Jeremy Lyons, guitarist and leader of the greatly missed Deltabilly Boys, never thought he would end up playing with two of the surviving members of Morphine, the 1990s “low rock” trio of drum, saxophone and bass. “I had not heard Morphine before, but I had heard of them peripherally,” says Lyons over the phone from Cambridge, Massachusetts. Morphine, with a sexy, mysterious sound and lyrics that echoed beat poetry, was one of the highlights of the music of the 1990s until lead singer/bassist Mark Sandman dropped dead of a heart attack onstage in Palestrina, Italy in 1999.
Lyons hooked up with the remaining members, sax player Dana Colley and drummer Jerome Deupree, after he moved to Cambridge following the federal flood after Hurricane Katrina. They met through mutual friends, and “Dana told me to come by Hi-And-Dry Studios if I needed anything and to hang out,” remembers Lyons. They hit it off, and in 2009, when the festival at Palestrina invited Dana and Jerome back, they asked Jeremy to join. “I had to learn all these tunes, and I was going to do it on guitar, but I had Sandman’s two-string bass, and it was cool. However, it’s full size, and I’m 5’6”, so I felt ridiculous playing it. I had a friend of mine who makes instruments make me a better-sized bass.”
They now often play under the name Ever Expanding Elastic Waistband, and Lyons is enjoying his new gig. “It’s good that I was not familiar with the music, so I can come at it in a different way. Two-string slide bass works for me because I’m a slide player anyway. It’s bizarre at first but wonderfully freeing. It’s really great to flail away at the two strings and pull up the slide and hit another chord or just play one string. And some of the lyrics are amazing. It’s lots of fun and fun to play.”
Even though he had not heard Morphine before, he had come in contact with the band. “Dana has these wonderful diaries of touring with Morphine and he took Polaroids while he toured. Dana was reading to me from a diary of when he was in New Orleans in 1993 or 1994 with the band. He’s walking around Jackson Square and sees a band with multiple steel guitars and a tap dancer. I told him, ‘That’s my band.’ and Dana flips the page over and there is a photo of me.”
Jeremy Lyons and Members of Morphine play Friday, October 28 at 4:15 p.m. on the Preservation Hall Stage.