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The one true meaning of...Hayflick Limit?  pontificating by J. Hart

Hayflick Limit  It's not real often that I honestly can't come up with a way to describe a band, but it happens sometimes. Locals Hayflick Limit are that kind of band -- they sound normal, but somehow oddly defy easy categorization; are they pop, country, prog-rock, punk, what? Actually, I guess the music they make is pretty much all those things, all mixed up and put together into something cool and surprisingly new. They may wear suits and ties, but they're definitely no retro-swing band. The energy onstage is incredible, and they're amazing to watch... Those Hayflick boys make some strange, catchy, funky music, whatever you want to call it. Last fall, I sat down with Jeff Herman (singer/guitarist), Robin Moore (bassist/singer), and Devon Moore (drummer), and tried to figure it out.


So, what've y'all been up to?
Jeff: Uh...recording, actually. We're doing a -- what's the name of Will's company? Epic?
Devon: Epic Software. They're like an animation company; computer animation, and they do all sorts of things, like advertisements -- advertising firms and children's books -- and demos for gas companies...

Cool. You guys are writing music for them?
Devon: Yeah...for some reason, he really hates computer-generated music --
Robin: "For some reason..." [laughs]
Devon: Well, I mean, lots of people into it don't care, so it's really cool that he does, so... We owed him some rent money for jamming at his house, where we used to practice, and we called him to tell him we'd be paying up pretty soon, and he said, tell you what, give me some music and, uh, call it even. Actually, there's a lot of potential spinning out of it in a lot of different directions. I think it may be sort of like open-copyright stuff, background...

Not "song" songs.
Devon: Soundscapes, yeah.
Jeff: So, we're moving out of the live venue to just recording muzak, and uh...elevator music. [laughs]
Devon: Exactly.
Jeff: "Hayflick on a lift soon near you."
Robin: We've been doing like, minute-and-a-half pieces. Like we'll say, "okay, let's do a ska piece" -- we'll do like a ska piece, work on it for a few minutes, mess it up about a hundred and fifty times, and then actually get it on. We've done several different pieces of different natures. I mean, he's got one cartoon that we've seen a big piece of -- it's not done yet; everything's obviously three-dimensional graphics, because it's computer graphics -- and he's planning on...they're doing something with this, giving it to MTV.
Devon: Yeah, it's "Sushi"... "Cartoon Sushi," something like that?

Yeah, I think I've heard of it.
Robin: It's going on MTV --
Jeff: That's not to say it'll be on MTV, but it'll be hopefully submitted, so...
Devon: Well, I think it's pretty serious, 'cause...I got the impression that the cartoon they're doing is going on, but they're pursuing a contract with them...we'll see.

Like, to do a series?
Devon: Yeah. I think it's gonna be a bunch of different things, under their production, not necessarily a certain cartoon or certain characters.
Do they actually show you the cartoons, before you come up with the music?
Robin: Well, we've only seen the one.
Devon: We've seen about three-quarters, and what they're gonna do is once they finish it up, put it on video, and let us pop it in the VCR, and then kinda see the whole narrative.
Robin: But we're trying to record like a bunch of stuff, for whatever -- like if they need something that's... In other words, we're not slutting out our music or anything, 'cause it's not our music. For instance, we're probably gonna do like a little minute-and-a-half punk rock jam, and a little minute-and-a-half country-western-type thing, just like to give 'em a whole bunch of shit that if they want to take any part of it that they like -- what they're gonna do is cut it up, basically. They're gonna take a piece of it and loop it, so it just kinda repeats.
Devon: Basically, what we're putting out right now is focusing on the cartoon, but I think they have plans to do music for whatever they can, y'know, which is fine with us.

Are y'all actually recording another album or anything?
Jeff: Yeah, yeah...we're going supposedly October 15th --
Devon: It's probably gonna have to be the week after that, 'cause we have a show Saturday, I just realized.
Jeff: Late October we're going into the studio.

Is it gonna be like a full-length?
Jeff: Yeah. CD, not a tape -- do the real deal.
Devon: About thirteen songs, maybe? Something like that.
Jeff: We'll see. But I couldn't give a date for it, for sure, but hopefully within the year.

Hayflick Limit Any other plans beyond that?
Devon: Uh, well, like I said, there's a lot of things spinning out of that Epic Software...he's interested in doing a enhanced CD for us and use it as their demo, so we're kind of excited about that. It'll have all the bells and whistles, 'cause they're gonna use it as a selling point, and also, he wants to set up a webpage, same sort of deal. I mean, it's a pretty big company, they work with a lot of...
Robin: As far as I understand, they're not gonna own the copyrights to anything, but they're gonna kinda use us as their "baby" in the beginning.
Jeff: I think we're gonna start...not "whoring" ourselves out, but really start playing the club scene a lot more, too. We've been kind of to the point where we're doing shows like once a month, and I think we're gonna break down and start doing the, like, "play anywhere and everywhere"-type...
Devon: Yeah, we've been trying to make the clubs happy and make sure we get all our friends out, so it's been infrequent shows, and I think we're gonna just start hammering it out, and if nobody shows up, whatever, just try to get exposure. As great and persistent as our friends have been, we can't rely on them for, y'know, for that long.

