May 11, 2005 News & Features » Cover Story


Tulsa Drone 

Paying the Bills

Tulsa Drone is a band of scene veterans, all of whom are over 30, without false illusions about making it big. The music is their passion, but all have varied interests and, in the case of a couple of members, day jobs offbeat as the band's sound.

For the last seven years, Neff has been the wine buyer for Carytown's River City Cellars. Keeping up with what's happening in wine requires constant diligence. He carries a moleskin notebook to jot down thoughts on bottles he comes across (when tasting an estimated 2,000 wines a year, relying on memory alone would be impossible). He's on a mission to separate "grape juice gone wrong" from the sublime.

Directly across the street from Neff, most days you can find Tulsa Drone guitarist and bassist Scott Hudgins holding it down at Rostov's Coffee & Tea. Hudgins is the Carytown institution's mail-order manager, selling store-roasted coffee beans and fine teas wholesale to shops throughout Virginia, North Carolina and Pennsylvania. "Tea is the next frontier," Hudgins predicts. After many years of steadily increasing interest in good coffee, Americans are tiring of the boring old Lipton bag and are curious about the pleasures of high-end loose-leaf.

Rounding out the band, guitarist Eric Grotz runs his own business as a support specialist for Mac computers, drummer Jim Thompson waits tables and works as a substitute teacher in Charlottesville, and Jim Chandler, recently back in town after a long stretch living in Oregon, works as a temp in an office.

So then, how do wine, tea and day job doldrums affect their moody, cinematic rock? Neff gives it a shot: "In wine, the measure of quality is complexity, that the wine continues to change and evolve. Music, on the other hand, can work because it is simple. Something found in the best of both is a sense of nuance and subtlety."

With that same subtlety, Tulsa Drone has managed to shed concerns about more trivial aspects of music-making. At this point they're doing it for the music, and quality in everything is essential. — Mark Richardson

Tulsa Drone is touring this spring. The group plays the Warehouse Next Door in Washington, D.C., May 13. The new CD is scheduled to be released this summer.

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