Ol Cotton Dreary turns the housing crash into a dirty jam
When the housing bubble burst and “Drewcifer,” a member of the Sacramento blues quintet Ol Cotton Dreary, lost his home, the band collectively decided to turn Drew’s proverbial lemons into lemonade by taking advantage of his last 30 days of home ownership: They turned the house into a recording studio.
“All we’re doing is trying to make a good thing out of a bad situation,” says bassist and vocalist Drew of his unfortunate twist of fate. “But when my wife found out about the holes in the walls, she was pretty PO’d.”
Luckily for he band—Mike Fleming on drums and vocals, Mike “Ollie” Oliver and Brian Kurtz on lead and rhythm guitars, respectively, and Brother Ray on vocals—Drew’s wife, who came up with the band’s name, loves music and didn’t put up too much of a fuss when the group decided to convert three of her home’s bedrooms into a studio to record their first release.
“I thought, ‘It’s going away and it’s empty, let’s just do it,’” Drew says.
Inside the abandoned house on Whittier Drive, wires slither through rooms like slick black eels. Paint splatter decorates the floor like raindrops. A mishmash of thick blue blankets and wispy white sheets hang over the windows to block out any light—and much of the gritty noise pounding out of the house.
Tiptoeing over a weblike tangle of cords and wires in the control room—affectionately dubbed a “highly organized mess”—recently during one of the band’s last recording sessions, Fleming explains how the idea to take over Drew’s foreclosed home and convert it into a studio came to fruition.
“We got paid $300 to play the [Shamrock’n Half] Marathon [in March], and we said ‘OK, let’s earmark this money to go and record,’” Fleming says. About the same time they had acquired this cash, Drew lost his home. The band was eating lunch, the idea came up to convert the house and Ol Cotton Dreary ran with it.
“So we knocked a couple of keyholes in the walls and ran cable through them. There are three bedrooms, so it was perfect: one for amps, one for drums and one for the control room. And now, here we are,” he says.
While the band has only been in existence for three years, its members have lived, loved and played together since their days as high-school punks in the band Idlewild.
“We’re like brothers. We’ve had hiatuses and fights, but even if we’re not doing music, at the end of the day, we’re brothers.”
Ol Cotton Dreary came about after 20 years and a couple of breaks. The idea of forming a “dirty punk blues” band took shape when the old friends decided to merge their various influences.
“I’m kind of the more traditional blues guy,” Drew explains. “Mike does a lot of high harmony and then Ray comes in and does the gravelly, punky part, and there are times when all three of us are singing on songs.
“But you really got to see Ray perform; he’s a pimp. Seriously, he’s got the hat, the cane and even the cup.”
At a recent Distillery show, Brother Ray sucks down a bottle of pear cider between grinding out a tune aptly titled “Pussy Stank.” Peering from underneath his red velvet pimp hat, his pelvis gyrating suggestively, Ray seductively caresses the microphone stand as the crowd of friends, fans and local musicians hoot with approval.
“We’ve never taken things too seriously,” Oliver says. “We want to have fun, and if success comes with it, then great.”