After a year of playing music together, guitarist Jake Painter and drummer Wayne O’Halligan of the band Taste Buds, were finally paid with food. Getting their pick of dinner at the self described “eclectic food joint” and part-time venue Sassafras in Carson City, marked a milestone for Taste Buds, a notch in the bucket list for a band whose music often uses food imagery.
“That was the whole reason we wanted to play there,” said O’Halligan. “We had heard they pay bands in food.”
“We were like, it’s finally paid off,” said Painter.
O’Halligan and Painter have been friends for nearly a decade, their relationship beginning in adolescence. Food, alongside the Misfits, monster movies, and skateboarding, provided a common ground. Eating became a powerful shared experience that wove their creative sensibilities together.
“When we were hanging out, outside of music, we were always just getting snacks and watching movies,” said O’Halligan. “So I saw that as the core of our relationship. I thought, we could make a band around that.”
It was this concept that moved O’Halligan to send a text to Painter, suggesting the name Taste Buds for a two-piece band. He wasn’t necessarily implying that the two should start said band. He just thought the name could be cool.
Painter, however, was more than happy to call his friend’s bluff. He had been booked at the Holland Project as a solo acoustic act, so he decided to have his set billed as Taste Buds. Unbeknownst to O’Halligan, he had signed the two of them up as a band that had yet to form a repertoire or identity.
“Then I called Wayne and told him ’I booked us a show,’” said Painter. “’We’re playing in three weeks.’”
Taste Buds didn’t have any material prepared, so they used that time to develop two of Painter’s solo songs, and write two new ones. One riff became a chord progression, which gave way to a catchy melody, which, in the absence of lyrics, Painter simply sang the word “no.” It started as a placeholder, but eventually he warmed to the concept of a song that’s hook was the repetition of “no” over an energetic skate-punk riff. They agreed to name the song after the wheel bite, an unfortunate moment in skating where the board lands to a side, causing it to come to a complete stop, often sending the skater tumbling off.
When the time came to perform, both agree that the show was fun, but not their best. Taste Buds was only able to muster the four songs, one of which went so poorly that they decided to cut it off halfway through. The fumbles, however, did little to dissuade the enthusiasm of the newly formed duo.
“For some reason, I was really into taking my shirt off at shows then,” Painter recalled. “So we just sucked, and my shirt was off.”
It didn’t take long for Taste Buds to put together a more cohesive set. By their second show, they were already comfortable playing together, and had landed on certain themes that would eventually become important to the band’s overall feel. “Wheelbite” had become an anthem to rejection, like the way a board can reject its rider into the concrete. Painter delved into the message of the song onstage through a passionate speech.
“I gave this big spiel saying ’This is the answer you got, for all the times you needed to hear yes, but what you got was no,’ Painter explained. “One of the other bands came up after the show, and shook my hand. He told me, ’That was the answer I got.’”