Like a lot of people, when Patterson Hood was in college he lived in a shithole basement with roommates. Some of those roommates were better than others, and one of the better ones was a guy named Mike Cooley.
“We were living with another guy who was the worst roommate imaginable,” Hood tells me via email. In those days, Hood and Cooley were broke students, so they spent a lot of time on the couch, playing guitar and drinking cheap beer.
“I’ve always been a writer,” Hood recalls, “so we mostly played songs I had written.” He loved what Cooley did with his music.
“Cooley and I have been playing together for 34 years now,” Hood says.
The friends went on to form a band called Adam’s House Cat. That band didn’t go anywhere in particular, but a Hood/Cooley project that did find its legs is the renowned alt-country band Drive-By Truckers.
Now the pair of old friends are touring as part of a two-piece Truckers’ side project called Dimmer Twins, a reference to Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, who are sometime called the “Glimmer Twins.”
With Dimmer Twins, Hood and Cooley recreate their early days as friends in college, playing stripped down sets on acoustic guitar. This time, you’re invited to join in, as Truckers’ tunes like the normally pretty rocking “A Ghost to Most” get cut back to the melancholy root.
In addition to Drive-By Truckers songs, Dimmer Twins perform originals by Hood and Cooley, as well as songs written specifically for the Dimmer Twins project. The only thing missing from that college flophouse basement experience is a ratty old beanbag chair.
It could also be said Dimmer Twins touring style is back-to-basics. “We’re out without a crew or any help,” Hood says, “so it’s just us in a car hoofing it, old school. I tend to DJ. He tends to tune out. We’re both solid drivers.”
Dimmer Twins offer a nice break from the powerhouse rock ‘n’ roll shows that Drive-By Truckers have come to be known for, Hood says.
“We all love doing that,” he says, “but these stripped-down versions of the songs allow the material to stretch in new ways, creating space for banter and storytelling.” They also highlight the considerable chemistry between the two songwriters, he adds.
Performing as Dimmer Twins allows the duo to pick from their entire catalog of over 200 songs, but just like Drive-By Truckers, Hood and Cooley never use a setlist.
“It’s fun to just pick a first song and go from there,” Hood says.
Dimmer Twins play a partially seated show 8 pm Sunday, May 12, at WOW Hall; $30 advance, $32 door, all-ages.