Friends'll only come to see a certain number of shows.
Jeff: Yeah, no question about it. It's kind of a weird thing, though; it's a catch-22, 'cause you always want to have so many people out at your shows, but at the same time, if you don't go out and continue to get new people, you're gonna shoot yourself in the foot. We're at that horrible stage where we've been playing out for like a year and a half -- how long've we been playing out? Like a year and three months, I guess? [Ed. Note: As of the fall of 1998, that is.]
Devon: Started in May.

What was it before that? I'm not actually sure how Hayflick Limit started, so...
Devon: Okay, we're sorta like family -- I'll tell you the story. Jeff and I are sorta like family, because --
Robin: They used to beat me up all the time.

Well, you're the younger brother, so y'know.
Devon: Nah, he's taller than me, so I try to stand clear, but... We were in a sort of psychedelic punk rock -- I dunno if that really describes it -- band in high school together, like the later parts of high school, so we were like real good friends, used to play just drums and guitar, in his upstairs bedroom, and we'd been jamming together for a long time. And Robin's sorta like family, 'cause he is family.

I'm really impressed with that. I think if I was in a band with either of my little brothers, we'd fucking kill each other.
Robin: We try sometimes. [laughs]
Devon: Surprisingly, the only times we try to kill each other is usually...it has to do with stuff outside the band.
Robin: It was actually before the band ever got happening.
Devon: It hasn't really been a problem. But we didn't really beat on each other too much when we were younger, anyway. Not like most of how my friends treat their little brothers... Then, uh, Robin was pretty busy in Florida; actually, he started off here.
Robin: In pretty bad bands. But I never played out in Houston, though. I left Houston when I was fifteen, and uh...
Why, if you don't mind me asking?
Robin: Our parents split up, and I was given a choice to live with my father or to live with my mother in Florida, and I had run away, I dunno, a month and a half or two months just previous to moving. I did probably what most kids nowadays do or have done at that age: when I was fourteen or fifteen, I got into some drugs, nothing major, y'know; I did my share of LSD and smoked a lot of pot, and I actually went to Florida...after coming back home, I ended up moving to Florida. My father moved out -- he sold the house and moved out, and I decided to move to Florida. And I moved to Florida and became straightedge. I'm serious, like X-on-the-hand straightedge. It was hilarious. I've been on a television talk show talking about it.

Really? Which one?
Robin: It was called "Smile TV" -- it was like a cable-access thing in Florida, but it was hilarious. "Smile TV"... The first band I joined in Florida was called Rise Above, and it was...like "rise above!," and it was this horrible straightedge band, but it was hilarious, man, it was total stupid straightedge punk rock, with this singer who couldn't even yell. I mean, he was just like horrible. And I did that for a while, and I got into another band when I was fifteen called the Blind Venetians.
Devon: I love that name.
"Blind Venutians," or "Blind Venetians"?
Robin: Blind Venetians.
Jeff: Like Venetian blinds. [laughs]
Robin: And we were just way to the opposite of that; it was really mellow. I'd have to say there was some influence in it from the Cure, only for myself, because the guitar player loved classic rock. I mean, he was a real big Zeppelin fan, and he liked some of the modern stuff that was coming out -- he was really into the Black Crowes and everything -- but I had listened to mainly...well, when I was younger I listened to fairly crappy music. Well, I still don't think it's "crappy," it's just not something I listen to now...but I was real big into The Cure and New Order.

You grow out of music after a while.
Robin: Yeah. But our singer was incredible, man -- he was younger than me, but had the voice of like...I don't even know.
Devon: He was what? Fourteen?
Robin: Yeah... And then I did just a bunch of other bands, started playing out a lot, and did some almost kind of, uh, commercial rock-and-roll crap, but just played around... My most fun band I was ever in was probably --
Devon: Except for Hayflick Limit.
Robin: Except for Hayflick Limit, of course -- was this cover band with a 41-year-old and a 39-year-old. The 41-year-old was a crackhead; we lived on the Island in Florida, like in this little island community, and he was a total crackhead, long-haired hippie white skinny guy. And I played bass with them, and it was the only cover band I've ever been in, but it wasn't horrible, because all we played were like badass, classic rock, like y'know, Hendrix and Trower, I mean, Robert Cray...just all kinds of cool shit. Santana. I had a lot of fun in that.

