It’s 2 p.m. on a Saturday inside Starboard Tack. Brian Garth and Tom “TG” Miller are sitting across from me, both sipping whiskey. It’s an early start, but the two have a lot to celebrate.
Together, the pair are Black Camaro, a band of somewhat legendary proportions in Las Vegas—not in the commercial sense of The Killers or Imagine Dragons, but as actual Downtown patriots of the local scene. They’ve been active for almost two decades, playing nearly every dive bar in this city. Garth has produced and engineered the albums of countless Vegas-based bands, and Miller’s diverse artwork can be found gracing event posters, Weekly covers and local LPs alike.
On Valentine’s Day, Black Camaro released new, seventh album Protocol of Dreams. One day earlier, single “Out in the Rain” was featured on the new, NPR-curated Station Breaks monthly playlist (featured on NPR’s Slingshot list on Spotify). The guys have come a long way since the first article ever written about them, which Garth and Miller fondly reminisce about inside the bar. Garth’s then-roommate had a gun collection, so when he invited a CityLife reporter over to his house for the band’s first interview, a shotgun landed on the table. And a bunch of weed.
“It made it into the article,” Garth laughs. “We just wanted to appear dangerous,” Miller adds. “And I guess it worked.”
From then on, Garth and Miller said they were known as the “guns and weed” band. “Everyone thought we were super f*cked up on drugs, but we were the straightest motherf*ckers,” Garth says.
Their personal proclivities (or not) didn’t matter when you heard the music. Not quite indie, not quite punk, a little psychedelic and a little jammy— nothing before or since has sounded quite like Black Camaro. Protocol of Dreams is no different.
“We started recording sh*t [in 2001] not thinking ‘this is going to be an album’ or we’re going to end up being a band 18 years from now,” Garth said. “It didn’t work that way for us.”
Black Camaro has always been a collaborative effort, so it makes sense the band would partner with Running in Place Records for its debut vinyl release. “The whole idea was, if we do this, it has to be on vinyl and we have to put it out in the world,” Garth says. “It can’t just be like how we’ve always been, like, ah, f*ck it, let’s put it on Bandcamp.”
The album is admittedly more political than anything BC has ever done, but it doesn’t stick to one sonic theme. “Out of the Rain,” starts like a pounding Drive Like Jehu song, but Miller’s cool, melodic vocals quickly temper that aggressive force. Songs like “Dandelion” incorporate sunny ’60s and ’70s pop symphonics, while “Jefferson Kickstand” explores modern, electronic psychedelia. All of it’s worth sitting with and absorbing as you pour over the liner notes.
“I’ve recorded so many bands that have been on vinyl, and I’ve never had my own sh*t on vinyl,” Garth says. “The way [vinyl] tells a story, having to flip it over, it’s like a two-part mini-series. And we really designed it to be like that.”