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Deco Auto’s power-pop marches to the beat of a familiar drummer

Deco Auto is (from left) Pat Tomek, Steven Garcia and Tracy Flowers
Deco Auto is (from left) Pat Tomek, Steven Garcia and Tracy Flowers Heather Frazier

When Deco Auto needed to find a new drummer in 2013, it turned out they didn’t have to look far for a replacement.

Michelle Bacon, the band’s original drummer, had moved on to focus on other bands. So Tracy Flowers, Deco Auto’s bassist, asked Pat Tomek whether he knew of any drummers looking for a band to play with.

Tomek was already familiar with the band. In 2012 he recorded, mixed and mastered Deco Auto’s “Past Mistakes and Hauntings” EP. But he’s best known as the drummer in the Rainmakers.

Tomek told Flowers that he would be interested, which was news that Steven Garcia, the band’s lead singer and songwriter, found hard to believe.

“Tracy is fun-loving but has a wicked sense of humor,” Garcia told The Star. “I thought for sure she was just messing with my head.”

Garcia, you see, is a longtime admirer of the Rainmakers and Tomek.

“I saw them in concert. I saw them on MTV,” he said. “I thought they were huge rock stars. I even had their pictures from Rolling Stone magazine up on my wall. So having Pat in the band has been nothing short of amazing.

“He’s not only a steady and badass drummer, but he has a wealth of knowledge and solid ideas about songwriting.”

“Steven and Tracy are really fun to hang out and play with,” Tomek said. “But also, it gives me a chance to play a different way. It’s a lot busier than what I play with the Rainmakers or Howard Iceberg (and the Titanics), and that’s fun.”

Garcia started Deco Auto in 2011 with Flowers, who brought in Bacon, a bandmate briefly in the Straight-Ups. Deco Auto’s music reflects Garcia’s preferences and influences for bands with lots of punch and melody.

“I’m very influenced by the big-guitar groups that straddle punk and power pop,” he said, rattling of the names of bands like the Replacements, Husker Du and Sugar, Superdrag, the Lemonheads, the Smithereens, Teenage Fanclub and Matthew Sweet.

You can hear some of those influences in “Eco Aut,” released in 2014, which contains the singles “One of a Million” and “Frozen (Tears),” both of which bear some of the most appealing traits of Sweet’s pop-perfect album “Girlfriend”: crunchy guitars, sweet melodies and bright harmonies.

Garcia had been in several bands before starting up Deco Auto. While living in Colorado he co-founded a band called Armchair Martian, which signed a deal with California punk label Cargo Music, home to Rocket From the Crypt and Blink 182, among others. He later started his own band, Knee Jerk, which signed with an Arizona label called Knot Known Records.

He moved to Kansas City in 2004, dabbled in some music and then, through his wife, Elizabeth, met Flowers. Eventually, Deco Auto was formed. It has gained plenty of traction in the local scene. In addition to its own EP and single, Deco Auto’s music has been included on several local music compilations, including “Midwestern Audio, Vol. 1” and “Midcoast Takeover 2013,” both sponsored by the Midwest Music Foundation. A full-length record called “The Curse of Deco Auto” is expected to be released this year.

The band has played the Midcoast Takeover in Austin, Texas, at the South by Southwest Music Conference, and Screenland Armour’s Arts and Crafts Fest. In June, for the third year in a row, it will play the Center of the City punk fest in Kansas City.

“It’s an absolute blast,” Garcia said. “Even though Deco doesn’t really fit the strict definition of punk, God love ’em, they always invite us back.”

They may not be hard-core punk, but for Tomek, Deco Auto’s sound reminds him of one of his former bands and one of his favorite kinds of music.

“The first successful band I was in was a power-pop band, the Secrets, so it’s cool to come back to that genre again,” he said.

Tomek compared Garcia’s songwriting sense to other songwriters he plays drums for.

“Steven’s songs are carefully crafted, just as Howard’s and Bob’s are, and I like that,” he said, referring to Bob Walkenhorst of the Rainmakers. “He knows what he wants to happen at every moment in the song.”

Friday night, Garcia and Deco Auto will get a chance to open for another band he has highly regarded for a while: the English Beat, who headline the late show at Knuckleheads.

“All three of us are fans of the English Beat and the 2-Tone stuff from England in the ’80s, like the Specials and Madness,” he said. “I hear the English Beat plays all the old hits and selections from … General Public, which is going to be great, too.”

The drummer he so admires, however, can one-up the rest of the band on this one.

“Pat, of course, saw the English Beat back in the ’80s,” Garcia said, “so we hate him for that.”

To reach Timothy Finn, call 816-234-4781 or send email to tfinn@kcstar.com. Follow the Back to Rockville blog on Twitter @kcstarrockville.

FRIDAY

Deco Auto will open for the English Beat starting at 10 p.m. Friday at Knuckleheads, 2715 Rochester. Tickets are $20.

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