Like many married couples approaching their 60th birthdays, Fred and Toody Cole began thinking about their retirement plans back in 2006. They removed themselves from the grind of their 20-year positions and, having already sold off some of their real estate and business concerns, settled down to relax a bit.
What isn't typical is that their "jobs" were guitarist, bassist and vocalists for seminal garage-rock trio Dead Moon, one of the Pacific Northwest's most beloved underground bands. The punch line is that their retirement lasted about four months, as Dead Moon almost immediately morphed into a new incarnation, Pierced Arrows.
"We planned on taking a whole lot of time off," says Toody Cole. "But we got antsy to do something again."
Dead Moon ended when drummer Andrew Loomis quit. The Coles used his departure as the impetus to gear down. But Fred began writing almost immediately and had a batch of new material ready to record. They self-released the first Pierced Arrows album in 2008 and signed with Vice Records to release their latest, Descending Shadows, when the Coles ran into Kelly Halliburton, the son of one of Fred's '70s bandmates.
Although Halliburton was primarily a bassist, the Coles met him in Germany on a Dead Moon tour a few years ago where he was also playing drums with a Stuttgart band. Halliburton returned to Portland in 2007, and the Coles kept crossing paths with him. Fred remembered his drumming experience and asked him to join their new project.
"He was kind of afraid of it at first," says Toody. "He goes, 'Man, I haven't played drums in, like, two years. I don't even know if I can do it.' We practiced for about a month and started playing gigs. We kind of expected to take awhile to work our way up the ladder again, even in Portland, but it took off from the get-go. We were real lucky."
Luck and three decades of experience gave Pierced Arrows a leg up. After a handful of rehearsals, the band played its first show with fellow local legends Poison Idea — a 20th-anniversary commemoration of the Mt. St. Helens eruption. It turned out better than the band had hoped.
"We've got some of our carry-over crowd from Dead Moon," says Toody. "But after 20 years, most everybody's grown up, has kids and doesn't go out anymore. What's cool about this band is we're starting with a whole fresh audience, people who have only been exposed to Pierced Arrows and are totally into what we're doing. It's awesome."
Given Dead Moon's long and illustrious history as an influential and much-loved garage-punk band, the acceptance of Pierced Arrows was no big surprise. The addition of Halliburton has clearly energized the Coles.
"He is a bit younger so he brings a whole new energy," says Toody. "He grew up with that whole DIY thing that we did. He just did it with punk bands when we were doing it with Dead Moon. He really enjoys the more melodic stuff that we're doing. It's a good balance for him as well. It's really revived for me and Fred what we're doing."
Although Pierced Arrows still features some of the volume and attitude of Dead Moon, Toody notes that there are some philosophical differences between the two bands.
"We're a lot more wide open; this thing with Vice Records, I don't know whether we would have done that with Dead Moon or not," she says, referring to the prior band's fiercely D.I.Y. ethic. "What's cool is they're basically well known, but they're a small label — they've got like five people in the office — and that personal aspect is what we were looking for, with the infrastructure to do a little more on the business and promotion end."
Perhaps the biggest difference is the subtle melodicism that has crept into Pierced Arrows' songs. After 20 years of Dead Moon's volume and chaos, the Coles felt slightly hemmed in by their own reputation and wanted to take their next project in a slightly different direction.
"Near the end, there were 30-40 songs that everybody wanted to hear all the time, so we kind of got stuck in that box where nobody wanted us to change," says Toody.
Still, even as Pierced Arrows have amassed even more material to accompany their debut album and the just-released Descending Shadows, the trio does make some concessions to the Coles' long history.
"We've been playing [Dead Moon's] 'It's OK' and '54/40' as encore songs for quite the while and probably will for a bit longer," says Toody. "They're fun to play, and Kelly was a big fan of the band too. So those two seem to cover everybody's wish list."