Leer Baker and Chris Rupp lean their bikes against a signpost in front of Puddn'Heads coffeehouse on Main Street. They sit down at a table outside, and Baker takes his first cigarette from what soon seems like an endless pack of Camel non-filters.
Baker and Rupp are veterans of the local music scene. Both are former members of Ann Beretta, and Baker played in the punk band Inquisition. The two groups were well known in Richmond (Ann Beretta is still active), but also nationally since they were relentless touring bands.
Touring can be addictive, Baker says, which might be why he can't wait to get out on the road with his new project, Sixer. "We're definitely excited to be doing this tour," he says. Sixer is touring the U.S. for a month in support of Blanks 77. Both bands play Twisters Friday, Aug. 18.
"We've toured the U.S. numerous times in other bands," Baker says. "People will know us from Inquisition and Ann Beretta and Lazy Cain." Sixer recently recruited former Lazy Cain drummer Dan Duggin and replaced its original bassist with Casey Martin, who played in Bucket of Monkey.
That lineup makes Sixer a sort of small-town supergroup. But Baker is quick to point out that Sixer is a completely new direction for its members. It has its own sound and doesn't carry the political weight of his former bands. Sixer's agenda is straight-up rock, he says. "I didn't feel right about being a political punk-rock guy, because I'm not. Sixer's more of a roots rock 'n' roll, blue-collar, working-class ethic kind of band."
"We're just a rock band," Rupp says.
"The only thing punk about it," Baker adds, "is the fact that we've, I guess, been quote unquote punk rock for so long."
Though influences of punk are heard throughout the group's EP "Busted Knuckles & Heartbreak," Baker says it's simply "a good-time rock 'n' roll band" influenced by AC/DC and Social Distortion. He laughs when asked if the band is named for a six pack. "Yeah, pretty much," he says.
Baker was on the sand at Virginia Beach a year ago when his former Inquisition bandmate and longtime friend Mark Avery, who plays guitar in River City High, came up with the name. "He asked me to hand him a beer out of the sixer," Baker says. "I was like, 'Hey, that's all right,' so I made a phone call when I got home, you know, and got some guys together."
Baker and Rupp had just left Ann Beretta. A few months later, Sixer was playing shows. The band sent a demo tape recorded through a boom box to TKO records. The label told them to go into the studio with the material, and the next thing they knew, the band had an EP to promote and a well-known label to promote it.
Baker says Sixer is more than a hobby and they are determined to make things happen. "We're trying to make a living at it, absolutely," he says. "That's not the whole point. If it wasn't fun we wouldn't do it at all. But we're not afraid of the radio. We're not afraid of major labels."
Baker and Rupp also say they are not afraid to let people know where they come from. Baker, Rupp and Avery grew up in Farmington, a neighborhood near Regency Square in what Rupp calls "the not-so-wealthy West End."
Baker has Farmington tattooed on his neck. He remembers it as "the neighborhood with the ditch." "Busted Knuckles & Heartbreak" is littered with references to the neighborhood, and Richmond in general.
"I miss my city, I miss my friends" is a lyric from "Farmington," a song about being on the road and waiting to get back to home base, where success comes from a strong network of support. "Sixer wouldn't exist without everybody else that's involved," Baker says.
"So many people have made this band possible," Rupp adds. He and Baker say it takes all of that support to keep the project going.
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