Bowling league

Little Red Rocket may not be the most serious rock band in town

Red rockets for a blue lady: Kirk Larsen, Steve Marshall, Kurt Jourdan.

Red rockets for a blue lady: Kirk Larsen, Steve Marshall, Kurt Jourdan.

Venture through the sparsely furnished living room inside the pleasant Midtown home, past the Barbie® dolls and other toys and through a clean, well-lit kitchen. This does not seem like a house where rock ’n’ roll lives. Move toward the basement, and you are overcome with the stench—what may be a contender for the world’s stinkiest cat box warns you to go no farther.

Open the door at the bottom of the stairs and you’ll find it at last: rock ’n’ roll incarnate. Little Red Rocket is playing blisteringly loud, catchy rock in the basement. Posters and flyers cover the wall; the Sweet, Patti Smith and Pete Townshend all look on approvingly. Soundproofing allows for maximum noisiness. Best of all, the ceiling is low enough to enforce proper rock ’n’ roll posture.

Little Red Rocket, named after a part of their bass player’s dog’s anatomy, is Kirk Larsen on guitar, Kurt Jourdan on bass and Steve Marshall on drums. All three of them take turns on vocals.

The band’s music is easy enough to describe. It’s rock. “It’s a bastardized mix of AC/DC and Big Star,” Larsen says. Not to mention a slight nod to the Ramones. The band’s lyrics celebrate beer, mailmen, hip-huggers and, of course, truck drivers; it’s pure silliness with just a touch of bitterness thrown in, for that needed edge.

These three have been playing music together (as Cartoon and joke band the Screaming Underwear Junkies) and separately (Larsen in Dangerous Orphans and the Head Pilots, Jourdan in the Swell Punks, Marshall in the Swell Punks, I Love Ethyl and Little Elvis) for well over a decade. They’re seasoned veterans of the Sacramento scene. They’ve seen bands they gigged with get signed and get famous, and they’ve seen musician friends fade out of the scene.

And they’ve chased that elusive recording contract. Fervently.

“We got a rejection letter!” Larsen says, proudly pointing to a letter hanging on the wall. “From Caroline Records. It’s signed by Kyle.” It’s a form letter that apologizes for being a form letter.

The band has reached the point where they are done chasing that dream, however.

“We all have families,” Larsen says. “Even if we got signed, we wouldn’t be able to tour.” After these musicians worked so hard for so long, this is surprising news. So what motivates them to keep playing?

“Free beer!” everyone answers, in unison.

“I told myself that, if by the time I reached 30 I wasn’t signed, I was gonna quit. I’m 32 years old now, 33 now,” Jourdan says, pausing to figure out his correct age.

“It’s like league bowling,” Larsen jumps in. “Hang out, drink some beer, have a good time. Without having to worry about making a record deal, it’s actually more fun.”

Even so, that casual approach doesn’t mean that Little Red Rocket is dead-set against putting out a CD. It plans to release one, DIY-style, sometime this summer.

In the meantime, you can catch Little Red Rocket’s live act around town. During a recent show at the Distillery, Larsen reminded the audience what a guitar god does—just in case anyone forgot. He played around with feedback, spun his arm in windmills and used his mike stand as a bow for his guitar. That night, among other things, the band played a cover of Cheap Trick’s “Surrender” that was completely infectious.

As luck would have it, just as Little Red Rocket began to relinquish any dream of getting a record contract, Little Red Rocket got one. Unfortunately, it was another Little Red Rocket. Alas, the band must choose a new name. Currently the short list is down to “Red Rocket 7” and “R is for Rocket” (no one has come forward with “Stinky Catbox”), but the name’s still undecided. So go see the band live and cast your vote. Or, if you really want your vote to count, you might also consider buying a band member a pint.