Before interviewing Tom Taylor, singer-guitarist for ’90s West Van rock band She Stole My Beer, a little refresher is in order. A quick search on YouTube delivers a tune called “Sparks Off the Guardrail”, which shows six guys crowding into a baby-blue convertible for a goofy road trip, Taylor at the wheel. The video is intercut with footage of the band performing the Grateful Dead–like song for an enthusiastic crowd.
When Taylor calls during a break from his construction job, building homes in Vancouver, he’s asked how he feels when he sees that clip—since it was released over a quarter-century ago.
“Oh, nostalgia!” he cheerfully replies. “It was such a great, great time. Boy, we really had so much fun—and we still do. We’re such close friends, it’s almost like the band is a sideline for friendship, in a way.”
Five of the six SSMB members from the early days—Taylor, singer-guitarist Chad Chilibeck, drummer Dean Waisman, bassist David Hughes, and keyboardist Jordan White—are still playing with the band, which now also includes long-time percussionist Franco Diligenti and the newest member, drummer Liam MacDonald, who joined last year (replacing Geoff Hicks). The group’s ongoing habit of boasting two drummers was something they picked up from a couple of famous American jam bands.
“Yeah, the Allmans and the Grateful Dead,” says Taylor. “We got comparisons to the Dead—we got called a Grateful Dead cover band. It’s funny, we played as many John Prine songs, and we never got called a John Prine cover band. I wish we did!”
She Stole My Beer released two albums in the ’90s—1992’s cassette-only Sparks Off the Guardrail and 1994’s The Mule—before succumbing to the realities of the music biz, as far as recording goes.
“We ended up at the end with our second album on MCA Records,” recalls Taylor, “sort of a distribution deal, and some support here and there. We started to make our third record, and the plan was to do it with Mike Wanchic, who was John Mellencamp’s guitar player and producer. We were gonna go down to Mellencamp’s studio in Bloomington, Indiana, and I guess the record company got wind of the budget and they cancelled the whole thing. That sort of took the wind out of our sails.”
Not the type of band to call it quits, though, SSMB continued playing gigs—especially up in Whistler, where it thrives—and is currently putting the finishing touches on a new album, 13 tracks recorded with local producer and multi-instrumentalist Eric Reed, Barney Bentall’s long-time guitarist. Taylor says the group’s music is “a little different” now than it was way back when.
“I think a quarter-century ago we were really listening to a ton of Little Feat, and it was more of that groovy stuff. There’s still a little bit of that today, but it’s slightly harder-edged, sort of Black Crowes–y in a way, some of it, maybe more Ryan Adams–ish, kinda. It’s got everything goin’ on.”
She Stole My Beer will showcase some new material this weekend at its first Vancouver show in three years, mixing originals with possible covers by the Band, Grateful Dead, Allman Brothers, and John Prine. They might even bang out some good old-fashioned Aussie boogie.
“Brendan [Raftery] from BC/DC may get up and do an AC/DC song if he’s there,” says Taylor. “Hopefully, he’s there.”
Come on B.R.—a.k.a. Brian “Bon” Johnscottson. Ya gotta be there!
She Stole My Beer plays the Imperial on Saturday (June 9).