Deco Auto (Steven Garcia, Pat Tomek and Tracy Flowers) on the cover of Tuning Fork Magazine cover for April 2015. The power pop punk trio released their debut full length album “The Curse of Deco Auto” in early 2015. Cover Photo by Heather Kirchhoff.
It’s difficult to capture your audience as a band sometimes. This often has little to do with musical talent or how good a band’s songs are. Kansas City’s Deco Auto is a good example of a band that doesn’t have a specific group of fans that they can cater to. Many bands play a defined style of music and have the ability to seek out an audience by playing certain clubs or playing with certain bands. Deco Auto seems to lack this luxury.
“We weren’t really fitting in,” Deco Auto lead singer Steven Garcia says, “we are too pop for punk and too punk for pop. So there are punk bands in town and we don’t really fit in with them very well. We don’t really fit in with the indie-pop thing that is going on here either. That is the curse of Deco Auto” It’s not that the band hasn’t gained any acceptance with either crowd, it’s just that they don’t seem to fit. Calling them pop-punk could be seen in a negative light and Garcia really considers them more of a power-pop band as opposed to that. “We often get pigeonholed as a pop-punk band but a lot of times pop-punk to a lot of people means really fast, snotty, obnoxious music.” Garcia explains. These things really don’t represent what Deco Auto is about.
In 2012 the band had their debut release with the 4 song EP “Past Mistakes and Hauntings” and in early 2015 they have put together their first full-length album with “The Curse of Deco Auto.” The band is largely Garcia’s vision with him being the chief songwriter and playing guitar and providing vocals for most songs. Bassist Tracy Flowers will take vocal duties occasionally and provide a nice changeup on their albums and at their live shows. Drumming for the band is Pat Tomek, of the legendary Kansas City band The Rainmakers. Tomek also recorded and helped produce the bands two releases. “When he plays with us he plays balls out, he goes for it and doesn’t hold anything back. If he has a gig with the Rainmakers we understand that that’s going to take precedence though.” Garcia says. When Tomek can’t make it to a gig Keith Howell of fellow Kansas City band Man Bear can be found filling in.
The band members have strong pedigrees even beyond their drummer’s notorious history with The Rainmakers. Flowers was in Kansas City band The Straight Ups with former Deco Auto drummer Michelle Bacon. Steven Garcia’s musical history runs pretty deep in the Midwest. He was a founding member of noteworthy bands Armchair Martian and Knee Jerk Reaction, which later became just Knee Jerk. He and another experienced musician with roots in the area, Jon Snodgrass, with him to form Armchair Martian. The band started to get traction and got signed to an independent label but Garcia exited the band when he felt it was going a different direction than he wanted to. “I think I had more of a pop vision and he (Snodgrass) had more of an alt-country vision and he was one of the first to be on that wavelength.” Garcia explains. He would move on to form Knee Jerk Reaction and Snodgrass would eventually move on to form Drag The River. “It (Knee Jerk) was my singular vision of upbeat punk rock,” Garcia says, “more melodic and more poppy, no country angle because I don’t have a country angle. That’s just me.” Knee Jerk would go on to get signed to an independent label as well. “It was great back in the 90s and early 2000s.” Garcia recalls, “There were independent labels and they could risk spending a few thousand dollars on an unknown band’s CD.” That band would pave the way for Deco Auto to form after Garcia moved back to the Kansas City area from Colorado.
Garcia doesn’t seem to share the same vision as he did with his former bands that were signed to independent labels now. Deco Auto is more about an outlet for him and having fun playing music. The success of his current band doesn’t touch what his other bands had done but he still focuses on their successes and is content doing so. “We get invited to play cool things like Center of the City and Screenland Armour’s Arts & Crafts Fest two years in a row which is pretty much the highlight of my year.” Garcia says. The Screenland Armour’s Arts & Crafts Fest is a much smaller event but he obviously holds it dear, especially since it is held in North Kansas City, right in his neighborhood. “Center of the City is the coolest DIY punk festival and to be part of it 3 years in a row is really humbling.” he raves.
The distinct style of Deco Auto may not fit in perfectly with Center of the City but the Kansas City festival has embraced them. Garcia’s strong songwriting earns the band much of the praise it gets and opens doors like this. He always related to personable lyrics growing up listening to bands like The Replacements and hopes that audiences of his bands get a similar feeling. “My songwriting has always been me telling stories, even if they are inspired by somebody else it has more of a personal feel.” Garcia says, “In a small way I hope that somebody will hear one of these songs and be like ‘Oh yeah, I know what he’s talking about.’”
The great photos in this article are by local photographer Heather Kirchhoff, find more of her great work and like her facebook page here.
You can buy Deco Auto’s latest album “The Curse of Deco Auto” here.
Deco Auto (Steven Garcia, Pat Tomek and Tracy Flowers) pose for their Tuning Fork cover shoot in the Screenland Amour Arcade in North Kansas City, MO. Photo by Heather Kirchhoff.
Album at a glance review of Deco Auto’s “The Curse of Deco Auto:
Some people don’t like pop-punk at all, but how can they resist? Crunchy distorted guitars and hooky choruses? I don’t see anything wrong with that. Deco Auto isn’t for those people. Their first full-length release “The Curse of Deco Auto” hits on all pop-punk cylinders, exactly like you’d expect it to. Guitar riffs stacked on a solid backline make up nearly every song here like the crisp power of “The Introduction” or the ultimate hook laden choruses of “Such A Bother.” The surprising standout here is the espionage of “Deco Stomp,” an instrumental that tips its cap to the surf-rock style The Ventures making it the most distinct track on the album working as a great pallet cleanser. You really know what you are getting from this band, if you think you’ll like it; chances are you will.
Key Track: “Such A Bother”