What better way to label yourself Phoenix's ultimate party band than naming your group after the Roman god of merry-making, theater, getting wasted, and feeling "ecstasy"? Bacchus and the Demonsluts did just that, but its roiling river of funk, jazz freakouts, and frenetic, instrumental jamborees is just the tip of the rave-berg for the five self-described "pseudo-funk pirates."
Part of that pirate attitude comes from what the band's guitarist Jamison McQueen and frontman/sax master Austin Rickert call a very "loose definition of ownership." "Any rag or garment, material, prop. If it fits," McQueen says. "Or even if it doesn't fit."
Rickert adds, "If it can fit in our car or our pocket, we're taking it."
The other half of the pirate attitude is the band's hyperactive mélange that passes for fashion sense. Drummer Mike Reese was once spotted in a fruit basket headdress, while guitarist Ben Fuqua has worn construction worker outfits and bassist Jason Ogden goes for a Mad Hatter/wizard look. McQueen is somewhat of a sexy skiing ninja and Rickert, especially, is known to wear hot pink skirts, Speedos matched with fishnet hose and, for a while, after watching Boondocks, would rock a cornrow hairstyle.
The band's debut EP, The Rumors of Our Demise Have Been Grossly Underestimated, carries over Bacchus' infamous fervor, jamming its foaming-at-the-mouth vibrations into a mere 17 minutes. What tracks like "Barbequila" or "Doll" may lack in lyrics they make up with intensity. But as "Front Yard Super Spliff" demonstrates, it's more a head rush than a kick to the groin. The album will be released May 25 on 56th Street Records as a CD and as a cassette on Rubber Brother Records.
Rickert wanted Demise to be traditionalist, with throwbacks to classic Funkadelic licks, but wanted to resist being boring at the same time.
"We're unique because we're a horn band, but I don't want people to be like, 'Oh, you're a horn band; I know what to expect,'" Rickert says. "I think we have different variables that keep us interesting and progressive while still having a little bit of the funk flavor."
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Speaking of demise, Bacchus (like its namesake) is familiar with death and rebirth, as the band burst from the ashes of Naked Pizza, a once high-in-demand ska outfit. Somewhat like LCD Soundsystem, Naked Pizza called it quits at the height of its popularity, but it began with just Rickert, who says he couldn't get anyone to be in a band with him at first. But that didn't last long.
"It got huge, basically. It became whoever wanted to be in it could be in it," he says. "But then it got to the point where we were like, 'We don't know if we like that rule anymore because we can't handle the zoo' . . . Once we had gotten [Naked Pizza's album] out, I felt like the story was complete and I was like, 'Cool, we can tell a new story now.'"
Naked Pizza devolved to a core of seven before breaking up, but it gave one reunion show in February for an autism charity event. Rickert is firm on the idea that he won't reunite a second time.
"I have way too many other ideas that I want to do," he says. "I have three other bands I'm thinking about starting, and I've already joined Jerusafunk, which is the Eastern-European funk band, and I'm back in Boss Frog for the rest of the summer, and I might even tour. I liked it and I want to keep it that way. I want to preserve that memory and not taint it."
Bacchus and the Demonsluts are scheduled to perform Sunday, May 25, at Lawn Gnome Publishing.
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