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Local Listens: Memphis 59

Welcome to Local Listens, where we profile some of our favorite Washington musicians. This week, we shine the spotlight on the Memphis 59.

A band without a permanent guitarist might sound like a disaster, but for the Arlington-based group Memphis 59, it works. The band rotates through several guitarists, but its backbone is composed of singer/songwriter Scott Kurt, bassist Richard Lewis, and drummer Chris Zogby. Formed in early 2008, Memphis 59 performs live several times a month. The band was nominated for a 2008 Washington Area Music Award for new artist of the year.

Memphis 59 has several songs to stream on MySpace—we like “Me, Myself and Eyes,” a love song about giving a relationship a second chance. With lyrics such as “I know this is where you want to be. You think you’re alone, but I think you’re with me, myself and eyes that shine brighter than the stars at night,” Kurt sings about listening to your heart even when the timing for a relationship isn’t right.

If the songs online aren’t enough to satisfy your Memphis 59 fix, don’t fret: The guys are in the process of recording an album, and Kurt says new music should be out in late fall or early winter. Until then, check out a live performance Thursday, October 8, at the Light Horse in Old Town.

Name: Memphis 59.

Age: 18 months.

Hometown: Arlington.

First song that made you want to play music:
Kurt: “ ‘Jackie Blue’ by the Ozark Mountain Daredevils.”
Lewis: “ ‘All You Need Is Love’ by the Beatles when I was four years old.”
Zogby: “ ‘Sabre Dance.’ ”

First instrument:
Kurt: “Guitar.”
Lewis: “Piano.”
Zogby: “Snare drum.”

Local spot to seek inspiration or write music:
Kurt: “In my head.”
Lewis: “Anywhere near water.”
Zogby: “Someone’s basement.”

Best local venue:
Kurt: “Iota Club & Café.”
Lewis: “9:30 Club.”
Zogby: “Birchmere.”

Best bar to hear music:

Kurt: “A tie: Iota or Jammin’ Java”
Lewis: “Iota.”
Zogby: “ Iota, Galaxy Hut, Jammin’ Java.”

Favorite local band:
Kurt: “Justin Jones and the Driving Rain.”
Lewis: “The Hall Monitors.”
Zogby: “The Decks.”

Best thing about Washington’s music scene:
Kurt: “A decent amount of musicians.”
Lewis: “That there is one.”
Zogby: “It’s not too big.”

Worst thing about Washington’s music scene:
Kurt: “Venues that are more concerned with selling fajitas and shrimp poppers than booking bands that make good original music. Also, the musicians and bands who don’t go out to the venues to support other bands. It’s called ‘creating a scene,’ but most bands in Washington don’t really get that.”
Lewis: “As with most cities, there’s not enough venues.”
Zogby: “We need more live-music-oriented clubs.”

Craziest tour or show memory:
Kurt: “Waking up under the New Jersey boardwalk being filmed by tourists who thought I was homeless.”
Lewis: “A night many moons ago in Charleston, West Virginia, that involved lots of beers and other, um, substances. Still not sure how I didn’t die or get killed.”
Zogby: “It involved an ‘escort’ trying to muscle her way into a ‘crash pad’ that was graciously offered to a band that shall remain nameless. We were half asleep while this incident went down. Not good.”

Finish this sentence: “When not making music, you can find me . . . ”
Kurt: “ . . . listening to music.”
Lewis: “ . . . riding my bike.”
Zogby: “ . . . on the Metro.”

Rolling Stones or the Beatles?
Kurt: “The Beatles, the Small Faces, the Who, the Kinks, then the Rolling Stones.”
Lewis: “ How about Led Zeppelin?”
Zogby: “The Beatles.”

Digital download or hard copy?
Kurt: “Hard copy.”
Lewis: “Digital.”
Zogby: “Hard copy, just in case.”

Rolling Stone or Spin?
Kurt:Rolling Stone.”
Lewis:Popular Mechanics.”
Zogby: “Neither.”

Club show or festival:
Unanimous: Club show.

What musicians, bands, or performers influence your music?
Kurt: “Paul Westerberg, Tom Petty, and Bruce Springsteen.”
Lewis: “Too many to mention.”
Zogby: “Tom Petty, the Replacements, Beatles, Rolling Stones, Small Faces, Wilco.”

What’s the first song you use to introduce new people to your music?
Kurt: “ ‘Me Myself and Eyes.’ ”
Lewis: “ ‘Black and White TV.’ ”
Zogby: “ ‘Gone’ or ‘Me, Myself and Eyes.’ ”

Describe your music in one word.
Kurt: “Honest.”
Lewis: “Rootsrockolicious.”
Zogby: “Carbonated.”

What would be your dream lineup for a show?
Kurt: “Paul Westerberg, Tom Petty, and Kathleen Edwards.”
Lewis: “Uncle Tupelo, Black Crowes, Tom Petty, and us.”
Zogby: “Late 1960s-era Small Faces (with Steve Marriott) and us.”

If you could listen to only one album for the rest of your life, which would you choose?
Kurt: “The Beatles’ Revolver. It’s a great bridge album between early Beatles and later Beatles.”
Lewis: “That changes from month to month, but right now it’d be Somewhere Near Patterson by Lewis Shindell. An amazing collection of songs.”
Zogby: “Maybe Who’s Next by the Who. The songs, musicianship, engineering, and production are stellar.”

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