The second I heard the opening riff of “Rabbit Hole” by Austin rockers Crooked Bangs I knew I was all-in.
With the guitar and bass buzzing like a thousand Stuka bombers overhead, the pounding tribal drums and the opening line “imploding like a dying sun...” it took all of 12 seconds to get its hooks in me.
Crooked Bangs are steeped in the dark Gothic rock elixir of the 80s while still harboring a garage punk ethos. The band distinguishes itself by adding a metallic finish to a number of tracks like “Rabbit Hole” with it’s Alice in Chains fuzz. Having vocalist Leda Ginestra move effortlessly between singing in French and English also adds a vintage sophistication to their sound.
The trio were formed in 2011 and have released one full-length to date – a decidedly more Misfits-like punk rock record than than their latest. But with songs like “Rabbit Hole“, “We Are Gold“, and “Baudelaire”, the new record, simply titled II is a wicked brew of classic Joy Division with the drone of Interpol and the fury of Savages.
A tour with Death Valley Girls is in order.
II is out TODAY from Nervous Intent and we caught up the the trio to get the goods.
Tell us about your hometown scene…Austin and what it’s like being a band in such a vibrant scene…
Leda: Being from Austin, I’ve been a bit of a music butterfly, which sounds cornball as hell. It’s still true. I was a street punk, screamo kid back in the early 2000s & watched bands like Krum Bums, Complete Control (Sam Ghanbar is a massive inspiration for my stage presence), & At All Cost, when I was in high school & college. In my early- to mid-20s I got heavy into garage, especially when the Denton scene was burgeoning. Every band was “Bad”: one time I went to a show with the Bad Lovers, The Bad Livers, & Bad Sports. Simultaneously I watched a lot of metal (especially Jack Control’s band World Burns to Death) & crust emerge here. Currently, hardcore dominates the music scene, in my opinion. We also have a great dark wave scene.
I have been in: in a pop punk band, a black metal band, a surf punk band (with Samantha), & a death metal band. This is the only punk band I’ve really played out with. A couple other bands too, that didn’t really do much or go anywhere.
Being in a band is hard, because you are expendable here! Sad but true. If you don’t deliver, no one will give you the time of day. The Austin scene is over-saturated, & has been for decades. Bring it to the table or see yourself out.
Samantha: I’m from Indiana. My hometown only recently obtained a 24-hour Walmart and there are still only two “nice” restaurants to eat at: Arby’s and the place with the best (and biggest) pork tenderloin sandwich in the tri-state area. Everyone I ever knew that was doing anything interesting musically either moved out of state or died from a drug overdose. Indiana, let alone my hometown, didn’t offer much musically while I was growing up there, especially when compared to the current Coneheads/Big Zit/Ooze thing happening in NWI or bands from Bloomington like Bugg and Laffing Gas (a little closer to where I grew up). If there was anything even within a semblance of those bands when I lived in Indiana I probably would have tried to stay in the Midwest.
Austin is fine. It has been an ever-evolving, ever-changing out-of-control snowball since the mid 70s. Every other transplant I know has a different starting point for the decline of Austin as we know it but it has still brought me a lot of comfort and excitement since I moved here from Indiana six years ago and I most likely wouldn’t have done anything differently knowing what I know now. Beyond that, if I hadn’t moved here I would have never met the other idiots in this interview.
The “scene” is fine. It goes through waves. There are never enough good bands. EVER. And when there are, they break up within a month.
Phil: I think it’s a privilege to have so many bands to play with at any given point, but as a downside shows can sometimes be too specific which creates very narrow minded bills. This is not always the case, but I have experienced this first hand a few times.
How did mixing lyrics between French and English happen?
Leda: Sam wanted me to sing in French after we wrote a song in our surf punk band that was written entirely in French. We re-wrote it for our first record (“Lucifer, Mon Amour”). I studied classical bass in France when I was 19, so I learned French out of necessity. I quit classical performance directly after that & finished my degree at UT in French. I was always interested in poetry, so my focus in my studies was French poetry. That lends a hand in songwriting, I guess?
Tell us about your gear….
Leda: Mexican Fender Jazz Bass, 1960s Plush head, Ampeg SVT Classic 2×15, RAT Distortion Pedal
Samantha: Fender DeVille, Fender Jazzmaster, RAT Distortion Pedal, Park Fuzz Sound
Phil: I use an old Pearl Export with a Ludwig Snare, 24in. Paiste ride, 20in Rude crash, Zildjian “A Custom” hi-hats.
Describe your sound as a cocktail – what would it be called and what would be in it?
Leda: It would be a shot & a beer. Your choice of shot, your choice of beer.
