A Very Special Kind of Chicago Dog: Meet The Bumpus Hounds

To tell you the honest truth I do not originally recall when I was made aware of Chicago’s Bumpus Hounds. I think Brandon Harrod of the excellent Mooster Records label tweeted a show involving them onto my Twitter timeline and the name grabbed me. How could it not? As an American born in the ’70s, I’ve seen “The Christmas Story” oh, about 75 times.

“What a great name for a punk band,” I thought and promptly followed them on Twitter (as you should).

Before long I was regularly yapping about sports, rock and roll, and beer with Pete Vercillo. The man is a straight-shooter and a true student of the history of all the aforementioned subjects. You’ll see…read on.

 

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01.) You have probably the best name going, and that’s saying something- who gets the credit for the “Christmas Story” reference?

Thanks…we’re glad you like the name. Pretty much everyone that brings it up likes it. THE BUMPUS HOUNDS are my brother, Mike Vercillo on guitar & backup vocals, Mike Webb on the drum kit, and me, Pete Vercillo on bass guitar & lead vocals. I’m the one with the dubious honor of coming up with the name.

My brother & I were thinking of band names, and I don’t know how it popped in my head; but as soon as I spit it out, he said “That’s it!”

We figured what’s more rock & roll than a pack of wild dogs ravaging through your house pissing & destroying everything…devouring up all your food?

02.)  Is there a show that stands out among the ones you’ve played?

Basically, the reason why we do this, having a strong passion for punk rock energy & for rock & roll; is to share this passion & express it live.

Off the top of my head, I’d say a packed house show at Reggie’s Rock Club with GUTTERMOUTH (LA) & our Chicago punk rock brothers, THE BOLLWEEVILS was a great show b/c we nailed our set, & it was probably the most people we’ve played in front of.

Any time we play LIARS CLUB, a local favorite hang-out; we have a blast. There’s been many there…including several “Valentine’s Day Massacres” and our record release.

Also… we’ve had fun on several Halloween shows at The Mutiny, dressed in costume; once doing a set as THE BUZZCOCKS, once as THE MISFITS, and once dressed in prison jump suits doing THE CHICAGO PUNK ROCK ALL-STARS, playing about 20 songs from like 17 different legendary Chicago Punk bands.

I gotta say…our last show; we played all brand new songs; and they went off great. It was also a farewell show for our friends THE LARROQUETTES, so that was very fun too.

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03.) What can The Bumpus Hounds not do without?

Good question. Neither of us 3 are finicky or squeamish. I’d say as a unit; we can’t do without good friends & family. We also can’t do without the visceral nature of Rock & Roll.

04.) What is something about the scene in Chicago that isn’t widely known or that you feel like more people should know about?

I guess the fact that tons of really, really great bands from around here have never received the dues they should have received. I mean…punk rock has been so splintered & fragmented into so many different sub-genre styles and regional characteristics if you step back and look at the history over time from the first major wave in the late 70s/early 80s and from the second major wave from the early 90s.

We always say that not only are we a punk rock band from Chicago; but distinctively, we are a Chicago punk band. There is a Chicago sound. We feel the main elements are aggressiveness,  but also straightforwardness, honesty, and above all…melody. Also a little more intelligence in the lyrics; even if they are simple, usually the meaning is more grandiose and clever.

Bands we grew up with and majorly influenced us from our hometown scene that carry these characteristics are NAKED RAYGUN, PEGBOY, SCREECHING WEASEL, SLUDGEWORTH, THE EFFIGIES, STRIKE UNDER, etc

 05.) How does a song come together for you guys?

Inspiration comes in many forms and at random angles. I’m pretty much the primary song writer; but everybody brings something to the table. There’s not really a set process.

However, for the most part; what usually happens is I’ll have a riff I come up with. I’ll fidget around and try to find bridges or transitions or whatever as well. I’ll bring it to the boys, and we’ll work on adding anything or taking anything away.

You’d be surprised at how often and how much better stuff is when you actually subtract rather than add. I’ll think of a lyrical theme; and then fit some words into the musical rhythm.

We’ll nurse it, rehearse it; and pretty soon it’s a song.

