For fans of ’80s post-punk and goth, Poptone is a godsend. The new band features guitarist/vocalist Daniel Ash and drummer Kevin Haskins performing songs released by their beloved groups Bauhaus, Love and Rockets and Tones on Tail.
Until Poptone’s formation, Ash never thought he would tour again. It took an inadvertent nudge from Motörhead’s late leader, Lemmy Kilmister, to change his mind. Several months ago, Ash fell asleep while listening to ambient music on YouTube via headphones—then woke up at 4 a.m. with Motörhead’s “Ace of Spades” blaring in his ears.
“Waking up and hearing that, the pennies sort of dropped,” Ash says, calling from California on a recent afternoon prior to the band’s May 12 Brooklyn Bowl gig. “It was obvious that I should go back on the road after all these years of not wanting to do it.”
Ash gave the idea a day or two to marinate, then reached out to Haskins—who, coincidentally, had been considering revisiting the same material. “We were talking about doing a DJ tour, and then I suggested, ‘Why don’t we do a live band tour?’” Haskins chimes in during the same phone call with the Weekly. “And I didn’t hear anything for a couple of days. I didn’t know that Daniel had this whole epiphany. I suddenly got this text saying, ‘Well, who’s going to play bass?’ I was like, ‘You want to do it?’ I was kind of shocked and then really excited.”
Haskins’ daughter, Diva Dompe, nabbed the bass gig by nailing the line to Tones on Tail’s most recognizable track, “Go!” (Ash says he bought Dompe her first bass guitar years ago, for her 13th birthday.)
Tones on Tail songs actually comprise 70 percent of Poptone’s setlist. Ash says he’s “delighted” by that proportion, since he wants that band—which released just one full-length and performed sporadically during its brief time together in the early ’80s—to find a wider audience.
“I think out of the three bands, it was my favorite,” he says. “I still think that music stands up really well. [But the band] was very, very underground when it came out. I’m excited about the idea of a whole new generation of people checking it out, that band’s music.”
Poptone’s April warm-up gig in LA captured the roaring, abrasive darkness that made the original bands so alluring, with a setlist featuring Tones on Tail’s “Christian Says” and “There’s Only One,” along with Love and Rockets’ “Mirror People” and “Sweet F.A.,” Bauhaus’ “Slice of Life,” and Adam Ant and Elvis Presley covers. “We’re just playing the songs that are our favorites, and what we presume the public’s favorites to be,” Ash says. “This is definitely not a tour of playing obscure stuff that nobody’s ever heard and being arty-farty about it. We’re definitely doing something that we hope is commercially viable, something that from start to finish works.”
Poptone recently announced a live album via PledgeMusic, and the group already has tour dates scheduled through July. It’s a testament to how well things are going for the band, and how much “synchronicity” Ash sees with Poptone’s launch—from easily finding open rehearsal space to amassing modern gear with the proper vintage sound and feel.
“A lot of weird and wonderful things have been going on with this setup,” Ash says. “It’s almost like the gods have definitely blessed us up till now. I’m going to touch wood right now.”
POPTONE with Nostalghia. May 12, 8 p.m., $27-$30. Brooklyn Bowl, 702-862-2695.