a DJ would play on the AM radio."
Here The Exbats' call their Top 5 'Monkees Songs and Disappointing Treats':
5. "Cuddly Toy" boldly flaunts Davy's supernatural gift for Tin Pan Alley treacle, and his cool dancing. He also had little sparkles in his eyes. Pretty neat trick. /// And by the way, "Tootsie Rolls" aren't really chocolate or stale gum, they are something between the two, something worse. Boo.
4. "Porpoise Song" has the sort of inscrutable lyrics that are meant to confuse square parents and end up in teen diaries. Their coolest song. /// And another thing, "Good Humor Ice Cream Bars" from a truck are like something that NASA would send up to the ISS. Except worse. Keep driving pal.
3. "Sometime in the Morning" is a totally lovely Monkees song. Inez' favorite. You will swoon for Mickey. /// Meanwhile, "Brachs Hard Candies" (every variety). Avoid this nursing-home staple. This candy voted for Trump!
2. "Daydream Believer" Michael Nesmith (the cool one with the hat) had this to say "David's cheery vocal leads us all in a great refrain of living on love alone." You can't beat that. /// And 4 out of 5 patients agree, trips to the dentist are not made any better by choosing from "crappy, brittle round suckers" as a parting gift. Try harder, sadist.
1. "The Kind of Girl I Could Love" we love Michael Nesmith (Inez = Nez) and all his songs. This is the one we choose for the best. It's catchy, buoyant, fun and funny. Declarations of love, sung at the top of your voice usually work. Go for it. /// "Turkish Delight" is not a delight. It sounds exotic, maybe it's exotic soap. It's alluring charms are lost on us. A very disappointing treat indeed!
See The Exbats with The Jagg and Foxx Bodies at Hotel Congress, 311 E. Congress St., on Thursday Dec. 22. 7 p.m.