Antique Scream: Psychedelic Truck-Stop Rock or Three-Man Demolition Team?
You have only weeks to make Antique Scream your favorite local band.
That's right, a band you sometimes could've seen three nights a week on Valley stages, a band used to peering out from those stages to see a "bartender's only" show then playing their asses off anyway, a band most other bands want nothing to do with after watching them play, is picking up stakes in February 2009 and moving to Seattle, where it has a record deal with Concealed Records.
That leaves one Hollywood Alley show left this year, as Antique Scream also busies itself with a circular tour of left and bottom states.
Chris Rutledge (guitar and vocals), Bill Fees (drums), and Stu Lasswell (bass) have a work ethic like few others. Having agreed to meet at Hollywood Alley, the site of their upcoming CD release show, all three arrived an hour early so that they could be two or three pitchers of beer ahead. No one's really sure which. And in what has to be an interview first, Fees, going beyond the call of duty, showed up after having just had a vasectomy.
"Yeah, I got chopped," laugh Fees diplomatically. "No kids for me."
Unlike bands that have only one guy with anything to say, Antique Scream is a three-headed monster. Rutledge, the singer and natural spokesman, generally begins answering most questions. Then it filters through to Lasswell and Fees before all regroup to summarize.
Their new EP is four blasts of pseudo-classic rock that invites comparisons to everyone from Hendrix and Prince (the atmospheric and supremely stupid spoken word "Road Map to Nipple Town") to Blue Cheer and Queens of the Stone Age (the fuzzy "Fromage Et Trois" and the driving "Soup Strainer").
"We recorded it at Studio Blue in Culver City," says Rutledge. "On an old-school reel-to-reel mixing board from the '60s. The studio was actually set up like a stage [in a] venue, lights going. It's the coolest recording environment."
"Normally, you're sitting on a couch looking at stupid little lines go across the computer screen," agrees Lasswell.
Such an approach makes sense for a band who feels totally comfortable on, and even falling off, a stage — as Lasswell has done several times. In fact, he once achieved the Nigel Tufnel limbo position, falling flat on his back only to have two dudes lift him up.
The band's inability to hold back its collective force, even at a sparsely attended gig many bands wouldn't unpack their gear for, is equally inspiring.
"We all enjoy playing live," says Rutledge. "A lot of bands won't play for a couple of months to build up a their draw for a major show. But what's the point if you're only gonna play every couple of months? It's not fun."
"What really got us good was doing all those Zia Records store shows," Fees says. "Daytime, all the lights are on. You've got shoppers that are all stoked and people walking by holding their ears saying, 'I just want to pay for this.' That's the best way to get comfortable. Usually the employees are stoked about it."
"What was it they said?" says Lasswell. "'We thought you guys would suck. (pause) But you didn't.' They just based that on how we look. We look like we suck," he laughs.
"I don't know if people have a preconceived notion of our music. Our name is sorta nondescript," says Fees. "And we have a proud tradition of ruining shows for other bands. We've had so many bands that come up to us after we're done and say, 'You ruined the show. We don't want to play after you.'"
Case in point: a Jet-styled band from Australia that had a major label showcase at the Viper Room. "They were nice to us before we played but wouldn't talk to us afterward," says Rutledge. "Because I wouldn't let them borrow my mic. I'm gonna be on the road, living in a fucking van. I'm not gonna let you use my mic. I don't want to lose my voice cause some fucker has a sore throat."
Road etiquette and sore throats may have come into play when the band embarked on its first overseas jaunt last fall, playing shows in London, Blackpool, Glasgow, and Leeds, not far from site of The Who's triumphant live album and now the location of Antique Scream's live disc. Like Live at Leeds' off-the-soundboard recording, Banging and Mashing in the UK also has a puny audience sound. Unfortunately, it was because it was a puny audience.
"Out of all the shows we played, the one we decided to get somebody there to record, I had a sore throat and it's the smallest show. We're playing University of Bradford — a place the size of the Marquee — to 69 people," says Lasswell. "There were more security than people watching it."
It was the low point in a greeted-as-liberators 11-show trek on which the band had crowds showing up knowing their songs and asking for autographs. They even played The Cavern, famed "birthplace of the Beatles."
"The sound guy was such a little prick. He looked like Sean Lennon," remembers Rutledge. "And we almost got into a fight with the band after us. They were talking shit about us, saying 'Those poofsters think they're psychedelic rock.' The same thing happened. We played and they didn't want to play after us. We played and they said, 'We thought you were going to be terrible. You want to come party with us?' And Stu says, 'Yeah, so we're not a bunch of fuckin' poofs after all.'"
"Yeah I called them on that one," says Laswell. "They didn't like that."
"Don't talk fuckin' shit, man," says Rutledge. "You can't bash a band unless they've been dicks to you."
Back home, Rutledge has had some confrontations too: "We played the Clubhouse once and some goth industrial kids decided they were gonna talk shit about us. Well, I talked shit back at them from the stage. A couple of them were waiting outside for us after the show, but we had a lot more people with us than they did. They weren't gonna do anything but get hurt. End of fucking story."
Along the way, Antique Scream has managed to achieve the dream of many a small-time touring band: not paying anything out of their own pockets for a tour, making enough off T-shirts and CDs to cover their gas and food.
This survive-and-thrive instinct wasn't lost on Concealed Records, a two-man Seattle operation that is paying to put the band on the road for nine months next year, making their merch and booking their shows, in what sounds like the Live Nation/Madonna "360 deal," but on a much more modest scale.
Antique Scream's Valley draw will no doubt increase as its shows here become more sporadic. Rutledge is confident the band has a niche audience in any state. "If you want to have a good time and you don't give a shit what you look like, and don't belong to a specific genre, you're gonna enjoy our show."
"And if only a couple of people pay five bucks to see a show, we might as well give them 110 percent," says Fees. "Cause we're getting their 15 dollars!"
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