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The Sweet Things: Let’s Spend Some Time Together

Jun 28, 2019

By M. Raffaelle

Photography by Johan Vipper Words by M. Raffaelle

The Sweet Things are a quintessentially New York band. They’re young (ish), loud, and snotty. They are influenced by bands like the NY Dolls and the Dead Boys. They’re all Jewish and hilarious and eat a lot of Chinese food. All that great New York stuff. But they also draw flavor from Southern bands like the Georgia Satellites and Skynyrd, taking that twang and swagger, filtering it through a Johnny Thunders nasal whine and topping it off with a hat collection stolen directly from Hanoi Rocks. They really, really like the Stones and Gram Parsons. They’re no strangers to a strong Jack and Coke. You get the picture.

The Sweet Things have recently released a surprisingly great album called In Borrowed Shoes On Borrowed Time. I say surprisingly because I spend a lot of time with this band; the company I manage helps manage them, and the bass player is my partner in crime. So I know very well what they are capable of and how hard they work. But this record landed above and beyond all my personal expectations.

What follows is part interview, part dinner conversation with The Sweet Things singer and rhythm guitar Dave Tierney, aforementioned bass player Sam Hariss, myself, and Johnny Eggz.Johnny, for those of you who haven’t had the pleasure, is the quintessential badass Noo Yawker and lead guitar for hardcore legends Sheer Terror. Johnny is very funny and a great cook, so I coerced him and his wife Christa to cook dinner for us and sit in on the interview. We talked for more than two hours on all subjects, so what follows here is kind of half interview, half highlights of shooting the shit with good friends.

WE TAKE A STAB AT A PROPER INTERVIEW…

RAFF: All right, let’s do this. How did you guys get together? 

SAM HARISS: It’s Lorne’s fault! [Lorne Behrman, Sweet Things lead guitar] I had known him from around. We had talked about playing together but somehow he got the idea that I was flakey (laughs).

JOHNNY EGGZ: Naaaaah!

SH: Regardless of that, he suggested me for a tour that Dave was doing. Joan Jett had just passed on me for playing with her band so I was kind of bummed…

DAVE TIERNEY: And I didn’t have the luxury of being as discerning as Joan.

RAFF: So Lorne suggested you for The Sharp Lads?

DT: Yeah, we were doing a tour back in January of 2015 and I asked Lorne, who couldn’t do it, and he suggested Sam.

SH: So that happened, and then we were on the road, and Dave and I had kind of clicked musically, we were into the same bands—The Black Crowes and a lot of that kind of shit—whoever ripped off Keith Richards, essentially. And I wanted to be in one of them. We were in Baltimore and Dave suggested we start a band; but he had two other bands already, so I told him that I would only do it if it wasn’t a side project and that he had to quit his other bands. I don’t know how I had the balls to say that because I had nothing going on at the time. But he agreed. So he finished out two more tours with The Sharp Lads and then wrote the first two Sweet Things songs in New Orleans. And then we had our first practice and I didn’t go.

DT: Well, me and Lorne had been talking about doing this band for a while and then he said, “Get HIM to be our bass player.”

RAFF: Poor Lorne. If he only knew…

DT: Yeah, and now we’re in this life sentence…haha! So I was waiting for them to show up at practice and I worked on a cover of “Cokin” and then wrote “Love to Leave”

RAFF: Which is still one of everybody’s favorite songs.

RAFF: Your new album In Borrowed Shoes On Borrowed Time veers into country territory, which people probably weren’t expecting.

SH: Well, we really like cowboy shirts! And we all kind of privately really like country and realized that everyone else in the band knew what good country was and had a knack for it. And you get bored listening to the same three rock and roll albums so it was something new and isn’t being done well by many people we know right now. So it’s kind of a cool little niche to mix with what we’re already doing.

DT: We’re not doing it too consciously; we’re just following the muse. But you tend to find more good songwriters in the country genre. Or for me maybe it’s just ones I didn’t know because I didn’t listen to it growing up. I thought it was an obscure type of ethnic music and I didn’t know anyone who listened to it. I probably listened to some stuff that I didn’t know was country? Like my parents had Neil Young albums, which some of that kind of stuff could fall under the category.

SH: I got into it first and foremost because of Keith. I liked “Faraway Eyes” and that was the gateway.

RAFF (joking): So you like Keith Richards, do ya?

