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All killer, no filler

Jeremy Porter on the art of the hook


Plymouth-based rockers Jeremy Porter and The Tucos return to The Avenue Café this weekend for yet another show at their home away from home, but the road-warrior band has gigged as far away as the United Kingdom and records often. Last year alone, the group released a 7-inch single, “Tonight Is Not the Night,” and a retrospective compilation, “Bottled Regrets: The Best of the First Ten Years.” 

This year, Porter (guitar, vocals) said he’s “up to my neck in three different recording projects,” but he made time to chat with City Pulse before The Tucos’ Saturday gig with The Wild Honey Collective and Bottlecap Mountain. Here’s what the Hüsker Dü and Gram Parsons-influenced songwriter had to say.

Growing up in Marquette, how did you discover rock ‘n’ roll?

Jeremy Porter: I first discovered rock ‘n’ roll through my parents’ record collection — (The Beatles’) ‘Rubber Soul’ and ‘Revolver,’ The Beach Boys, The Rolling Stones’ ‘Aftermath,’ Fleetwood Mac — and a bit through my Aunt Lori, who was into some harder rock like The Who, Bob Seger, Molly Hatchet and Nazareth. I’d copy her cassettes when my family would stay with her while she was going to Michigan State University in the early ’80s. 

Then, around 9 or 10 years old, I saw “KISS Meets the Phantom (of the Park),” and that sent me down that rabbit hole big time. Pretty soon, it was Cheap Trick, Queen and The Knack. I was all in — a rock and roll junkie.

What’s the secret to writing catchy hooks? 

It probably comes back to those Beatles and Cheap Trick records, eh? The melody and hook are what it’s all about for me. But it’s more than just the earworm — an economically arranged song is a hook from start to end, and that’s every bit as important as a melodic, sing-along chorus or a major-scale guitar run.   

Another big part is presenting the hook — often enough but not too often. Keep the song under 3:30 whenever possible. South of three minutes is even better. Have a strong first line — that’s Jimmy Webb’s advice — and try to write a good ending. 

How did you start playing? 

I was grounded one summer after a vandalism rap, and out of sheer boredom, I learned my way through a bunch of Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden songs on the guitar and followed that road until I moved up to Marquette when I was 14. I started hanging around with guys who were listening to The Clash, The Sex Pistols and The Ramones. Unlike the metal guitar gods, this was an obtainable goal. I could actually play like these guys. We had a band called The Regulars, and that was all I ever really wanted to do from that time on. I never grew up.       

You’ve never lived in Lansing but gig here quite often — what’s your connection?

In the ’90s, my band SlugBug played Ruskin’s Reef, Small Planet and Rick’s with bands like The dt’s and The Holy Cows. We played Small Planet once on Super Bowl Sunday. Hard lesson learned that night. Lansing has become my and The Tucos’ adopted second home since I met Isaac (The Hat Madder), who introduced me to Tommy (The Plurals, The Wild Honey Collective, GTG Records) eight years ago at the Mystery Garage. 

I’ve toured with The Wild Honey Collective, produced A Rueful Noise, played on records by Lansing artists and become tight with The Stick Arounds, Harborcoat, Royal Scene, Narc Out the Reds and a bunch of others. It’s the strongest scene in Michigan. It wasn’t long before we became part of the GTG family. 


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