The Helicopter: Practice, persistence pay off
Jul 28 2000 12:00AM By By Tami Watson pop
The history of The Helicopter sounds a lot like "Spinal Tap" - two guys
form a band, but they can't keep a drummer. Eventually, they break up
without ever playing a gig. Luckily, being the persistent people they
are, bassist Jeff Cooper and guitarist Jeff Richardson never gave up.
"The drummers kept quitting," Cooper explained. "We finally found one
that would stick around - he was from France - but, he got kicked out
of the country. Eventually, we were able to throw a band together. We
practiced for a few months, but Jeff (Richardson) came down with the chicken
pox, and we were forced to cancel our first and only gig. That pretty
much ended things."
Downhearted and desperate, Cooper and Richardson did what many mourning
musicians do - party. It was probably the best decision they ever made.
"I ran into Jeff again at this bizarre 'spin-the-bottle' party. It was
a birthday party for one of our friends, and some people decided that
you had to kiss whoever the bottle landed on - even if it was someone
of the same sex," Cooper said. "Jeff and I thought that was a little weird,
so we left the room. We started talking, and Jeff told me about some four-tracks
he had just finished.
"We wound up listening to them, and I thought they were cool," Cooper
continued. "Eventually, we started playing together - just the two of
Cooper eventually played Richardson one of vocalist Billy Egle's four-tracks
(Cooper and Egle played together in Star 66), and he liked it. With the
addition of Egle, they only lacked one thing - a drummer. With Cooper
and Richardson's history in the drumming department, this signaled impending
doom. Finally, Cooper remembered that a co-worker's husband played drums,
and a band was born.
"Chris' wife and I went to school and worked together, and I knew he
played drums," Cooper said. "The four of us struggled to get to know each
other, and then it clicked. Luckily, Chris hasn't been deported yet."
After those early ups and downs, the two are finally finding some stability
- along with Egle and Squires - with The Helicopter. Although Squires
doesn't plan on leaving soon, it seems the "Spinal Tap" curse hasn't totally
lifted. Squires injured his hand, so the band is currently on hiatus from
live performances. They expect to be back on stage by September.
On a more positive note, the Norman-based band recently released its
first, self-titled album, and they are already rehearsing and recording
for a follow-up. They are also focusing on writing, marketing the album
and setting up a regional tour.
"We're working on some new songs and some new ideas so we can put on
a better show," Richardson said. "We're also trying to play a music festival
in Oregon. We'd love to go out on tour for a month or so."
Turn it up
A band that's not afraid to play loud, The Helicopter produces pure,
guitar-driven rock. Egle's smooth soprano vocals often add a Flaming Lips
flair, and trippy, psychedelic chords often add a Beatles touch. The band
considers both to be influences, and they list Paul McCartney and John
Lennon as two of their favorite songwriters.
"We like a lot of the old bands, like the Who, the Stones, the Clash,"
Richardson said. "I've always been amazed at the energy generated by those
bands. Very raw, yet well-sung and well-played."
Richardson, himself, has an affinity for writing interesting lyrics
- something he takes to quite unconventionally.
"Songs usually come to me in the spur of the moment, by accident or
by luck," Richardson said. "Well, except sometimes, I hear this voice
coming out of my God-hole that sings me to sleep. In the morning, I try
to write down what I remember of it."
Richardson professes that the "God-hole" is actually his "third eye"
or belly button.
"You know - it's the place on your body where Jesus can jump in," he
explained. "Anyway, we have to take chances and come up with new ideas.
They seems to be the only way to survive."
In the world of MP3s where anybody - including their dog - can put up
music on the Internet, survival is a very important factor. Getting signed
to a big label, Cooper said, is like trying to run through a brick wall.
Although getting signed would be nice, the guys in The Helicopter are
content to hone their skills for a while.
"A lot of bands don't really know how to play," Cooper said. "Now, all
they care about is how (they look) in a pair of pants on stage and if
their sunglasses look cool. Eventually, people won't put up with that
"There are so many bands in the world, it's hard to get people to notice
you," Cooper added. "It's hard to get the ball rolling."
Members of The Helicopter aren't quite sure if they want to be rock
stars, but they do want to be musicians. They are hoping people in Norman
will realize that there are good bands in town who work hard and deserve
to be heard.
"Hopefully this 'boy band' trend will die soon, and people will start
appreciating real music," Richardson said. "If anything, we'd like to
inspire other talented people to write good songs and play really good
rock 'n' roll."
For more information on The Helicopter or their CD, check out their
Web site at www.angelfire.com/ok3/helicopter. The CD is also currently
available at Hastings.