Same couch, new cushions

Phat Couch is back with a little of the old and a little of the new

Steve Foht (front) and Nick Ramirez are the two remaining original members of Phat Couch.

Steve Foht (front) and Nick Ramirez are the two remaining original members of Phat Couch.

Photo By David Robert

Phat Couch’s story is not unique in the rock world: band forms, plays dive bars, gets local recognition, seems like something big is happening, breaks up. But for most of those bands, the story ends there. Six years after forming, Phat Couch is once again on Reno’s rock radar.

Some may argue they never went away. But a bad road trip to Carlin, Nev., which ended with the lead singer being left behind—barefoot, no less—and that same singer then moving to Las Vegas and joining another band would qualify as a breakup in most people’s books.

“It’s like we peaked and came crashing down,” says bassist/vocalist Nick Ramirez, one of two remaining original members. “Other things keep you away from music: family, drugs, lack of motivation.”

But something lived on in Reno. And it wasn’t just that Phat Couch had reached some quasi-legendary status in the Reno rock scene. It was something more for the band members, too. Something they described as magical.

“I just believe in it,” Ramirez says.

But believing in it and turning it into a reality meant lead singer and guitarist Steve Foht had to return from Las Vegas. After a show for a friend at Abby’s Highway 40 earlier this year, some of that magic found its way to Foht.

“We played a show for our friend Tammy,” Ramirez says. “The response was so great, it just brought back all these memories.”

Foht says the show was not only a good time, but it also brought back the positive feelings he had about his then-former band.

“No rehearsal, no nothing,” he says, smiling broadly and speaking in his usual excited manner. “I just remember looking up, dripping with sweat. I broke a string every song. People were like this together [he holds his hands parallel to each other and rocks them back and forth].”

“Who the hell are we to hold that back?”

Foht moved back from Las Vegas, and Phat Couch emerged again.

“I knew I had to make a real decision and totally jump ship,” Foht says in reference to leaving Las Vegas and his band Space Zero. “It was one of the hardest decisions I have ever made.”

But Phat Couch has never done anything the easy way. Soon after reforming, guitarist Pete Tiffany quit and moved to Portland, Ore. Longtime drummer Scott Loring has also left the band.

Tiffany has been replaced by Dale Kellams of Sprout fame. Kellams says he feels confident he can step in for Tiffany, considering that Tiffany taught him almost everything he knows about the guitar.

“If anyone was to do his stuff, it’d be me,” Kellams says. “I don’t think he’d want to see it die.”

As for a drummer, the situation is unclear. Former Gunshot Licker drummer John Caggulia seems poised to take over. But while he played with Phat Couch on Saturday at Hurricanes, it is unknown how long he will be with the band.

As for Ramirez and Foht, what happened during the breakup of Phat Couch seems to be a distant memory. They just seem happy to be playing together again. Sometimes old things are just more comfortable, like a beat-up couch, even if it may be missing a cushion.