Real Gone: The end of Gone for Good

This is a tightrope walk over a mawkish pool of sentiment, but here goes.

Something I've lately found particularly moving and meaningful is observing the dynamic that occurs between old, dear friends. Maybe it's a symptom of being in my mid-30s. The past, while still at a manageable size, is growing exponentially.

Each one knows when to be quiet and listen. There's a pleasing familiarity to the conversations. The jokes, even those that are about the third party, are expertly timed.

That dynamic is wholly apparent between Nick Johns and Ryan Perkins, the guitarist/vocalist and bassist, respectively, in Gone for Good, who were one of the best and most loved of New London's current crop of rock bands.

Yes, that's in the past tense because Gone for Good, which includes drummer Gene Miller, played its farewell show last night at the Oasis, which also doubled as a release party for what will be, in all likelihood, the garage-pop band's final album, "Marvelous Liar."

A couple of days before, I caught up with Johns and Perkins on the Parade steps, about a half hour before the band's final rehearsal at their space above the East Bank Gift Shop on the corner of State and Bank streets.

Friends for more than 15 years, Johns and Perkins have been playing music together since 1997 when they were 10th graders at Norwich Free Academy.

They were both in a jocular mood, looking forward to rehearsing and diving into the bottle of white wine Perkins clutched throughout our interview.

"I didn't want to break up," Johns said. "I've never played in another band."

Basically, Johns explained, the trio's lives are changing.

Along with his fiancée, he bought a house in Groton's Eastern Point neighborhood and is looking forward to building a studio in a spare room and decorating it with his old Nirvana posters.

Perkins is taking off on a bit of an adventure, as he and his girlfriend are moving to Hawaii on Monday, though he's still unsure of where they'll be living or what they'll be doing.

Miller wanted to take a break from playing music, Johns said.

Gone for Good evolved from Ebb, a band started by Johns and Perkins, which ended because Perkins moved to the Virgin Islands for a time.

When he returned, they joined with drummer Josh Lecce and quickly established themselves as a raucous and compelling live act, even though they were more comfortable in the studio.

Then something awful happened.

On May 23, 2009, Lecce was killed in an automobile accident on Route 32 at the Montville-Waterford line.

Johns said they have been thinking about Lecce in the weeks leading up to the band's last album and last show.

"It's bittersweet," Johns said. "Because it feels like a little bit of Josh is going away."

But Perkins was quick to add that the new album's swaggering title cut and first single was one of the last songs the original trio worked on together.

About 6 months after Lecce's death, Johns recruited Miller to help with some live shows and he eventually stayed on.

Johns said that Gone for Good's demise "isn't the end of the world," but considering he's spent most of his adult life playing in the band with Perkins he's worried about a loss of identity, much, he said, in the way one feels when they lose a job.

Then, searching for another comparison, Johns compared Gone for Good to a love relationship.

"It's like breaking up with a girlfriend," he said. "People say, 'There's so many other things out there.' But I don't want that thing, I want this thing."

Shortly after Johns said that, I couldn't help but notice that he and Perkins were wearing similar silver bracelets on their wrists.

"They are Caribbean hook bracelets," Perkins explained. "It's what pirates would wear when they got married."

I really like that: friends, thieves and rock 'n' roll.

Stephen Chupaska is a writer who lives in downtown New London. Email him at schupaska@gmail.com.

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