Samantha: Seconded. Shot of Fernet and a Lonestar. A little Euro. A little Texas.
Phil: Mushrooms, Weed, and Fernet. (cocktail of sorts).
If you could pick any time and place to travel back to for music, where would you go and what year would it be….?
Leda: This is an impossible question! My heart lies in the beginnings of punk in the late 60s, early 70s. My ideas & attitudes toward music stem from that time period. Richard Hell is one of of my favorite musicians, especially as a bass player. (I have a Richard Hell tattoo.) Even his weird voice makes me happy, & the original lineup of the Heartbreakers with him, Jerry Nolan, & Johnny Thunders wrote some of my absolute favorite tracks of all time. Everyone was fed up with the hippie movement; the malaise movement had set in. There was hopelessness, indifference, resignation that the world sucked & there was nothing you could do about it except be in a band to reflect those sentiments. American punk focused on working class bare-bones living, having few but simple comforts, drinking & doing drugs to take away the pain. There was a first-person point of view in the life of a regular person. That’s where a lot of my writing comes from.
BUT if I could see Thin Lizzy live in the late 70s, early 80s, I’d give up a leg, & arm, & a tit. Phil Lynott is my god. Or if I could see Brats, the pre-Mercyful Fate band, around that same time, you could bury me afterward. I’d get everything I’d ever wanted in life.
Samantha: This is a very difficult question. Probably 1978 New York. No Wave, Klaus Nomi… some grade A, true weirdos.
Phil: 1979 Barcelona.
If you could tour with any band/artist right now who would that be and why?
Leda: I would tour with Drab Majesty!!!!! It would make ZERO sense & I’d be pumped to play with them.
Samantha: The Wipers. If for no other reason than finally getting to see Greg Sage perform live.
Phil: Motorhead, but for obvious reasons that will never happen. Other than that, anyone who’s music rules, is easy going, and smokes a lot of pot.
Give us your 10 song playlist for the tour van/bus/plane?
Leda: Oh, lord. We don’t agree on anything so I can’t even answer this question.
Samantha: Currently…Big in Japan – Nothing Special, NEU – Für immer, Sun Ra – Foggy Day, Diamond Lil – Redman, Les Stagiaires – Airport, Can – My Connection, Brigitte Fontaine – Eternelle, Vice Versa – New Girls Neutrons, Lee Hazlewood – For One Moment, Exhibit A – Rain.
Phil: Bauhaus – Bela Lugosi’s Dead , Hawkwind – Masters of the Universe, Neu! – anything from 1 and 2 , Sisters of Mercy – Alice, Futurisk – What we have to have, the Chameleons – The Fan and the Bellows, The Units – High Pressure Days, Abwärts – Unfall, Les Stagiaires – Airport, Tuxedooon – No Tears.
Give us a few essential books to read.
Leda: Please Kill Me: an Oral History of Punk Rock by Legs McNeil & Jillian McCain. It will clear up a LOT of confusion about where punk came from for you. (Although Los Saicos from Peru might have started punk…. Just sayin’.) But I got into a heated, raised-voice argument in college one time about where punk came from. This book pretty clearly marks it in NYC/Michigan in the late 60s & early 70s, & some dildo in my class said it started in California, to which I replied, *offended*, “READ A BOOK & YOU WILL KNOW THAT’S WRONG. YOU’RE AN IDIOT.” This is the book I was talking about. Anyway, this book I’ve read the most out of probably any other book. I’ve had to buy it at least three times but I think it’s been more like 5. I lend it out too much to people who never give it back.
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. This book shook me to the core as a kid. I’ve read it three times, probably. It still sits with me a lot. I think about images from it daily.
Samantha: I’ll just default to what I’m currently reading: The Land Where the Blues Began by Alan Lomax and The Devil Finds Work by James Baldwin.
Phil: Ubik (Philip K. Dick), Blood Meridian (Cormac McCarthy)
When you’re not playing and have some time off, where could we find you…
Leda: Hah! Usually in a bar. I am a terrible person so when I feel social I just run into people at my haunting grounds. I also enjoy drinking far too much. I don’t get to vacation really ever so I just get my out-of-town friends to come see me at Yellow Jacket on the east side (I’m literally doing these questions there right now).
Samantha: Working on art and never getting enough sleep.
Phil: Hanging with my Dachshund Freddie, listening to records.
What’s up for the rest of 2017?
Leda: We’re pouring our souls into putting out our next record, “II.” We’re touring in mid-May until early June. After that, it’s on to the next one! We’ve been working toward putting this record out for four very long years, & our hard work & our perfectionist natures are all shining through on this.
Samantha: What she said. Plus writing. Lots and lots of writing.