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Salt Lake City Weekly Second-Hand Smokin'

Rock and roll retroactivists Second Hand Grace talk bassplayers, astrology and doing it for yourself.

By Bill Frost

JANUARY 19, 1999:  It's late in the evening at Larry's Linger Longer Lounge, a straight-out-of-Twin Peaks brews-'n'-cues joint on 300 West, and only two members of Second Hand Grace have shown up to talk about the band and take advantage of the 32-ounce biggie-beer specials: Singer Kami Hall and guitarist Jason Linford. Drummer Brian Lensch, keyboardist Bryan Carr, soon-to-be-former bassist Dave Briggs (he's leaving SHG to take over the low-end for Lugnut) and bassist-in-training Nate Maughn are nowhere in sight.

Hall, the small woman with the colossal voice, lights an American Spirit cig and explains: "It's just us tonight. The drummer has family responsibilities, I guess. The new bass player [Maughn] was too tired--he had a big job today. Bryan the keyboard player, well, I don't know ..."

He's the international man of mystery?

Hall: "Yeah, put that in there--he'd love it."

Second Hand Grace has been playing in and around Salt Lake City for two years now, blending Stonesy, Led-Zepped rock & roll with old-school R&B and serving it up with a sexy, soul-sister swagger. The influences of modern-day retroactivists like the Black Crowes and Lenny Kravitz are instantly apparent; the traces of Prince, Aretha Franklin and the Beatles are subtler. During any show, classics like "Come Together" and "Movin' On Up" (yes, the one-and-the-same Jeffersons TV theme) are woven into SHG's set list alongside their own painstakingly detailed songs.

"I've spent my lifetime researching, reading the music mags, dissecting records, listening intensely--all of the stuff you go through learning to make your own music," Jason says.

Kami jumps in: "And I'm the opposite. I listen to what I like just because I like it. I don't know why or care why. I don't analyze it. A catchy song can still mean something, as well as being fun and making you want to dance and sing along. We want it all, baby! [laughs] We want to be positive and have a good energy. It's cool, because Jason has such a background with the technical side of things, figuring out how songs are put together. I just go by what sounds good, so it's a nice balance."

When Linford and Hall were both looking to form a band two winters ago, they came together almost by accident.

"We actually met through the guys in ASA," Hall says. "Dave [Briggs the out-going SHG bassist who was with ASA at the time] and I went to high school together, but I was a new-waver and he was a rocker-dude, so we didn't know each other. Dave and I finally met years later, talking to ASA outside of the old Bar & Grill; Jason was there, too. Later on, we figured out that we both wanted to start something. It was kind of strange that the ASA guys knew that both of us were looking to start a band, but never bothered to tell us about the other." [laughs]


Second Hand Grace: Kami Hall, Jason Linford, Dave Briggs, Brian Lensch and Bryan Carr (in back, being mysterious).
photo: Fred Hayes
Linford: "We messed around for six to eight months with different drummers before we got Brian, who's just an excellent player."

"He's the exact opposite of what all drummers are known for--he's quiet, he's punctual, he's moral [laughs]. It's amazing," Hall adds proudly.

While they've had luck holding onto a good drummer, Second Hand Grace has gone through bassplayers like Hall goes through cigarettes: Briggs--who, along with Carr, also glams out with PCP Berzerker--is the latest to pack his rig.

"Dave's first show with us was on my birthday in '97, and his last show as an official member was on my birthday in '98--exactly one year, which is pretty weird. We're like Spinal Tap with bassplayers, I swear," Hall says in exasperation.

Briggs will play out SHG's remaining January shows, with ex-12 Speed bassist Maughn waiting in the wings. Hall perks up: "I've known him for five years now, and he's one of my best friends ever, so it's worked out great. He's a full-on Capricorn: Whatever he does, he does it with total energy. He'll be playing out with us by February."

"Nate just fits in perfectly. He's a groove-oriented player, and he can pull off the bluesy, R&B-styled stuff that we like really well," Linford notes with satisfaction. "We're looking to change things around now--progress, enhance the sound, rework some of the old songs and write a lot of new ones."

"You know, do some spring cleaning," Hall smiles, lighting another smoke.

"We want to focus more on songwriting, on simplifying, throwing in some twists that'll get your attention but still be accessible. But I haven't listened to the radio for years, so I'm not sure what that is," Linford laughs.

Three songs--the teeth-rattling rockers "Middle of It" and "Worth It," along with "Helpless," a Janis-like ballad--were recorded for an S.I.S. Studios compilation disc last year, but the release date remains unknown. As for its debut CD, the band is taking matters into its own hands.

Hall: We're going to start recording very soon--in our basement!"

"We're going to be trying out some recording software, programs I've heard other bands use with amazing results--getting the best possible sound and performances is all that's important. This way, we're at home and we're comfortable," Linford explains.

"It's an investment for the future: Instead of paying for studio time, we'll have our own studio," Hall says with an air of practicality.

Linford: "And we could burn a new CD every week, if we wanted to."

Hall: "Yeah, just like Prince!" [laughs]

"We write all the time, really. Beyond just the fun, that's the best part, to see a band's growth in their songwriting. It takes a year just to get through the fights and the bullshit with a band before you really start growing musically," Linford says.

"We didn't start fighting until the second year! [laughs] But we're OK, we're a happy family--for now," Hall adds with a mischievous glint in her eye and a fresh cigarette in her fingers.


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