Broken Fist

Rising from the ashes of The Knockouts, rock and rollers Stay Hitt attack Miami, the world, and each other

It's a humid September night at Dick Whiskey and Adam Cheef's house, a two-story, three-bedroom rental in a Kendall townhouse complex. The two members of Miami's newest/rawest rock and roll trio live here with another roommate who currently has some friends over, filling the living room to capacity.

"I told him immediately after I got the call and I told him three times yesterday and twice today," shrugs Dick with palms outstretched and straining over the noise as he points the way towards Adam's room. "He quit his job yesterday and partied a little too much."

Cocooned on a bare mattress in a few layers of sheets, Adam seems impervious to the goings-on around him and the fact that the AC is not working at all. Clothes are strewn about his room. There are empty bottles snow-capped with cigarette ash, compact discs, and sneakers, all proof of last night's debauch. The sweaty funk and the smell of stale booze in the hot room is butter thick.

Brothers in arms: Stay Hitt's Todd Slimak (left), Adam Cheef, and Dick Whiskey
Jonathan Postal
Brothers in arms: Stay Hitt's Todd Slimak (left), Adam Cheef, and Dick Whiskey

Dick sits down on the corner of the mattress. "Todd's on his way, he's getting about a little slower than usual 'cause he broke his foot," he says. Dick is at wit's end. He's tired after working a full shift at Interval International, where he's basically a time-share broker, and so he decides to get moving along without his handicapped mate.

Stay Hitt were formed after their former band, the Knockouts, broke up in May 2003. The Knockouts were a quad with Steve Slimak on guitar; he left the band because of out-of-town interests. His younger brother, Todd Slimak, has progressed as a drummer, and his chemistry with bass player Dick makes for a tight and full-sounding rhythm section. Meanwhile, lead singer and guitarist Adam's blue-collar attitude fuels the humor and energy of tracks such as "Boss With the Triple Toss" and "Last Drop."

Now that Stay Hitt's sound has gotten more sophisticated, Dick can look back on the Knockouts' run in a positive light. "[The Knockouts] was a stepping stone for us," he says. "We learned the scene and where we could go with our sound, and now we've been able to strip it down, let loose, trim it up, and put some thought into the arrangements."

At this point, Todd arrives and limps to a triangular niche on the bed among comatose Adam, caffeine-fueled Dick, and an ice-cold six-pack of Yuengling Black and Tans. Todd catches up quick and offers, "We definitely learned and improved. We're constantly exposed to different sounds and techniques and that influences us."

In other ways, however, Stay Hitt aren't too dissimilar to the Knockouts, who came out of the local indie explosion at the dawn of the millennium and often shared the stage and the road with the Getback and Lose the Rookie. In contrast to their peers, The Knockouts' philosophy reflected a sex, drugs, and rock and roll seediness that clicked with listeners searching for primal regional rock.

Stay Hitt continue to sow these beliefs. Heavily influenced by the good-time punk of mid-Eighties Boston (Dogmatics, Gang Green, and Stranglehold) and the bluesy, anything-goes chaos of Paul Westerberg's Replacements; their songs affirm their primal rock and roll identity with working-class grit. "Sure, I Love You" is a guitar-driven, train-wreck ballad à la Fifties rock and roll pioneer Ron Haydock. "Underwater Lights Out" is a mid-tempo piece reminiscent of the vocal effects of rockabilly iconoclast Hasil Adkins and the nonsensical diatribes of novelty singer Joe Wallace. There are inside jokes such as "Hitzig": "You better stay hit/Don't be no fool/And just take it/You got to feel the boom!"

In life and in art, Stay Hitt are on a constant quest for the easy rock and roll lifestyle. "Girls in This Town" was inspired by an after-work drive down U.S. 1, where Adam and Dick witnessed (and nearly whiplashed themselves over) infinite amounts of choice booty walking about. Countless encounters with the many working girls of the night also provide grist for their mill.

With the Yuengling beers flowing, the conversation switches to how Todd broke his foot. The explanation for the accident is a joint "horseplay" answer from Adam and Todd, with Dick hinting that massive amounts of alcohol were involved in the incident.

"I knocked you out, bitch!" pipes in Adam. Todd has stayed hit, an insider expression that means he got smacked and didn't return the favor -- yet. Todd vows that he'll get his once his condition improves. This violent camaraderie is not unusual. These guys are known for flipping beer bottle caps and flicking lit cigarettes at each other's faces.

Somewhat pleased with the prophetic nature of their name, Dick explains the inspiration behind Stay Hitt, joking about how the double "t" in "hitt" rounds it out to an easy-to-center-on-merchandise eight letters, and pays homage to Eighties cock metal outfit Ratt.

After recently opening for pop-punk stalwarts the Queers, Stay Hitt is booked to open for the Vibrators on October 2 and UK Subs on November 6, with both shows scheduled to take place at Churchill's Pub. There is also talk of flying to New York and sharing the CBGB stage with transplanted Miamians the Basicks for a weekend's worth of shows. Somehow, with hops-fueled luck, they manage to stagger into the right gigs.

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