Concert preview: Bad Sports not concerned with playing nice

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From the June 26, 2014 edition

Bad Sports singer/guitarist Orville Neeley is trying to be more direct these days.

It’s a trait that surfaced repeatedly in a mid-June phone interview where the frontman copped to stealing a keyboard line from Dire Straits (“I’m just going to come out and say it right now: the keyboard solo [on ‘Terrible Place’] is definitely ripped from ‘Walk of Life.’”), expounded on the grittier turn the garage-punk trio’s music took with last year’s Bras (“Frankly, I’m tired of trying to write upbeat pop songs when I don’t really feel it”) and revealed the motivating factor that first made him want to form a band in the late ’90s.

“I want to say it was ’96 [or] ’97 when all these depressing-sounding bands started coming out — stuff I still don’t like,” said Neeley, 28, who joins the group for a concert at Ace of Cups on Wednesday, July 2. “I remember some shit like The Goo Goo Dolls coming on the radio, and I was like, ‘What is this? Why are we listening to this?’ That’s what got me off my ass to [make music].”

This forwardness frequently bleeds over into Bras — “And everyone I know is stupid,” barks the singer at one point — a scruffy, punk-and-garage-steeped effort that would have sounded perfectly at home blasting on the PA system at CBGB’s in the mid-to-late ’70s. Over the course of the album’s dozen tracks, the frontman directs his ire at modern society’s embrace of crass consumerism (“Nothing in This World”), ex-girlfriends (“Free Spirit”) and wealthy individuals who fritter their lives away on frivolous pursuits (“Rich Kid City”).

“I’ve put up with a lot of bullshit over time, and it gets to a point where you don’t want to deal with it anymore,” said Neeley, who was born in Oklahoma, raised in Dallas and received his musical introduction via Baptist hymnals, which he compared to early blues and country numbers. “So I just talk about stuff that’s on my mind rather than trying to write something simply because it’s catchy.

“The gutter is always there, and that’s something I guess I’ve become a little more aware of over time — or at least tried to be more honest about. If anything, I can imagine our material in the future will just get darker.”

Photo courtesy of Bad Sports