Author is Roman Jones
Photo Credit is Roman Divezur
The Tombstone Hands is a slow churn of rock ‘n’ roll burn dedicated to preserving the rock of ages. The trio plays like it’s the last garage band on Earth, always starting off with Link Wray’s “Rumble,” in honor of the man who first revved up his electric guitar. Established in 2009, the act consists of Steve Litvak on guitars; Dennis Jones on bass; and drummer Brian Peet. After Jones rejoined the group last year, the band has re-emerged from the crypt to perform its own rendition of instrumental garage punk influenced by eras gone by.
The group is most in its element when it sets up on the floor with the audience right in its face. The give and take has earned it fans at neighborhood taverns and city stages and even biker clubhouses. The Tombstone Hands’ logo, a skull with a swami hat printed on the back of some of its clothing, is reminiscent of biker colors and like the vintage tunes, is ravaged by time, but somehow still all right.
All three members of The Tombstone Hands sat down with your correspondent outdoors on a recent warm night in Rochester, New York and took turns answering a few questions. An edited transcript of that conversation follows.
Q: What’s the origin of the Tombstone Hands?
Steve Litvak: I was trying to get a band together but I kept getting the wrong people.
Dennis Jones: Steve and I jammed together more than 30 years ago. So I called Steve up one day and told him that I had a drummer and a place to play and he was like, “Oh man, I’m so depressed, I’m going to sell all my gear and buy a motorcycle.” I said don’t sell your stuff; I have a feeling this is going to work out.
Do any of you ride motorcycles?
Litvak: Do you have one to sell?
Jones: We all did to different degrees but no we are rockers not bikers, jocks or politicians.
Brian Peet: I used to ride and miss it, but with cell phones on the road, I don’t want to be a target. I did not live this long to get knocked off by someone’s ignorance.
Does this band have a motto?
Litvak: Trash, twang and thunder.
What inspires you?
Litvak: Raw power and loud electric guitars.
Why did you decide to only play instrumental music?
Peet: The voice is a tough thing to replicate consistently whereas with instruments you can get it nailed down pretty close.
Jones: We’re keeping the instrumental tradition alive. We don’t want it to be a lost art.
Why the fascination with Link Wray?
Litvak: He was the original power chord guitarist. He invented raw guitar sounds and he was rocking until he died at 76 years old.
Who are some of your other influences?
Litvak: Charles Bronson, The New York Dolls, The Yardbirds, The Stooges.
What makes a good Tombstone Hands show?
Jones: People make the energy.
Peet: We feed off the fans. We’ll give you one hundred percent if there’s one person in the audience and we’ll give you one hundred and ten percent if there’s more than one.
Describe your most memorable gig.
Litvak: We opened for the God of thunder, Dick Dale at Water Street Music Hall in Rochester, New York.
Jones: There were a million funny things at that gig.
Peet: We had such a good time and the people enjoyed us. At the end of the night we were packing everything up and Dennis literally sold the T-shirt off his back and he’s standing half-naked and I’m like, “There he goes again.” Here’s the funny part, there isn’t a gig that goes by, and we’ve done many, that I don’t see him half-naked somehow.
Jones: I’ll do it tonight if you need a picture. I’ll switch shirts.
What’s the origin of your logo?
Peet: We like skulls. Steve came up with that idea.
Litvak: I thought a skull with a swami hat would be cool.
Do you think it makes you look like a biker band?
Peet: We actually played a gig at a biker club out in the country.
Jones: They were really nice guys and they dug us.
Peet: We just play authentic straight-up rock and roll…
Litvak: And all those biker movies from the Sixties, those B movies, they all had cool instrumental soundtracks by a band called Davie Allan and the Arrows, which we do.
How far do you want to take this band?
Jones: Cleveland! They’re either going to put Link Wray in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame or they’re going to book us.
Litvak: We were originally shooting for world domination but now we’ll settle for playing in Cleveland.