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Tailgunner Joe: Gunnin' for that No. 1 spot




Meet the band: Travis Moore (vocals, guitar), Cannon Lee (drums), Zakk Bosserman (guitar), Kyle Pierce (bass).

Their story: Tailgunner Joe and the Earls of Slander have wowed Tampa Bay audiences with energy, workmanship and an original take on hard rock. Founded in 2007 by brothers Travis Moore and Cannon Lee, who‚Äôve played in contemporary Christian bands, the deceivingly rowdy Tailgunner Joe play loud and downbeat between upbeat jags with sweet acoustics and harmonies. Just this week, Spin magazine named them an act to watch in 2009.

The goods: Click here to listen to Tailgunner Joe's single The Street, then watch the video below for a look at a recent acoustic performance by the boys at the Hot Topic in International Plaza. Click here to vote for them as Tampa Bay's 2009 Ultimate Local Band. And keep reading for the full story on how two good Christian boys grew up to play some of the rowdiest rock 'n' roll on either side of the bay...


One of the youngest acts on our list this year, Tailgunner Joe and the Earls of Slander, has wowed Tampa Bay audiences with energy, workmanship and an original take on hard rock.

Founded in 2007 by Travis Moore, 25, on lead vocals and guitar, with Cannon Lee, 21, drums, the band has gone through a revolving door of backup players. Pal Zakk Bosserman has stuck around playing guitar through most of the band’s tenure, and Kyle Pierce is the bassist.

The force that drives the band: the close-knit relationship between brothers Moore and Lee, who’ve played in contemporary Christian bands before forming the deceivingly rowdy Tailgunner Joe.

“My brother and I are 3 1/2 years apart, but we grew up really tight,” Moore says. “Since he was 11 and I was 14 we’ve been in bands together. We’re of the same mind on a lot of things. Even though we have different taste in music, we’re able to steer things more easily as a team.”

Tailgunner Joe sets audiences up for acerbic irreverence with its double-wielding band name, a cheeky tribute to Joe McCarthy and a Chuck Paluhniak reference.

“I got the idea during 20th century history class, when we learned about McCarthy’s campaign slogan: 'Senate needs a tailgunner,’” Moore says. “The three of us are from conservative backgrounds, so it’s a double-edged thing to us, because he’s a caricature of some of our personal opinions. We just think it’s funny. It’s just a joke to us.”

The psychological chicanery doesn’t end there. Lee and Moore and Co. have a knack for challenging and manipulating preconceived notions about their image and their sound. The lead bros are devout Christians. They drink and smoke but don’t swear, and maintain a strict moral decorum between bursts of celebratory mayhem onstage. Sound-wise, they play loud and downbeat between upbeat jags with sweet acoustics and harmonies.

Lest you think you have Tailgunner Joe pegged, the boys change things up as soon as you think you’ve got it all spelled out.

“What we’re doing is not the same thing as we did before,” Moore says, referring to the band’s Southern-tinged fare on the 2008 EP, The Red Scare. “We started out with an alt-country kind of thing, with songs like The Killzone, meets an eclectic, poppy, punky thing like The Street. We got typecast in the country role, but our new writing steers more toward punk and rock ’n’ roll.”

Also noteworthy, Tailgunner Joe got handpicked by national college sports Internet network, which produced an MTV-ready video for The Street (on the band’s MySpace page) and earned Creative Loafing Best of the Bay honors in 2008 for Best New Band.

-- Story by Julie Garisto, photo by Lance Aram Rothstein

[Last modified: Thursday, March 19, 2009 1:00am]


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