About a year and a half ago, two veteran local hard rockers — Rikets guitarist Ken Obloy and singer Jonny Vegas of Erase the Grey and Burning Vegas — had just finished playing a show at RocBar with their bands. They started talking, and before they left the club they decided to form a new group with some mutual friends: Erase the Grey guitarist Jeff Butchko, Gatlin bassist Kenny Irizarry, and drummer Mike Polchek.
"We had met prior to that and progressed through the years with various other bands," says Obloy one recent afternoon in a Cleveland coffee shop with Vegas. "We played at some of the same venues and crossed each other's paths until the natural selection process started weeding out all the jerks, and we were some of the people left still doing this."
Prior to forming the band — eventually named Blackout Superstar — Obloy and Vegas both had brushes with major-label fame. Rikets nearly signed a deal with Warner Bros., and Erase the Grey were on Universal for a period. But neither wanted to take Blackout Superstar too seriously. "We just wanted to put together a band that would be fun with a bunch of dudes we knew," says Vegas. "That's what it has it turned out to be."
"We wanted to write a record that you would listen to when you're getting ready to go out partying," adds Obloy. "I don't want to go out and listen to somebody whine about their parents. I don't want to go to a bar and hear somebody complain about all their problems. I want to put on a CD and get hammered and not have to fast forward when a slow song comes around."
They started writing songs quickly. Obloy put together "Dirty Penny" soon after the band formed, and Vegas then wrote "Whiskey Weekend," which was originally supposed to be an acoustic ballad. But after he handed it off to the rest of the band, they turned it into a scorcher that recalls 1980s hard-rock anthems by bands like Poison and Loverboy. "We're all whiskey drinkers," says Obloy. "It just fits perfect. That's our drinking choice."
Obloy fittingly found musical inspiration for the song on L.A.'s famed Sunset Strip. "I went to the old Tower Records in Los Angeles and bought this Mötley Crüe DVD, and they were talking about how they came up with the title for 'Girls, Girls, Girls,'" he recalls. "They said, 'What do we do? We drink and we play rock & roll music and we go to strip clubs. There's no real depth or backstory here.' I had that same thought in my mind. I thought, 'This is what we're doing, so why don't we just say it?'"
The song became the title track on the band's debut album, which they recorded at Cleveland's Spider Studios. The LP came out earlier this year on the newly formed local imprint Radium Records, a small label with limited resources. Still, the band says that the indie Radium is a good match. (In fact, the Blackout Superstar show at Peabody's this weekend marks the beginning of a 12-date tour that will take the group as far south as New Orleans and serves as a sort of showcase for Radium.)
"The owner is a really good friend who believes in what we're doing," says Obloy. "He's even going on the road with us, and he's a genuine music fan. It's refreshing to see a real music fan get behind us."
The group hopes that this tour will be met with the kind of enthusiasm that used to accompany rock & roll shows back in the '80s. "When your favorite band came to town, there was a line of cars down the highway and people camping out," says Obloy. "That doesn't happen anymore. It's not the same. I could get into how grunge did that, but I won't go there.
"We just want to go back to that show mentality. You're entertained and it's fun, and you leave there going, 'Damn, I can't wait to go there again.' That's the goal. The best compliment we could hear is, 'You guys are so much fun, and you guys look like you're having so much fun.'"