"At that point in time, it was a little different than it is now," admits current Gunfighter and former Molly frontman Jason Blackmore. "Back then, they were out looking for and signing a lot of bands, and with Molly and Secular Theme and Boy's Life and Giant's Chair and Season to Risk and Germ Box and then Shiner, there was something kind of cool going on around here for them to find."
However, like the Kansas City scene, the recording industry has changed significantly over the past decade. Pop music now rears its crimped and gelled head where rockers once roamed, dominating the radio and even invading local clubs, which now cater to the dance-music crowd. As Blackmore, The Hurricane's occasional doorman, puts it, "The people that come in all look like they're coming from XO. It's like, doesn't anyone care about good rock music around here?"
Despite battling such conditions, Gunfighter's latest album, Pro-Electric, has attracted attention from label representatives, but Blackmore believes interest in the project might have been higher if his band had hailed from a city with a more visible music scene. If the locals can't support it, a skeptical bigwig might reason, what makes this band think anyone else will?
"Molly was part of that (Kansas City) sound for a while, and I think that's sort of come and gone," Blackmore says. "I don't look at it like all 'boo hoo'; it's just time to move on." And in this case, moving on is more than just a metaphor or a rockin' Bad Company song. Blackmore and his fellow Gunfighters are heading to San Diego.
"Well, my girl lives out there, and seriously, first and foremost, I've always kind of dug it there," Blackmore says before unwittingly slipping into So-Cal speak. "San Diego was on the top of my list because I really don't like L.A., but you're close enough to L.A. that you can be busy in the scene there and do shit, but you don't have to live there. We figured instead of playing The Hurricane every other month, it might be cool to play The Kasbah and The Troubadour and some of the other places we used to play as Molly McGuire."
To celebrate the departure of Blackmore and his bands old and new, Molly will perform Sisters Of, its indie debut on Hit It! records, in its entirety at The Hurricane on November 25 with a couple of old singles adding extra spice to the set list. This original lineup, featuring Scott McMillan on guitar, Ray Jankowski on bass, Jason Gerken on drums, and Blackmore on vocals and guitars, will perform for free that afternoon in front of an all-ages audience at another landmark establishment from Molly's past, Recycled Sounds.
"Reunions are for The Who and the Rolling Stones," explains Blackmore. "We're Molly McGuire, so we're doing it because we thought it would be fun. Over a period of time, some musicians and some bands lose sight of what it's all about, and this is what it's all about. We thought it'd be fun to go back to when it meant nothing except playing. We used to practice three or four nights a week for three and four hours, just playing and learning."
Other than his vastly improved skill level, little has changed since those days for Blackmore. He admits to knowing very little about what's going on in the San Diego rock scene, aside from its proximity to the stars. He's essentially pursuing a goal that a lot of people lose sight of in their late 20s, the same one he had when he started playing with Molly nearly a decade ago.
"My thing has always been the same: It's gotta come from the heart," he says. "When we started playing, we didn't know if it was good or bad or what. We didn't care about getting a song on the radio; we just thought it was fun. We didn't know shit, and we certainly didn't have labels knocking down our doors. It was just what we loved to do."
Still, necessity is the mother of invention, and the business end of being a musician necessitates the constant creation of new material as well as the use of innovative ways to scrape by and maintain full-time musician status -- sleeping on couches, bumming leftovers, and moving around in pursuit of the muse are among the methods. The lifestyle approximates the university professor's "publish or perish" model, and it ultimately drove Blackmore to the left coast.
"I care about this stuff, but unfortunately there's a business side to it that you have to be aware of if you want to succeed as a musician," Blackmore says. "It's a crappy business, and you've gotta spend $1 to make $1.25, but I'm committed to it. I mean, what else am I going to do? Work at Hardee's?"
Actually, they call it Carl's Jr. out there, but you get the point -- he's not looking to become a millionaire; he just wants to play. "Seriously, don't get the wrong idea," Blackmore adds. "Moving's not going to solve all our problems, and I'm not saying that you're going to read about us in six months. To be quite honest, there might be more to it out there, there might not, but I'm anxious to meet some new people and some new musicians and people that kind of have a different outlook. I just don't know how much more there is to offer here.
"Maybe in the future a time will come again, but that cool time has come and gone, and I just feel lucky to be a part of that."