By Jeff Moses
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"It's not about Jello Biafra. It's about music snobs," says Andreas with a smile. "People who are easily swayed by things."
Being categorized is an abiding concern for Trunk Federation. Andreas and drummer Kennedy were once members of the Hoodwinks, a popular local band Andreas classifies as "a little more pop, more Mill Avenue-oriented. People figure you have a certain sound if you play at Long Wong's, rightly or not."
Currently, you can find Trunk Federation holding court at such un-Millish venues as Boston's, Hollywood Alley, Nita's Hideaway, Nile Theater and the Mason Jar. Apparently, there is life after Mill, since Trunk Federation has managed to open for such noteworthy national acts as Poster Children, the Dambuilders, April's Motel Room, Zu Zu's Petals, Ex-Idols, and Love Battery.
Nothing resembling a Mill Avenue sound--or, more specifically, the Hoodwinks' old stylings--has a place in the band's current repertoire. In fact, Andreas readily admits to being heavily influenced by less conventional fare as the Pixies. And like that late, lamented group, Trunk Federation is able to merge a major sinister guitar lick with a vocal hook in every song it does. A big chunk of its sound stems from Sanford's impact. Both sides of the band's latest single ("History of Dead Ends" and "Recipe for Mud," collectively titled Hi-Fi for Small Fry) contain rootless, almost Devo-ish guitar interjections that Sanford fashioned in a state of confusion when the band kept encouraging him to play "a little off-centered."
Dan Nelson, who recorded and produced Brick Chair's recent CD for his Primary Records label, is doing a Trunk Federation disc this summer. "He wants to record everything we've got, even all our shitty songs," marvels Sanford. The band members are still big fans of vinyl, but that preference is waning after pressing two of the little black beasts. Since most radio stations don't even have turntables anymore, Trunk put out a few promo CDs early this year just to get airplay and soon wished it hadn't. "The CDs were somehow defective, so it was a nightmare," groans Andreas. "On KUKQ, all their stuff is on computer and for some reason it cut out all these frequencies so you wouldn't hear any vocals. Just guitars. Like The Ventures!"
The band ran into similar problems trying to put a snippet of a single on the Internet. "We wound up recording a cassette of the actual single with pops and scratches, and that's what they're playing now." Truly Low-Fi for Small Fry.
Speaking of small fries, last Sunday's Arizona Republic carried a front-page story about the city's latest campaign to eliminate all-ages shows, a prospect that troubles Andreas.
"We don't get to play as many all-ages shows as we'd like. It's the under-21 crowd that stands up in front and buys seven inches even if they don't have a turntable. They just hang it on the wall and figure that's what the hole's for. Not to say anything bad about anyone over 21, but sometimes they're just too cool to stand up and give that kind of feedback. They don't mosh. But they will yell 'nice pants!' occasionally."
As all ambitious groups must do, the Federation has recently been loading up its trunks and venturing out of state. "Anyplace we can drive to on a weekend," says Frostin. "If we can work it so we're out of Phoenix every summer like the Meat Puppets do, that'd be heaven." "Yeah," drawls Andreas. "We're no different from any other band. We want to make a lot of money. We want fame. We want to be lame. But we want to be lame for all the right reasons."
Trunk Federation's latest single, "Hi-Fi for Small Fry," is available at Zia Record Exchange, Eastside Records and other Valley record stores with enough guts to carry vinyl.