A ringing recommendation -- "it wasn't horrible."
Robin: Well, I hate cover bands, I would just about say any of 'em were... It was a lot of fun for me, 'cause I must've been like seventeen, and I got to go hang out in bars and drink beer and sit on stage with two old guys. I had a lot of fun with it. I played in various bands; did that in Florida, then came back here and started jamming with Devon, and Devon and I were in a band called...well, I don't want that covered, 'cause I don't want any publicity going to that band, 'cause the singer's an asshole, but, uh...
Devon: Let me interrupt you for a second. It starts off, Jeff's in town and he's like, "man, we've gotta jam sometime," and, uh -- Robin may not even know this whole story -- and I was telling him, y'know, I don't really have an amp we could use, or we'd have to use some of Robin's equipment, I'm not sure...and by the way, he's like really kick ass on bass, at just falling in and following and taking leads and whatever. I mean, he's just real good at conforming and going somewhere with it, and so I told Robin "hey, why don't you come with us; we're gonna jam." And that was pretty much how it all started, real nonchalant, and Jeff was in school at College Station and we had the other band going, and surprisingly, that one day we jammed for like an hour-and-a-half, maybe two hours, and it just worked out so cool, 'cause the way we were working together...
Jeff: Y'know how you can feel it sometimes, when a song works? It was that, and when were jamming, you could tell it was there.
Devon: So, Robin and I were like "whoa, man, that was really cool," and Jeff's like, "hey, let's start a band," and y'know... I had the same idea, except that we figured Jeff was too busy, and there was too much going on, and I was like, "you can do this? Yeah, okay?" -- we thought about it, and we were like "okay." It just happened, that quickly. And we started working on some of the things, like Jeff had some songs that he'd written previously, and we sort of jammed on the first time together, and it ended up developing into songs, and that's where it all started.

Hayflick Limit [to Jeff:] Do you write most of the songs, then, or is it joint, or...?
Jeff: I think it's joint. I think, uh, I wrote a lot of the songs at the beginning, but as it's moved on we tend to -- the better songs are written as a band out of a jam or what have you. I mean, there's still...I'll bring in a guitar line, and the band will arrange it, from the guitar line; or Robin will bring in a bass line, or Devon will come up with a tune, and we'll arrange it from that aspect.
Devon: I guess it's a little sticky sometimes, y'know... I think it's cool that everybody has something to say with what's going on. Actually, like Jeff said, in the beginning he wrote a lot of the "foundation," and he had material already and then was coming up with things faster than Robin and I. But we all discuss the different rhythm changes, and...it gets down-and-dirty then, the details, and we pretty much vote. And the rule is we all gotta be happy with it. Y'know, we've all been in bands where the majority's ruled, and you're sitting through a song that you don't necessarily feel that everybody else wants to do, but we pretty much just...as far as I know, everybody's happy with it, or we don't do it. That's important, I think, 'cause it's kinda like "democratic," but at the same time it's not just like "the vote wins," in a way.
The veto method.
Devon: Exactly. We take turns being Congress and Parliament and...although we don't do any Parliament songs. [laughs]
Jeff: We could, though...

I had a hard time classifying you guys, the first couple times I saw y'all, and when you guys played at Rudyard's, I think this last time, somebody pointed out that you guys sounded a lot like fIREHOSE and the Minutemen.
Devon: That's a compliment.
Robin: I'll start...okay, I've heard lots of times -- and not in this band, really, but in other bands I've been in -- I've heard lots of times, "The Cure." I mean I was a real big listener to The Cure. I'm talking like the stuff from the late '70s, early '80s, none of the bullshit that came out past...like, the album that had "Hot Hot Hot" on it. You probably remember that one. Everything before -- they had some cool shit in the '70s, when they were still a three-piece, and...anyway, I heard that a lot. So that is probably, I'm sure, somewhat of an influence. But in our band, I feel like the influence that took over is when I was just a youngster, [Devon] was a real big fan of the Minutemen, and he'd always bring me to his room, sit me down and make me listen to it.
Devon: I was militant, sometimes.
Robin: Like fifteen, twenty minutes at a time, and I loved 'em, man, I really did... It's probably the most amount of influence on bass that I can actually hear in music that I play with our music would be, of course, Mike Watt.

You're gonna hate me for this, but the first thing I thought of when I saw y'all play -- and I think it was largely because of the bass -- was the Dave Matthews Band.
Robin: Yeah, that's alright. I don't like them, but they are a really good band.
Jeff: I don't like 'em either, but technically, they're completely fucking proficient, so while I think the style is completely different, I don't think it's an insult in any way shape or form.