DT: I think once, a long time ago, I meant to download a Flamin’ Groovies record and I accidentally got the Flying Burrito Brothers instead. And I loved it.

SH: Yeah, and then it went from Keith to Gram Parsons. Who, side note, just couldn’t hold his heroin.

RAFF: So let’s talk about the drumming situation. It’s just the three of you right now with fill-ins because you lost your original drummer Darren Fried, reportedly because his wife doesn’t want him to play anymore. What are you going to do?

SH: We had a great replacement for a day but he’s French and couldn’t stay in the country. It sucks, Darren was great for us. 

DT: Darren can play rock music and he’s a hard hitter but he can still find the groove. He can put the tiniest bit of swing in it that makes you want to move.

SH: And he can fill out a pair of denim shorts like nobody else

JE: If you’re married to some kinda broad who makes you quit your band, it’s not gonna last.

RAFF: But this happens a lot. I know so many men who married women who thought it was cute in the beginning and then not so much once they’re married.

JE: They aaaaall do.

RAFF: I don’t! I would never. I feel like it’s the same thing as marrying a painter and then telling them they can never touch a canvas again. Why would you want to take something that big away from someone if it makes them happy?

JE: But you’re not a civilian. When I met my wife I realized she’s not a civilian. She’s an actress, she wrote movies, she sings in bands. She understands. Who else is gonna say, “Oh, you’re gonna be in France for my birthday, you’re not gonna be home for Christmas? Okay, have a good time!” Doesn’t happen. You did it. You were in the Cycle Sluts, that’s why you get it.

SH (joking, to Raff): Luckily that hasn’t happened to us!

RAFF: Haha! I hated it all from the get. Okay, what’s the plan for this year?

DT: The new record is coming out May 24th (2019), music video coming out after that, touring after that. It’s on Spaghetty Town Records out of Georgia. They have some really cool bands on their label.

RAFF: Sponsored by Wendigo Productions NY. Put that in there.

SH: Well, you’re going to be writing this. Just put down your internal monologue!

RAFF: No one needs to hear that. But yes, I’m gonna paraphrase the hell out of all of this.

DT: Eight days in the UK in early June…

SH: Tentative talk about maybe making it over to France. And I’m pretty darn excited for this one-off show we’re putting together down in Atlanta with Rick Richards, geetah surgeon for both the Georgia Satellites and the JuJu Hounds. We’re gonna recreate the same kind of structure used by The Black Crowes when they merged with Jimmy Page for that tour in…I wanna say ‘99?

RAFF: Awesome. What’s that gonna sound like?

SH: We’re gonna cover songs with him spanning both bands, plus a few of ours and a few standards. There’s a mutual love of classic Dollsy-Stooge from Motor City to New York, as well as honky tonk piano, so thinking up a set list has been fun. His playing is such an influence that to get to share a stage with the man is pretty damn cool. We’re hoping to get a recording of that show to release at some point. 

JE: So where’d you record the new album? How’d you do your deal?

DT: We did our album with Matt Chiaravalle producing, we started in July 2018.

SH: Yeah, seven months.

DT: Yeah, at Flux Studios and then a ton of overdubs at Mercy Sound where we brought in a lot of guests.

RAFF: Let’s talk about that.

SH: We got Alejandro Escovedo on the record. It’s funny, because I think of him as an Americana/country kind of artist, and a lot of these guys that we’ve become cool with like that, we like because that’s what they do. And they like us because they like punk. So I could tell when he came in that he was thinking that he was going to be able to do something where he could do a bit of yelling but we made him do his usual thing. So we got him on a second song that was still not yelling, but more of a ballad. And you know, he was in The Nuns, so I told him we should cover that Nuns song, what’s it called?

DT: Neurotic Jew?

SH: No, it’s even worse, like Cheap Jew or something like that?

DT: Uptight Jew? The singer, I think, was Jewish?

[Ed. note – Google tells us it’s “Decadent Jew”]

SH: We’re all Jews, and nobody dislikes Jewish people as much as Jewish people, because we had to grow up with each other. Anyway, so yes, we had Alejandro, and the Uptown Horns, who have played with everybody from the Stones to James Brown to Billy Joel…

DT: Plus our good friend Liza Colby, who has been singing with us for a long time, Brian Hurd from Daddy Long Legs on the tin sandwich, and Rob Clores on keyboards.