06.) You have a song on your first release called “Bears 34”- as a lifelong Pats fan I still kinda wince over Super Bowl XX, by the way- anyway which Chicago team do you think you most resemble?

Hmm…I think we can resemble all of the Chicago teams in some aspects.

The Bears because of our gritty “monsters of the midway” nature.

The Cubs because of the fact that we have been involved with the music scene for a long time and have a strong passion for it. You have to be really involved to actually be a Cubs fan.

The White Sox because they always play second fiddle in this town to the Cubs. They feel they never get respect…even with a championship in ’05. We still feel that good punk rock doesn’t get it’s due respect; or that our band, as an independent not on a label, and not out being like “hey…look at us,” with any cheap gimmicks and without kissing anybody’s ass don’t get the full respect sometimes.

The Blackhawks because we feel we put our songs out as winners. The Hawks have certainly been winners lately!!

The Bulls because given the Jordan era, and to an extent some recent teams; they are usually good and nationally followed and accessible. I’d say for the casual observer or listener…someone who wasn’t totally into punk rock or the scene; our songs are accessible. No “cookie monster” singing voices or the same chords repeated or 3rd generation Black Flag or hardcore knockoff repetitiveness.

Also to disclose; my brother and I are both Cubs fans, and Webb is a Sox fan.

Interesting you picked BEARS 34. It’s an instrumental, and our only instrumental recorded. We only have 10 songs total recorded; but we have about 25 more songs to record.

People liked the instrumental, so we wrote “Fallen Jedi” & “Apache War Ace” as additional instrumentals that we’ve been playing live. We figure to keep the theme going with at least 1 Song out of 10 being an instrumental.

I even have another one called “Paleozoic” that the band doesn’t even know yet. My brother has heard me play it though, and said “Ok” on moving forward with it.

07.) What, to you, constitutes a good show compared to a bad one?

If there is a great energy in the room, the people are cool and nothing goes wrong. That’s really all you can hope for. You can only control what you can control. Equipment failures will happen every once in a while. Some mosher will knock out a PA monitor, you’ll break a string, if you’re sharing gear & not used to the amp, your sound will be off. Stuff like that. Who cares though? Soldier on.

It’s punk rock, not Beethoven.

Usually things like that are rare…but they do happen, and happen to everyone; especially on the DIY circuit.

If you stay true to what you’re doing and having a good time; it translates. The people have a good time, too. That’s what it’s about.

08.) When you first got going in bands, who or what taught you the most?

I’d say just by collectively going to tons and tons of shows as we were growing up. Watching and hearing bands from our scene or bands rolling through town. We always have had a pretty good idea of what we wanted to do mainly by osmosis from that.

09.) What’s your biggest non-musical influence?

That’s a good question; and a big one if you sliced it subjectively.

Individually it may be different, but I suppose as a band; our biggest non-musical influence would be life itself and our environment. All things Chicago would probably play a part in that somehow…the whole nature vs nurture thing.

In fact…haha; one of our brand new songs is called “Giardiniera.”

Now Giardiniera is a spicy condiment used primarily on Italian Beef sandwiches; which are a Chicago staple. The song itself has nothing to do with Italian Beef or even with food. The theme is about adding something extra to give your life some kick.

If you think about it…and I just did (ha); there’s proof right there about non-musical influences like “Topics from our hometown” being an influence.

10.) You just started playing a bunch of new songs, when’s the next Bumpus Hounds platter coming out?

We’ve been talking about this for a long time. We definitely need to lay down a bunch of new tracks. I think as soon as individual scheduling can be devoted and aligned, we will jump up to do it.

You’re right that we just crafted a bunch of songs so very recently, that they’ve only been played live once. We also have more that we’ve already been playing for a while, that are beat into shape and have been YEARNING to be shared…or at least recorded to prove they exist!

We’re working on it. All I can say is; THEY’RE COMING SOON!

I can honestly say that no one will be disappointed with them either.

We put out winners…remember?

😉

TheBumpusHounds

all pictures courtesy of Pete Vercillo

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Jim Powers

I used to always write "sideburns and leather, rock and roll forever" in things like this but I'm 35 now and the sideburns are gone and the leather jacket doesn't really fit. However, I'm still like that in my mind.

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