I thought y'all were gonna kick my ass.
Robin: Nah. What was weird is that I'd always had a really aggressive style of playing, moreso than when I got into this band, and so did Devon. And Jeff had a different style, which was not "not aggressive," y'know, but it was just different, and it didn't necessarily tone it down, it toned it to like a different path. I can't explain it, really. If we were playing with another guitarist, I'd probably be playing real heavy shit.
Devon: I think Jeff's guitar style is very important to Hayflick Limit's sound, and the fact that Robin and I sort of "conform" to what's going on. I wouldn't necessarily play the same type of style with a different type of music, so I think...I don't know how to explain that -- and it can be taken the wrong way -- but I mean, it's really true that he's kinda brought different things out of us than maybe what, y'know. It all depends on how we're writing the songs and whatnot, but I mean, it's... I like to take turns kinda going off the bass, or the guitar -- sometimes Jeff and I are matching up, sometimes I'm doing my own thing, he's doing his own thing, maybe Robin and I are matching up, so I mean, uh... The fact is, when Robin and I get together and just jam, we just go all over the place. I'm not saying Jeff's weighing us down, or giving us a path to follow, necessarily --
Jeff: My biggest influence -- I don't have "influences," per se, like "I want my guitar stylings to sound this way," or "I want my songs to sound this way," but is my two favorite bands of all time, Billy Bragg and The Clash. That's my answer to that question. I guess...you hear us do covers, the covers we do are also influences, I guess. We do a Scratch Acid song, the old Austin band, we do "Sex Beat" by The Gun Club -- that's an old Jeffrey Lee Pierce song -- and we do a Townes Van Zandt cover, "White Freightliner Blues."
I don't think I've heard that one.
Jeff: Do we do any other covers?
Devon: That's it. We've talked about a million others. I'm like a huge Subhumans fan -- that has almost nothing to do with Hayflick Limit, but they're probably one of my favorite bands. I think it's the songwriting that's an influence, more than anything.
Robin: When I was too young to probably even appreciate music, you know who my favorite band was? The Stray Cats. Slim Jim on my wall, man... I don't like rockabilly much -- well, it depends what you consider rockabilly; I mean, if you consider John Spencer rockabilly... That was probably my very first ever, because that's way before I listened to any of the other bands I named. Stray Cats, man, they just had that groove.
Jeff: Menudo...
Devon: Menudo!

Hayflick Limit You've gotta be kidding...right?
Jeff: You haven't asked the question, but I want to just address it because I want people to stop asking the question -- well, not stop asking; I don't care if people ask the question, but if twenty people read this, and we have to answer this twenty less times, I'll be happier. The name Hayflick Limit is just a biological term, and it represents mortality. So that's all it is. It's an obscure biological term that represents cell growth.

What's it mean?
Jeff: Well, the long answer is, when you have a set of cells that begin to divide, you have the first cell -- that cell will divide into two cells, so on and so forth, 'til you got a million cells. Starting from that first cell, it can only divide X number of times, and then mathematically, physically, whatever, it cannot divide further. That's technically the Hayflick Limit. So, maybe we just wanted to be a death metal band, or the whole Misfits band, the death-rock thing, but we just didn't want to admit. So, there you go.

I'd always wondered. I told y'all the first time I saw you guys I thought you guys were gonna be a cowpunk band -- I think it's the "hay" thing.
Robin: Well, Jeff came up with the name, and Devon and I clicked to it, 'cause I thought the sound represented it. I think we have a "Texas" sound; I wouldn't necessarily say...
There are some country elements in there.
Robin: Yeah, I mean, I think we have somewhat of a Texas sound, and we thought that it kind of matched up. I have to say that I hate when people ask me what the name means, because like he said, all the time... At work, people ask me, and I go "go ask Jeff." I literally do...I don't even like the answer anymore, 'cause even when you answer it, they're like "huh?"

Devon: So, we've all like "babbled"; do you have any questions that we can add something interesting...?
Well, anything beyond this point would be like, y'know, GQ-type questions.
Robin: I use Salon Selectives. It's the watermelon scent, "ultimate hold."
Devon: That's what does it for him and the ladyfolk. I think I should comment -- I was trying to think of something interesting about the band, and we did have this one drunk crazy guy at one of our shows at Mary Jane's, doing all these wacky dance moves, legs twitching and whatever. And after the show they were like demanding a CD or tape, and we didn't have anything to give 'em; I said like "give me your phone number or address and I'll send you one" -- the couple, I'm talking about -- and they were pissed off about that. But anyway, I told the guy, he said "did you see me dancing?" I was like, "yeah, man, that was cool; I like your moves," and he goes, "yeah, man, I got a lot of Motown in me, and I like to just mix it up with a bunch of other shit." END


Photo #1 courtesy of Hayflick Limit; Photos #2-4 by Jeremy Hart.

All contents © 2004 Space City Rock, unless otherwise credited.