Shred Flintstone singer Dan Barrecchia had the band name before he had the band. He had been in another New Jersey band – that one called Jean Pool – when the idea came to him in a flash of inspiration.
“I was at a show and it just came to my head and I just started saying it over and over again,” Barrecchia told me. Since then, Barrecchia and his group have recorded two albums and two EPs, a colorful compilation put out on bright pink cassettes. Locally, they are among the bands from the tri-state area set to duke it out at Our Wicked Lady, in the Bushwick bar’s second “Winter Madness Battle of the Bands,” which takes place on its rooftop next weekend.
It’s not the kind of thing that Barrecchia said he would normally do. His songs with Shred Flinstone have a confident, aggressive style – 2020’s EP “Shred’s Dead” was an especially strong showing of good, tight riffs where his voice brings to mind the enunciation of John Dwyer in his various Oh Sees bands. (Barrecchia prefers to liken the sound to Ween, a rock act with a longer and more certain legacy.) Check out “Shit List” or “Hinges” for full-throated takes on these ideas, boiled down to single, diligently-performed riffs.
“There’s, like, a nice amount of cash as a prize, so we figured if they want to have us, we should do it, even though it’s not a thing we would typically do,” Barrecchia said, adding that “we normally would avoid this type of thing but we felt like this one was a little unique.”
The cash prize is $5,000, and each band goes head to head with another one in a series of shows that kick off Feb. 4 and Feb. 5; tickets are $13.53. Some 100 bands sent in tapes to compete for this honor, and just 16 made the cut.
Barrecchia’s band will be fighting off an act called KUYE, a self-described “eclectic Colombian-Sudanese tropical rock band” from Brooklyn. They are a newer concern and have only two singles out. But one of those songs features actress Susan Heyward, who played a minor character in a few seasons of Netflix’s “Orange is the New Black.”
An even more local group that made the grade is Cult of Chunk, a somewhat mysterious rock band that formed in early pandemic era-Bushwick. They have put out, so far, a single EP called “Drink The Coolaid,” which is available only to download on an elaborately designed website. In response to an email, someone named Charles said he was “delighted to tell their stories, reveal any secrets and more or less ‘spill the beans’ as they say.” (They also have an “EP” out on Bandcamp that consists of four tracks of cartoonish call-waiting music.)
“They were all musicians in the Brooklyn scene,” Charles said, adding that they prefer to remain somewhat anonymous for now and that in one of their first shows last year, two of them performed in masks. The show at Our Wicked Lady will be the band’s fourth.
“Part of ‘the cult’ is losing your identity,” Charles said about the whole bit. “It’s kind of harkening to the early days of the internet.” Of the music, he describes it as “more or less punk or punk adjacent,” which sounds about right. Jangly and sung with a real mattress-on-the-floor sensibly, they bring to mind the Bushwick band BODEGA.
The decision to make a go of the contest was easy.
“The desire to play in a competition as a cult masquerading as a band just seemed too absurd for them to pass up,” said Charles.
The cult will be fighting off another somewhat local band with slightly different ambitions: a duo called Gardenia, whose frontman Ryan Zakin lives in Bushwick. Their idea is a little older, and they had been set to play SXSW right before the festival was canceled at the start of the pandemic in 2020. Instead of touring in front of record label executives, they developed into a rock bass-and-drum duo and cite bands in that similar vein, like Death From Above 1979 and Royal Blood, as inspiration. Their name comes from the song Queens of the Stone Age singer Josh Homme cut with Kyuss, not the song of the same name that Homme cut with Iggy Pop.
“Our thing was like, Death From Above is Canadian, Royal Blood is British,” Zakin said. “Why isn’t a version of this in New York?”
He met the band’s drummer while both were working as managers at a studio near Times Square called Funkadelic (“George Clinton came all the time,” he adds.) When they were getting ready to debut at SXSW, they recorded an energetic, jangly EP called Yerrr!, which includes songs with titles like “Breaking Bad!” More recent recordings are filled with tightly wound blasts of thick RHCP-like bass riffs, like last year’s “Therapy Sessions.”
Some bands are really hoping the show will be a chance to get the word out. One of these is a group of Connecticut transplants called The Thing, all of them now live together in the same seven-person townhouse in Crown Heights and have yet to release any music. (They are mixing the songs “right now” over there and a debut album is expected to come out in June on something called Onion Records.) A supergroup of sorts, the act’s singer was last in a Charleston, South Carolina, band called the 87 Nights, while the guitarist and drummer last did duty in a Boston group called Sly Fang.
Jack Bradley, the former Sly Fang guitarist, said one of the group’s big influences was the Australian rock band Jet.
“It’s that early 2000s style of garage rock that appeals to us. It’s, like, noisy and clean at the same time,” Bradley said.
The Thing will be playing against a duo that’s been at it for a little longer: Villins, a Manhattan pair that’s been putting out loosies on bandcamp since 2016.
“It’s our truth,” singer Jesyka said. “We call ourselves gothic, disco, glam rock,” she adds; the band tweeted out the phrase a few days ago.
Some traditionalists have been on the scene even longer: Underbites singer Jon Fox said he’s been playing in local rock bands since the early 1990s. In between playing clubs like CBGBs and releasing a single album on London’s Damaged Goods record label with a “melodic aggressive” band called the Cogs, Fox runs a slightly more successful consulting firm called Flightpath.
His latest band has a single EP to its name, recorded shortly before the pandemic, fronted by a then-topical lead single called “Trump Tower.” He promises the band has some new material up their sleeve, however, with new songs that “have more stuff going on.”
For some, the rock dream never dies.
Fox said his dental hygienist “tells me she gets a kick out of the name.”
Featured image: Taken by Jackson Schroeder.
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