Shaving Face With Roy Kay

A rockabilly trio lets a drummer into the band and a beard into the house.

I show up at Roy Kay's Madrona home with a beard, a ponytail, and a Bic razor. Inside, three members of Kay's quartet, the Roy Kay Combo, are wearing hats because they didn't want to comb their hair."My barber would probably [disapprove of me] getting photographed without getting it cut in three weeks," Kay says. "It's, like, a little long around the ears."A rockabilly band's smooth cheeks and pomaded hair is one of music's most identifiable sartorial conventions, one Kay and his colleagues have worn without irony since the band's inception. Onstage their hair doesn't move, and if the boys are able to grow beards, you'd never know it. But if you ask the band about it, they'll tell you the presumably choreographed grooming is incidental, or at a minimum part of a lifestyle to which they all inadvertently subscribe."It's not mandatory to shave or anything," says bassist Robin Cady. "We've never had a discussion about each others' styles before."To which Kay replies: "I've never seen you with a beard, man.""I went a week and a half 'round this time last year," Cady insists.Kay himself is wearing a few days' stubble. So we head upstairs to his bathroom— which his band insists is the cleanest room in a house that also includes a mini-theater and a recording studio—to turn the water on. Kay applies some Barbasol shaving cream he got "at the rockabilly store," he says with a grin before he begins to mow. "I always start on this side," he says with his disposable razor poised against the right side of his face. But he typically shaves in the shower, explaining that he's breaking with routine because he "thought the interview would be awkward" were it to occur behind plastic curtains.For my part, I borrow some cream, pull my hair back, and start shaving too. But the Bic doesn't make a dent in my beard, and I quickly realize it isn't going to work. Kay offers me some electric "dog clippers," but I recall that the last time I borrowed another man's clippers, I later learned that he never used them for shearing above his waist."Grooming tip number one: Don't grow a beard," concludes Kay.For eight years, Kay has been the dapper frontman of the Roy Kay Trio—with Cady and guitarist Mike Geglia—an outfit with a sparkly image ready for black-and-white TV. But there's change afoot at Kay's Madrona Ranch studio: After eight years of drummers mistakenly assuming that an empty chair meant that a gig was available, the trio decided to give one of the city's stickmen a try. Hence, drummer Aaron Mlasko rounds out the group's new alignment, appearing alongside guests on piano and steel guitar on I'm Hooked, the quartet's debut (after four records as a trio), which is being released at the band's Victory Lounge gig on Friday."After four records we [thought it'd be] cool to do something different and give Robin a change of pace so he doesn't have to drive the band all the time," says Kay. "It's hard with no drummer and a bass player. It's cool to do something a little different."I'm Hooked won't be difficult for the appreciators of the trio's catalogue to accept. Rockabilly sounds are still there, filled out by a backbeat and a saloon piano reminiscent of Elvis Presley' pre-bloatation years. It's a party record with a wink and some well-placed hair products.This isn't to say that Kay's giving up on the trio, however. They just got back from a series of gigs in Las Vegas using their standard rotation, and Kay says they'll still make records as such. Bringing in a drummer, he adds, was just a natural evolution."It's always fun to go back to it, but right now it's really fun trying something really completely different," Kay explains. "Even though it's the same band, it really feels completely different."ckornelis@seattleweekly.com

 
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