Pierced Arrows' Toody Cole gets out of the retail business for good
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Fred and Toody Cole aren’t just the grandparents of modern garage punk, forging the way for hip young things like Black Lips and Jay Reatard (R.I.P.)—they're grandparents of actual children. Along with drummer Andrew Loomis, the husband-and-wife duo churned out a seemingly limitless amount of singles and LPs under the Dead Moon moniker while managing a guitar shop, general store, and family. After the seminal garage-punk band’s demise, the Coles teamed up with, naturally, Kelly Halliburton, the son of a musician whom Fred played with back in 1972. Pierced Arrows, as the new trio is called, have already recorded a pair of full-lengths—including Descending Shadows, which was released last month on Vice Records. Prior to the band's show at DC9 on Wednesday, March 10, bassist-singer Toody sat down with The A.V. Club to discuss running the Portland Marathon at 60, earning Pearl Jam’s seal of approval, and never acting her age.
The A.V. Club: When Dead Moon broke up, did you ever consider continuing under that name with a new drummer?
Toody Cole: No. Never. Nuh-uh. We always knew Dead Moon was Fred, myself, and Andrew. Anything else further down the line would be different, out of respect. This is something very special as well.
AVC: Did you ever think about hanging it up after all those years in Dead Moon?
TC: No, we always knew we would go on. It’s always been in the cards. We took more time off—but six months turned into three, because we got antsy. So we got together with Kelly, our drummer, and rehearsed. It worked right off the bat. Our first show was in May of 2007. It’s been three years now.
AVC: Where does the name Pierced Arrows come from?
TC: Fred came up with it. Basically, he loved the old Pierce-Arrow car. He got the idea from that we love country and western and cowboy stuff. We had the idea for the logo—the horseshoe with three arrows. We were thinking about that for a while and it came together from there.
AVC: Eddie Vedder has long championed both Dead Moon and now Pierced Arrows with a new hand-written letter of endorsement. Do you know him personally?
TC: Yeah we’ve known him from the old Dead Moon days. We’re both good friends with Steve Turner from Mudhoney and when he was in town, he would come to shows. The first time I talked to him was in San Diego. He stuck around after a show and we talked a while. The Pacific Northwest is a small community. You communicate with people all the time. [Laughs.] We kept in touch. It’s awesome he wrote that. It’s awesome he would do that for us.
AVC: Dead Moon was monstrously prolific. Do you see that slowing down with Pierced Arrows?
TC: Not really. It used to be incredibly necessary to tour Europe with a new album each year. It will be more like every one-and-a-half or two years now, because bands tour a much bigger territory on one piece of work. We’re already working on new material that Fred is writing. We don’t have an album in the mix yet, but the next thing is in April. Vice [Records] asked us to do split 7-inch with Black Lips. That’s the next recording project in mind.
AVC: Is it ever difficult being in a band with your husband Fred?
TC: No. [Laughs.] Not at all. It’s fun! Fred and I have been working together on music since we were 18. It’s a natural fit. It’s not a problem at all.
AVC: You two ran the Portland Marathon in 2008. Is running also a passion of yours?
TC: We’ve always been athletic, especially with our kids. All our kids got into long-distance running, we’ve done five, 10, and 15k races around Portland, in 1983 and 1984. We just haven’t had the time to do anything since then. We both always wanted to mark [a marathon] down as an accomplishment. Fred had been talking forever about wanting to do one, and he wanted to do one when he was 60 so that’s why we did it in 2008. [Laughs.]
AVC: How did you find time to train for a marathon with Pierced Arrows just getting in to the swing of things in 2008?
TC: It’s kinda tough doing training around touring. The longest we ever did was 13 or 14 miles, but whatever. You start, you finish, and you’re good to go.
AVC: Does it ever get weird being in a band with a drummer that is the son of someone Fred played in a band with in the '70s?
TC: It’s really weird because at this point I feel comfortable around anyone except someone my age. [Laughs.] I still feel like I’m 18 or 25 or 30—any age you wanna pick. I feel comfortable around “kids.” Kelly has been through a lot, being in DIY punk bands since a young age. The difference hasn’t entered into the picture; a lot of our background is the same. The biggest difference is we eat meat and he is vegetarian and he doesn’t smoke. [Laughs.]
AVC: Did you ever think to play music with your own kids?
TC: They’ve been into different things. They dabbled with stuff in school, but athletics is their forte. It’s a totally reasonable fit—Fred’s choice back in the day was to either be a baseball player or a musician. For them, they grew up in band houses and around music. In their eyes, it was what everybody did, so they didn’t go there. [Laughs.] I’m glad they don’t have the burden of trying to be in someone else’s footsteps. It worked out better all around. We’re all supportive of each other.
AVC: Are they upset that the break from Dead Moon to Pierced Arrows was so short?
TC: No, they are so used to it. We keep in touch through e-mail and phone calls. We’re only gone two to two-and-a-half months, and then we’re home for two weeks or a month or two. They’re all grown. Amanda and Whedon are over 40, Shea is 40 next year. They are busy as hell. It’s different than when they were young. We weren’t touring then.
AVC: Even though it’s still you and Fred writing songs, has your approach changed with Pierced Arrows from Dead Moon?
TC: No, not really. Maybe in a miniscule way. It’s a natural progression—Fred has had this style since way back. With this band he’s going into this other tangent that he was trying at end of Dead Moon. We couldn’t do skip beats and breaks [before]. It’s just some more complex musicianship [in Pierced Arrows]. He writes what comes into his head, but the approach hasn’t changed at all.
AVC: You ran a general store. What could one buy there?
TC: We owned one for eight years. It was beer, milk, groceries, smokes, coffee, and it was on the same property as our guitar shop. We sold the general store, and after 30 years closed down Tombstone Music. We weren’t enjoying it, we were ready to let it go and both of us are extremely happy to be out of retail right now. It has to be your sole focus, which it was for a lot of years. Now we can focus on music, our website, and our personal lives and family life.
AVC: Are you done with retail forever?
TC: Yeah. That’s what we work for, to retire to do what you wanna do. We worked real hard when we were young; we’re set so we can do that. It’s great to know. [Laughs.] I love it. It’s my second childhood.
AVC: You mean just play music exclusively now?
AVC: Do you still play Dead Moon songs? How accepting is the audience of the fact that Dead Moon was the past and Pierced Arrows is the present?
TC: Everyone has been very cool. Now we have enough of a repertoire that we have people that haven’t even heard Dead Moon accepting Pierced Arrows on their own merit. It’s always great to be known for what you’re doing in present, not just the past. At this point we do “It’s O.K.” and “54/40 Or Fight” and that’s pretty much it at this point.
AVC: Do people at shows who want to hear only Dead Moon songs ever bother you?
TC: Nobody gives us shit; they request some songs we haven’t played in 10 years, but they did that during Dead Moon too. We had over 200 to 250 songs; it’s not like you can pull any one out of the bag at any point. [Laughs.] It doesn’t happen continually. It would be hell to pay if you had whatever new project and all they wanna hear is what you’ve done before. Then you call it a day.