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NoCanDo: Oxford’s Metal Misfits

No Can Do from Bridget Runge on Vimeo.

If a death metal band performs in Oxford, Miss. do they make a sound?

The band members of NoCanDo are an unlikely bunch in an even unlikelier place. They play original hard rock and metal songs around town whenever they get the opportunity, but continually struggle to book and fill venues.

In any major city, Shane Taylor, Michael McCollugh, Gary Goodballet, and Chris Coble, might be able to find a wider audience, but in the land of soulful blues and country twang, their ear-splitting hard rock screams must fight to be heard.

“We’re loud, just plain and simple,” said McCollugh. “It’s just in-your-face hard rock. Not everyone can handle it, especially not around here.”

The four are aware of how meager their following in Oxford is. Taylor, the guitarist, will readily admit that many of their fans and supporters are personal friends of theirs.

All four members have day jobs. Taylor is an Oxford-University Transit bus driver. Coble is a manager at PetsMart. Goodballet owns a plumbing company, McCollugh works for him. At the end of their shifts though, they trade in their uniforms for ripped jeans and frayed t-shirts and exchange nametags for lip rings.

Taylor, 24, and McCollugh, 23, connected through mutual friends in the pitifully underrepresented underground punk rock scene in Northern Mississippi and spent of their childhoods hanging around the local skate park. Taylor had been playing guitar and exploring modern rock music for several years, and McCollugh had a natural affinity for the dissonant vocals associated with punk rock.

In late 2013, the friends decided to start putting a band together and began looking for recruits. They called themselves Between Famous and Nothing.

Goodballet, 45, is McCollugh’s stepfather. Taylor recalled his shock when the older man first showcased his talents on the bass guitar to him.

“At first we were going to keep looking, but then, dude could jam on the bass,” he said.

Maybe Goodballet was the best man for the job (his talent and expertise on rock music certainly made him qualified), but perhaps they also had few candidates in this small traditional town looking to join a struggling punk rock band.

Soon after, the three found drummer Chris Coble, who sheepishly will only admit that he is “somewhere close to Gary’s age,” through an ad he placed in local newspapers when he moved to Oxford from Memphis, Tenn. Coble was seeking a band to join and was looking to play harder stuff than Taylor and the crew had yet experimented with.

With the addition of Coble, the band decided to test out a new, heavier, direction. From a feeble punk rock group, a head-banging, hard core, death metal band was born. They called themselves NoCanDo.

But “hard core” is to put it mildly. The wide age gap among the musicians means a wide generational gap when it comes to their musical inspirations, which collide together in a cacophony of raging guitar riffs and screaming vocals.

Goodballet and Coble grew up with the likes of Iron Maiden and Ozzy Osbourne, and the older men know in advance to cover their pierced ears and pretend they can’t hear the younger boys when they talk about their own childhood favorites.

“I know Gary and Chris always hate me for saying this,” cue Goodballet and Coble cringing in anticipation, “but I grew up loving Blink-182,” said Taylor.

Every week, the band practices at someone’s house, sometimes Coble’s, sometimes a friend/fan of the band offers up his phone. Their neighbors seem to be the least resistant to these deafening weekly rehearsals. At least if they don’t appreciate it, they are the least vocal about it.

But it’s understandable. Every week is a scene right out of an old rock documentary. Their practices are filled with banging heads, blaring guitars, and thundering drums while McCollugh, with his bright pink hair, is doubled over, face contorted, screaming into a microphone.

But finding a space to practice isn’t the challenge. It’s finding venues to actually perform in that is the bigger problem.

“We do have to go on the road kind of a lot,” said Coble. “Every couple weeks we pack up an head up to Memphis. There’s a pretty solid metal following up there just like in most bigger cities.”

One of their favorite venues is the New Daisy in Memphis.

“It’s a totally different feel up there. When we play there it’s always really packed and people are engaged and love it. Completely the opposite of playing in Oxford,” said Taylor.

Though they relish it when they have the opportunity to travel, NoCanDo certainly wishes they could find a bigger audience closer to home.

After three years they still can’t convince local venues to let them participate regularly in, perhaps the unfairly named, “open mic” nights. “No Heavy Metal!!!!” is the disclaimer in bold that is now at the top of the sign-in sheet at Rooster’s Blues House in the Oxford Square. Still, NoCanDo will not be deterred.

“We did get to play at Rooster’s once a few weeks ago. We just sort of snuck up to the stage between bands,” said Goodballet with a devilish smile, “but they don’t let us play there no more because we’re too hard core.”

“These college kids here in Oxford wouldn’t know good music if it slapped them in the face,” said Goodballet as he exhaled a puff of smoke from his Marlboro.

Incidentally, slapping audiences in the face with their sound is exactly what NoCanDo does best.

“A lot of the time, the majority of the people at our gigs around here didn’t even show up to hear us,” added McCollugh. “They just happen to be there. Sometimes they think it’s fun and kind of get into it and take pictures and stuff, but sometimes they just turn their backs kind of and retreat to the bar.”

“We know a lot of people around here just want some good old music that they can drink and socialize to, and that’s not really our style,” said Taylor.

But they won’t be deterred.

“At the end of the day, it’s playing live that inspires us. Not everyone is going to like us everywhere, but no matter what kind of reaction we get from the crowd, we sure have a hell of a lot of fun doing it,” said Coble.

To the few devoted fans NoCanDo does have, the band is forever grateful.

“There are some folks around here that really love us and come to all the shows and all that, and that’s just awesome. It’s a small group, but we’re pretty sure the rest of the world will come around to it soon enough.”

Bridget Runge is a Meek School of Journalism and New Media alum.

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