Formed in 2008 as a side-project by Joseph O. Pugsley of The Dark Brothers, The 65’s are a band from NJ consisting of Joe, John Steele and Daniel Smith, each bringing their own influences and musical pedigrees.
During the impending demise of alt-country band, The Dark Brothers, also featuring John, the late Jeff Gashler and the late Josh Silverman of Shirk Circus fame, Joseph O. Pugsley set out to record a solo album and decided to enlist his bandmate, John Steele on drums and friend, Daniel Smith, on bass guitar. Having known both since the early 90’s, Joe’s philosophy was very much an organic one – ask a few close friends to learn some of his older unrecorded songs and take it from there. However, it didn’t take long for the three of them to realize that they were onto something, thanks in large part to the chemistry afforded from relationships spanning over decades.
As a youngster, John Steele had grown up on a steady diet of The Stones, Sabbath and Alice Cooper, not to mention old school crooners like Sinatra and even Tom Waits. However, it was the discovery of Led Zeppelin that would end up being the greatest influence on his pounding yet always very much anchored style of drumming. While drumming styles of the 80’s and 90’s came and went, John continued to stick to his guns throughout his tours of duty with bands like Genocide, Backseat Driver, Holeshot, Johnny and The Has-Beens and, most notably, legendary punk rockers Electric Frankenstein. (Throwing in a stint on guitar in The High School Sweethearts, for good measure.) In fact, one could easily argue that it’s John’s steadiness (both musical and otherwise) that keeps The 65’s from derailing. That being said, even though John had spent years gigging and touring with dozens of local musicians, it wasn’t until the formation of The Dark Brothers that he and Joe would end up forming a musical bond – a bond that remains inseparable to this day.
While originally a bass player influenced by bands like Iron Maiden and Rush, it was bands like Ween, The Cure, R.E.M. and The Pixies, songwriters like Neil Finn and Bob Mould, as well as vocalists like Peter Gabriel and Sinead O’ Connor, that would ultimately have the greatest impact on Daniel. During the early 90’s, as a member of Shirk Circus, Daniel would end up playing countless shows (often sharing bills with Joe and John’s former bands) until an unfortunate stint with Inger Lorre, with which Joe was also briefly a member, prompted him to quit playing altogether. Although courted several times during his ‘retirement’ to play bass, he opted instead to hibernate with a newly acquired guitar collection until finally being asked by Joe to contribute to an upcoming recording project. Having been a huge fan of The Dark Brothers, it was quite simply an offer too good to refuse.
Although perhaps not as pedigreed as his bandmates, since Joe spent most of his formative years in his old band, Puggle, make no mistake that he is the engine that drives The 65’s. Having picked up a guitar at an early age, to the point where he had to sneak into bars illegally to play shows because he was too young to get in, Joe quickly began soaking in everything he could get his hands on from punk bands like The New York Dolls, The Dead Boys and The Clash to late-80’s Minneapolis bands like Husker Du and The Replacements. But mostly, it was songwriters like Dylan and Johnny Cash that would leave the biggest imprint on his style. A style that, although sometimes polarizing, is always recognizable.
Drawing on years of experience and wide array of influences, it’s no wonder why their debut album, Strike Hard! on Dromedary Records has been described as “an amalgam of college-rock’s brightest moments” by Jim Testa in The Jersey Journal, a “delightful mix of styles” by Magnet magazine and “affecting and impressive in equal measure” by Joe Wawrzyniak of Jersey Beat.