Mussel Flats gets out of garage to rock Whidbey

A ‘boy band’ for the ages

Take five guys from Coupeville — kinda, sorta older guys — throw in a dozen instruments, a few microphones, a full beer refrigerator on a Wednesday night and get ready to rock.

Mussel Flats is in the house.

The house of Steve DeHaven, that is, who looks forward to hosting the band’s weekly rehearsal in his upstairs music room that quickly gets packed when the guys unpack their instruments.

Increasingly seen and heard around Whidbey at various venues and events, Mussel Flats is developing a following.

And it’s not just with their mothers, as they like to joke.

The five-man band plays 7 p.m. this Saturday night at Penn Cove Taproom in Coupeville. It’s a monthly gig for them. Maybe that has something to do with drummer Mitch Aparicio being co-owner of Penn Cove Taproom and Penn Cove Brewing Co., but it’s also where the band came together the first day of 2017.

“I’d been doing a lot of solo work,” said DeHaven, who plays rhythm guitar and sings lead vocals. “I agreed to sit in for New Year’s Eve with the other guys and it worked out.”

Aparicio and the three others, Rich Cannon (lead guitar), Doug Coutts (saxophone) and Mark Wacker (bass guitar), described their initial formation as “throwing guys together and calling it a jam band.”

After the first time the five played together at the Taproom, they decided to form a band, one that required a commitment to regularly practicing.

But they needed a name.

“We were brainstorming and Mark threw out ‘Mussel Flats’ and we all loved it,” DeHaven recalled. “We’re all from Coupeville so we wanted something local. Even if we played outside the area, it’s a cool name.”

It also winks at the band Rascal Flats and Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in Alabama, where many legendary artists recorded albums, such as The Rolling Stones, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Willie Nelson and Aretha Franklin.

Their first show under the name Mussel Flats was at Coupeville’s Mardi Gras celebration in February. In early October, they’ll be playing at the CPO Banquet at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island. They’ve also donated their time and tunes to fundraisers.

Rehearshing for more than two hours on a recent Wednesday evening, the five-man band runs through their repertoire of classic rock ’n’ roll and blue tunes. Elvis, Pink Floyd, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Prince, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Eagles and, of course, the Beatles.

“It’s definitely a groove band, and once we we get it going, it just goes, ” said Coutts, following a long rendition of the classic Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show lamant about “getting my picture on the cover of The Rolling Stone.”

The guys range in age — from 49 to 68, with Cannon being the elder.

“But our mental age, that’s 12 to 15 years,” jokes Cannon.

They also differ in hairstyles. Aparico is a dome head while DeHaven’s dark locks almost reach his waist.

They work or worked at various jobs around Whidbey and the region, including for Boeing, WhidbeyHealth EMT and South Whidbey Parks and Recreation.

DeHaven, who apparently has the most free time on his hands (age 54 and retired from the Air Force), keeps tabs on all things related to the band and its musical choices.

“I averaged out all the years of our songs and it comes to 1972,” he tells the band during a beer break.

“Of course you did,” comes the retort, in unison.

All played music starting in high school or earlier and some have more experience than others.

“I think I played in my first garage band at age 13,” Cannon says. “So I think I’ve gotten better after 55 years.”

Being in a band makes them better musicians, they said, even if they’ve strummed, drummed or blown a horn for decades.

“As a musician when you get to play with other people, everything seems new and exciting,” says Wacker.

To which DeHaven playfully retorts: “I think what he’s saying is playing in this band, it’s a pleasure. There’s no force involved.

“And this band has got the best work ethic of any band I’ve ever been in. We have fun, but we still get through the set of songs we need to.

“Well, maybe we’re still in the honeymoon phase because we’re still talking and listening to each other.”

And with that, he asks the boys in the band, “What will it be, guys? Shall we try ‘Midnight Rider’?”

Mussel Flats plays 7 p.m. this Saturday at Penn Cove Taproom, 103 S. Main St, Coupeville.

Steve DeHaven (left) and Doug Coutts provide lead vocals for many of the classic rock songs played by Mussel Flats. Photo by Patricia Guthrie/Whidbey News-Times

Steve DeHaven (left) and Doug Coutts provide lead vocals for many of the classic rock songs played by Mussel Flats. Photo by Patricia Guthrie/Whidbey News-Times