In search of .38 Special

Waxing indie with Chico expatriates Tim and Shawna Ervin-Gore of Captain vs. Crew

HARD TO PEG Ex-Chicoans Tim (top left) and Shawna Ervin-Gore (center) play in the Portland indie-rock band Captain vs. Crew.

HARD TO PEG Ex-Chicoans Tim (top left) and Shawna Ervin-Gore (center) play in the Portland indie-rock band Captain vs. Crew.

Captain vs. Crew will be playing Moxie’s on Saturday, Oct. 27, with Jealous Butcher label mates Rally Boy and locals Ooh La La and Royal Crown.

Welcome back, strangers.

Chico expatriates Tim and Shawna Ervin-Gore were once heavy into the local Chico music scene. Tim played guitar and sang for mid-'90s indie-rock group Mid-Fi, and Shawna wrote free-lance stories about music for this newspaper. After a brief run, the pair graduated from the oppressive valley heat and low-paying jobs to living in Portland, Ore., working at Dark Horse Comics.

Now both are playing in a foursome called Captain vs. Crew on the Jealous Butcher label and will return for a Chico gig this weekend. Their sound is a unique crossbreed of slapdash Replacements-like hooks and Sonic Youth-ish experimental garage fury.

Shawna Ervin-Gore fulfills her drumming obligations with energetic bursts and an ever-increasing sense of mood and time shifts over which bassist Brunson Moody’s rolling bass lines move counter to most bass players’ more pedestrian pedaling. Tim and Rob Jones exchange vocals and twist and twine their six strings like a bundle of barbed wire rolling through the inescapable heat of a Laundromat dryer. It’s a thing of beauty, really. And all a writer really need say to convey their deceptively simple strategy is, guitars, guitars, guitars…

Why the name “Captain vs. Crew?”

Rob: It’s because our music is a healthy mix of Captain and Tennille and Mötley Crüe.

Tim: Rob’s full of shit. We didn’t name ourselves after Captain and Tennille and the Crüe, but … come to think of it, we do sound like a cross between the two. It was a regular band name process, lots of stupid suggestions over practices. Rob was the victor, backed by his lady, I believe.

Describe the clubs and audiences in Portland.

Shawna: I think it depends on the venue. The all-ages shows yield a lot of younger kids who can be really supportive but don’t want to dance or draw attention to themselves. We tend to have more luck getting audience participation where booze is served. One thing I like a lot about Portland shows is that people will come chat with us after we play. We’re a pretty friendly band from the stage. … We make fun of ourselves and chat a lot … so people react to that

Brunson: More enthusiastic than Eugene, less enthusiastic than Chico … cleaner than both.

Are there differences being in a noisy underground rock band approaching the age of 30 as compared to your early 20s?

Shawna: It’s not any different, except that I can now afford to change the heads on my drums a little more often. We own the house we practice in now. And we haul our equipment around in a Volvo station wagon … but it’s old! We’re definitely toying with accepted standards of what it means to be punk and what it means to be a grown-up. I don’t think choosing between one and the other is necessary, and I still feel like we approach everything in life from the vantage of enthusiastic rock kids.

Please note that even though I am a 28-year-old married female, I’ve only gone into a Pottery Barn to use the toilet. And I abide by Joey Ramone’s definition of punk, which purports that people like JFK were truly punk. It doesn’t have anything to do with wearing studded belts or how your hair looks.

Captain vs. Crew, young life we’re fortunate to live. We’re constantly surrounded by really amazing, talented, creative people, both at work and in our personal lives, so that’s inspiring. But, yeah, I do think that dealing everyday with such coolness as Japanese sci-fi, supernatural detectives, samurai, and talking sock monkeys does help skew our brains toward the fantastic.

Tim: We wrote a song based on a comic book character ("Spyboy"). Working at a comic book publishing place means at least one or two people from work will come to every show. Also, easy access to rock art—the best rock art, actually. The guy who did the art for Gorillaz used to do stuff for Dark Horse. Some of my fave album art is by comic artists.

What is the musician’s responsibility to today’s culture?

Shawna: I give this [question] a little added weight, being the girl in the band. There still aren’t enough women musicians … and I say that because whenever we play at a non-scene-established venue, men especially react with this strange, sort of demeaning awe. So my personal responsibility, as I see it, is to rock my shit out and show people that girls can definitely do more than put on leather pants and sing in front of a band. I know I’m not the pioneer of the female rock world, but I long for the day someone doesn’t say, “Oh, you’re in a band? Are you the singer?”

Are there certain expectations and restrictions placed upon Captain vs. Crew when identified by the indie-rock label?

Tim: Well, we try very hard to break out of genre at every turn, but I still like to use the indie-rock term to describe our band, with terms like “noise,” “garage,” and “ass” intermingled.

Shawna: I don’t know that we’ve ever been labeled as "indie" by anyone except ourselves, and we all have our own private love affairs with indie rock, I think. We tend to get more of the "mutinous pirate rock for your sea voyage, matey!" in write-ups, just because most music writers are really unimaginative and I don’t think they actually listen much to the music they write about. But we’re definitely not easy to peg, either. I think we sound "garage," but now that refers to the ‘60s-style pegged-pants bunch, so who the hell knows what we are? Whatever .38 Special is now, that’s what I want to be.