Locals 'Difuser' bandmates keep coming back
BY JENNIFER CHANCELLOR World Scene Writer
Sunday, November 25, 2012
11/25/12 at 4:40 AM
Difuser is a working man's band that relished its earliest days with a tribute concert to Nirvana atop a Tulsa Sound Warehouse in 1999.
"Hole was in town, it was the least we could do," said Difuser frontman Erv Felker in a recent interview.
The surf-punk and alternative rock act made a name for itself locally with a 6-plus-foot-tall drummer in drag, a bassist with his face often obscured with a gang-style bandana and a lead singer who strongly favored Kurt Cobain.
These days, drummer Matt Galloway is a technology specialist "in real life" and prefers jeans and tees to dresses and heels, bassist Mike Armstrong covers his face with a three-day beard and Felker is a retired military man and full-time stay-at-home dad to three girls.
They've gigged in many high-profile bars in recent months, including The Crystal Pistol, Downtown Lounge, Soundpony, Dwelling Spaces, Gypsy Coffeehouse, The Hunt Club, The Colony and even the historic Blue Note Lounge in Oklahoma City. In earlier days, Difuser also opened for bands including musicians like surf guitar legend Dick Dale and punk icon Agent Orange.
"The days of riding in rank band vans and touring the country are pretty much through," said Armstrong. "At least mine are."
The trio laughed during lunch at a local mom-and-pop Mexican restaurant. "Yeah, we're not doing any of this to be famous. We're past that. What we do these days is play retro-fueled rock 'n' roll for grown-ups."
Difuser's readied its self-titled third full studio release for a Friday concert at The Vanguard in Tulsa.
Its old-school sound is new again, yet still draws comparisons to the great college music (and influences) of yore: Nirvana, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Agent Orange, Foo Fighters and even The Black Keys.
The guys dig straight-ahead, surf-tinged rock 'n' roll, as do the musicians who play with them. Former band members are like a who's who of Tulsa music, too: Buz Ras, Dave Cantrell (younger brother to Alice in Chains' Jerry Cantrell), Jenny Copple, Jed Bellew, Dave Douthitt and Jeremy Anthematten. But they're not dropping names.
What matters to Difuser is the music. Apparently, it's won over a lot of local names that most anyone who's heard local music in recent months will recognize: On Friday, Brian Gresh from Queen Extravaganza will sit in with the band, as will cellist Amanda Hardy, alt-rocker Chad Ferguson, local punkster Chad Malone and others. Felker and Armstrong formed the band as friends in 1997, and are now on their seventh drummer.
No worries, Galloway said.
"They seriously found me from a Craigslist ad," he said. "Once I passed 30, the last thing I wanted to be in is a cover band. I spent 10 years looking for exactly this opportunity - to play original music with a local, established band."
They also share similar influences, from The Pixies to The Who and Led Zeppelin, he said. "And, we all have kids."
So, the family men play gigs for the same reason most people go to see them live - to have fun.
Somehow, Difuser has survived marriage, divorce, kids, girlfriends, day jobs and, for Felker, a long and storied military career.
Felker joined the army in 1985 and moved to the Marines in 1990 as a recon Marine and infantryman.
"I was the guy that parachuted in and figured out what was really going on," he said.
He served in Operation Desert Storm in 1990-91 in Kuwait, Operation Restore Hope in 1993 in Somalia, Operation Iraqi Freedom from 2003-'05. He also worked in Israel, Jordan, Yemen, Djibouti, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, he said.
"My ship was the one that got hit in Aqaba, Jordan, in 2005."
He took a break from the military to hit college at OSU-Okmulgee from 1994-2000, and formed the band with Armstrong in 1997. Armstrong has been in death metal bands. Galloway's played urban jazz and acoustic rock. Felker is a surf-rock-punk guy with '90s grunge leanings. Together, they're fun-loving, poke-fun-at-themselves rock 'n' rollers - some nights. The others, well, Galloway is helping to develop a smartphone app that features the Beryl Ford photography collected for the local library and helping take care of four kids with his wife. Armstrong helps sell industrial goods and spends time with his wife and children, too.
The band has been the constant for Felker and Armstrong, especially Felker. It's what he returns to when he has down time from his military career. Likewise with his four blond daughters, ages 13, 11, 7 and 5. The three youngest live at home with him full-time, he said.
He made it through all that with health intact. Mostly. His last "gig" for the military, as he calls it, was as an instructor at ranger school for the Army at Fort Benning, Ga.
A rocky landing from a jump ended his career - a thick, ragged scar down the back of his neck is the only obvious outward sign of injury. Soon after, in 2010, he retired, moved back to Tulsa and reconnected with his band. Again.
"Why do we still play after all these years?" Armstrong asked himself. "That's a good question with a simple answer. We'll play until it's not fun anymore."
with special guest Brian Gresh of Queen Extravaganza, cellist Amanda Harvy and Chad Malone of Larkin sitting in with Difuser, among others
with opening acts Triple Fang, Shake Shake, Loaded Dice
When: Doors open 7 p.m., showtime 8 p.m. Friday
Where: The Vanguard, 222 N. Main St.
Tickets: General admission $5, available in advance at tulsaworld.com/ticketfly and at the door.
Original Print Headline: Bandmates keep coming back
Jennifer Chancellor 918-581-8346
Drummer Matt Galloway (left), lead vocalist Erv Felker, and bassist Mike Armstrong are Difuser. CHRISTOPHER SMITH/ Tulsa World
All family men, the guys of Difuser play gigs for exactly the same reason that people go to see them live - to have fun. CHRISTOPHER SMITH/ Tulsa World