BRITAIN – Walk through the streets of downtown New Britain, and in
various places – streetlamp posts, the occasional car – you’ll see
bumper stickers, white lettering on a black background, with the
cryptic phrase “The New Inertia.” There’s no explanation but there is a
MySpace address, and if you look it up you’ll discover a New
Britain-based band with three members: Dave Waters as lead singer and
guitarist, Matt McAllister on bass and Tommy Wagner on drums.
We met the band for lunch at the Miss Washington Diner. They look exactly as a struggling band should: all wearing black shirts, and McAllister with a bandana around his head.
“I love this place,” Waters said. “I’ve got the high score on the Ms. Pac-Man machine.” He reached into his pocket to pull out a “business card” – a guitar pick with the band’s name printed on it – before discussing the history of the band itself.
“I started a band called ‘Inertia’ in ’95. Matt joined in ’98 and Tommy in 2007. We became the ‘New’ Inertia in 2006.”
So what kind of music does the band play?
“It’s rock and roll,” said Waters. “Somewhere between the Beach Boys and Slayer.”
That doesn’t narrow it down much, but the band didn’t want to label themselves any more precisely than that.
They burned their first CD in 2007 – on their own, without working through any record labels. “We sold out our first pressing,” Waters said, and built up a respectable following on college radio.
“Things picked up from there,” he said. “We got a lot of gigs – we’ll do our hundredth show in April – and became a WCCC homegrown band.”
By the time they started work on their second CD, Waters said, things started picking up for them. “We got offers from indie labels,” he said, but the money would be about the same as they make recording their own discs and selling them directly to fans. “It’s too much work to go through the stores.”
“Which is why we sell on the Internet,” Wagner added.
“Same level of work,” Waters said.
McAllister rolled his eyes. “Too much. I hate him,” he said.
“I love him,” Waters responded. “It’s his guts I hate. His gut.” (McAllister’s is on the large side.)
They often exchange the good-natured insults guys do when they’re close friends, and are fairly tongue-in-cheek when discussing their music, their DVD and each other.
“We don’t have a ‘fan club’,” Water said. “We have ‘The Inertia Militia,’ people we hang out with, people who listen to our music and come to our shows.”
“Or they just want to drink,” McAllister shrugged.
None of the band members has formal musical training, or knows how to read music. “You don’t need to read music, you just do it,” Wagner said.
“I usually write the songs,” said Waters.
“And I tell him when they’re crap,” McAllister added.
The band is still in the “paying their dues” phase, playing almost any gig they’re invited to. “All kinds of places,” said Waters. “Bars with dirt floors, bowling alleys, elementary schools – we’ve played some whacked-out places.”
“We’ve played every dirt bar in Connecticut,” Wagner said.
“We look better in the dark,” Waters agreed with excessive gravitas.
But the band takes a more serious tone when asked about subjects they discuss in their songs. Waters motioned out the diner window to a nearby parking garage. “Me and Matt saw a guy jump off the parking garage one day, a few years ago. We never forgot it.” His face clouded. “What was going through his head? So we wrote 18 songs, almost all about struggle. We figured, let’s take all the bad things that happened in our lives ...most of our songs are true stories, or exaggerations.”