SH: Yes, he played with The Black Crowes and Tom Jones. Oh, and shout out to the guy in the comments section on the article about us in Metal Sucks who said we were “slightly less metal than the Blues Traveler”—Rob also played with The Blues Travelers. So full circle there!

DT: Rob is like our secret weapon. We asked him to play piano and organ and he came in with a clavinet.

CONVERSATION VEERS WILDLY OFF COURSE INTO THE SOPRANOS

JE: I was almost on that show. I’m on the fuckin’ Staten Island Ferry talking to this guy Doc on the phone about how he had moved to 168th Street. And I was saying, “168th Street? Motherfucker you moved UPSTATE. Jesus Christ, what the fuck!” On and on, whatever I’m saying and there’s this woman across from me reading a book and going like this for the whole half hour ride. (Mimes looking over the top of the book.)

And then finally I get off the phone and she closes the book and puts it on her lap and says, “Are you an actor?”

I said, “Nah! I’m a guitar player.” And she said, “Do you wanna be?”

I’m like, “All right. The broad wants to fuck me. I’ll bite.” She gives me her card and says be in her office at 10 am the next day. I still don’t think it’s real but I thought, eh, what the hell. This is gonna be fun.

Next day I go to the office and I walk in and I get into the lobby and say, “Rita Powers?” and they send me in the elevator and it goes up and opens and the sign says, “Powers Management.” So I think, “Shit, this is fucking real!”

She sits me down and she tells me she’s going to get me the Sopranos. And I tell her I don’t know how to act. She says, “You just be you. But we have to build you a little and get you in front of the camera so you get to know what the hell is going on. They’re not gonna put up with someone who doesn’t know so you’re gonna have to do some things before that.”

So I’m like, “Cool!” I signed the contract, now she’s my agent. The first thing she has for me is a Nokia commercial. So I show up in Times Square, outside, for this commercial, looking like the Fonz. She’s not there, so I’m walking around like a fuckin’ asshole that doesn’t know anything. I’m like fuckin’ Crocodile Dundee being friendly to all the other actors because I don’t know that actors and actresses are fuckin’ assholes. And they fuckin’ hated me. I’m walking around saying, “How ya doin’? How ya doin’?” And they’re just miserable people.

So they realize that I don’t belong and they’re like, “How did you get this?” So I tell them, well, I was sitting on the ferry and blah, blah… And NOW they really hate my fuckin’ guts. Because these people have been working their whole lives to get this and I’m just some jabroni that wandered in off a boat and said, “Hey, I’m an actor now!”

So they’re looking at me and I’ve got the black pompadour and my whole deal, like a heroin-addicted fuckin’ Dean Martin. And they say, “This isn’t gonna work.” And I’m like, whaddya mean, this is me! But they pound my hair down and they put me in a hoodie that says Nokia on it and they give me fuckin’ pom poms.

Finally Rita shows up and I’m like, “What the fuck is this?? Look at me, I’m holding fuckin’ POM POMS!”

She’s like, “It’s acting!” And I say, “I’m a guitar player! This isn’t me!” And she looks at me and says, “Well what fuckin’ label are you signed to right now? None? Okay, you’re an actor. Go act!” And I fuckin’ did it. A fuckin’ Nokia commercial!

BACK INTO THE INTERVIEW…

RAFF: Okay Sweet Things, give me a list of bands you’d like to play with. Let’s put it out into the universe.

SH: The Rolling Stones.

RAFF: Yeah…no.

DT: I wanna play with Ryan Bingham. He’s my favorite kind of songwriter these days. And I like the new Jenny Lewis album.

JE: Jerry Lewis??

DT: Jenny or Jerry Lewis. We’ll take either. Old 97’s…

SH: Blackberry Smoke, Chris Robinson’s band As the Crow Flies…

DT: When I was younger people always told me I looked like Chris Robinson. I don’t get it anymore but like 10 years ago. When you have long hair you always get comparisons to whoever. Dumb shit, like Kurt Cobain.

SH: I get Slash all the time and I look nothing like him. It’s just the hair and hats.

RAFF: Ok, I think that’s a good way to end the interview. Come see the Sweet Things, they’re coming to a town near you!

Find The Sweet Things on Spotify and Instagram @thesweetthingstonk

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