Rock 'n' roll animal
This Is A Pop Star? was the Gisborne Photo News’ gobsmacked headline for a pictorial about The Pretty Things tour in 1965. So shocked, so incredulous was the magazine that its coverage ran across two issues. In the words of eye witness Geoff Lealand, The Pretty Things raised the temperature in respect of how bands should look, sound and behave. The British band carved the way for other overseas rock bands that includes San Diego act The Schizophonics. The three-piece’s love of baby-boomer sounds from the 1970s has influenced their own music. Next month they bring to Gisborne the same unstoppable combination of rock ‘n’ roll energy that fuelled the MC5 in the heyday of the Grande Ballroom.
“We’re influenced by hard rock acts from the late 60s and 70s such as MC5, The Stooges, Jimi Hendrix, and soul musicians,” says singer/guitarist Pat Beers on the phone from San Diego.
“I always gravitated towards that kind of music. I liked the harder-edged bands from that time. There are elements of soul, RnB and early rock and roll in our sound.
“Our stage show is kind of influenced by acts like The Who, James Brown, and Iggy Pop. We like to go crazy live and have fun.”
Tim Mays, whose Californian music venue The Casbah has hosted such bands as Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, and Lemonheads, describes The Schizophonics as one of his favourite live bands ever.
“Pat Beers is like a cross between Jimi Hendrix and James Brown — yelping, wailing, shralping the guitar with his left hand while gyrating all over the place.”
One of The Schizophonics’ favourite records is an album by 1960s Christchurch hard rock band, Chants R&B, who were known for their wild music and high energy stage shows.
“It’s the kind of music we do,” says Beers.
The San Diego musician got into their sound through New Zealander Mike Stax at Ugly Things magazine.
“They sound like a combination of the MC5 and the Pretty Things,” Beers told online music mag, undertheradar.
Along with Andrew Neill and rock’n’roll historian John Baker, Stax co-wrote Don’t Bring Me Down . . . Under: The Pretty Things in New Zealand, 1965.
Baker is responsible for The Schizophonics’ Gisborne visit.
Beers started The Schizophonics 10 years ago with his now-wife, Lety. The couple have been the band’s mainstays over the years. When The Schizos lost their drummer they tried a few people but nothing worked out.
“Lety was always hanging out and jumped on the drum set and played a bit. We said ‘why don’t you jump on drums?’”
She and Beers married a year later. Lety found her way around the drums and has played with the band since.
Developing the band was a learning experience. Beers was the “worst singer” and spent at least five years learning to sing decently enough to make a record, he says.
“We worked hard to get where we are now. I feel lucky, but we’ve always worked hard. It took us a few years to learn how to write songs and how to sing. The Mexican Elvis — Robert Lopez (El Vez) — took us under his wing. He took us on tour. We learned a lot about how to put on a live show and every aspect of a tour.”
For his 2013 tour of Spain, El Vez recruited the band as his backing group, an experience that resulted in The Schizophonics’ first record release. In the following year they performed on a bill that included Billy Idol, Spoon, Cage the Elephant, and Interpol, at the Wrex the Halls concert.
Then there was the inevitable New Zealand connection.
“Mike Stax taught us cool underground music. We heard about The Chants through Mike.”
Another rock school mentor for the band took the San Diego lads on tour but had been a big part of their lives long before then.
“He used to have a radio show in San Diego. Before we had a band we listened to radio shows. There was this obscure show that played garage, soul and punk — everything. Weird stuff you never heard otherwise. He really opened my eyes to how much great music is out there ready to be discovered.
“When his show ended it was like the end of an era for us. We thought we should start a band like this show.”
Want a taste of what you always needed in your life but didn’t know it yet?Watch The Schizophonics perform Black To Comm on YouTube at https://tinyurl.com/yxj8cxyy
Now picture them packing that sound onto the Smash Palace stage. One day you can tell your grandkids, “I was there.”
The Schizophonics, Smash Palace, Sunday June 2. Tickets $22+bf from www.undertheradar.co.nz