Bombay Heavy uses connections, talent to open for The Killers

Bombay Heavy is getting ready to open two shows for The Killers later this month. That’s beyond impressive for a local band that hasn’t even played a single show.

After playing a debut date at a small club in Utah on Thursday, followed by a subsequent show at the Bunkhouse on Saturday, this pair of East Coast dates with The Killers will serve as Bombay Heavy’s third and fourth shows ever.

If you’re wondering how that’s even possible, let’s just say the gigs didn’t come by chance. Bombay Heavy drummer Rob Whited works for The Killers. He earns a living working as a drum tech for Ronnie Vannucci, when he’s not performing those same duties for Death Cab for Cutie timekeeper Jason McGerr.

Friendship clearly has its benefits. It really was as easy as just asking. At the same time, Whited says, it took some nerve on his part to even broach the subject with his employers. Luckily he had some practice. Most Thieves, one of his other outfits, landed similar supporting slots.

While being associated with The Killers will obviously attract attention initially, it will take more than that to maintain everybody’s interest once the novelty wears off. Fortunately, the music being made by Bombay Heavy is better than good. In fact, it’s great.

Built on groove-heavy guitars, the band has carved out a soulful sound that plods at times with moderate doses of psychedelia like early Floyd and pulses at others like “Heavy Soul”-era Paul Weller. The music speaks for itself without the need for a preamble about its pedigree.

At the same time, though, it’s important to note that The Killers aren’t merely being charitable here. These guys deserve their due. Bombay Heavy is made up of some heavy hitters who’ve spent plenty of time on the road and know exactly what this business is all about.

Frontman David Hopkins, who prefers to answer to Barnabas Wu (the name of his alter ego) these days, is perhaps the most seasoned of the bunch. Originally from Ireland, Hopkins has an entire Wikipedia page devoted to him. In addition to a highly successful solo career, he toured extensively with LiR, which shared bills with the Who and U2.

According to Whited, Hopkins had sworn off music and was working in retail in Las Vegas when the two first met about five years ago. Whited was looking for a singer-songwriter to work with, and Corlene Byrd, a trusted friend of his who was instrumental in the early years of The Killers, pointed him in Hopkins’ direction.

Whited was immediately blown away by his songwriting ability, and the two started working together, enlisting Zamo Riffman, a longtime friend of Hopkins, to also get in on the action. As the tunes were coming together at Most Thieves keyboardist Eric Rickey’s studio, Mark Stoermer and Dave Keuning of The Killers stepped in and contributed bass and guitars. And the sessions continued whenever Whited wasn’t on the road.

After allowing fans to sample the songs on Bandcamp, Bombay Heavy has finished its first full-length. A handful of tracks from the new record will replace the older versions online, but the rest won’t be available until at least the first of the year. On the advice of a few industry friends, the band’s taking measured steps from here.

“A lot of elbows that I’m rubbing out there are significant people in the business that I can hand the record off to,” says Whited. “The folks that are consulting us are pretty plugged in, pretty substantial, and they are really, really behind it and want everything to move in a very wise, calculated fashion.”

For now, that means building a buzz by playing live. To that end, Whited and Hopkins will be backed by some potent players, a couple of whom, Tobias Ashmore and Bobby Lee Parker, also played out with the pair last year in another project, Aubergine Electric, which made its local debut almost exactly a year ago.

Taylor Milne from Big Talk, a veteran of the scene who’s also played with the Silver State and Expert on October, is sharing guitar duties with Parker, Whited’s counterpart on The Killers crew, who works as guitar tech for Dave Keuning. With sensational songs and a solid lineup that also includes Colin Hotchkiss on bass, the Las Vegas band is poised to gain great exposure right out of the gate. Of course, it also doesn’t hurt that the guys don’t have to start from scratch.

“The beauty of me being on the road,” Whited points out, “is not only the networking taking place, but I can also plan tours for us and sew seeds. So we’re not going in cold to market.”

It doesn’t get any more killer than that.

Read more from Dave Herrera at reviewjournal.com. Contact him at dherrera@reviewjournal.com and follow @rjmusicdh on Twitter.

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