If you’re ever planning a vacation to Kansas City, chances are that your local AAA office or TripAdvisor will suggest that you take in such attractions as the National World War I Museum and Memorial, the Nelson-Atkins Museum Of Art, the Kansas City Zoo, Science City at Union Station, or the Legoland Discovery Center. While that’s all well and good, these stuffy travel agency “pros” aren’t going to brag about (or confess their knowledge to) the trashy rock ‘n’ roll underbelly of the land that gave us the Royals, the Chiefs, and KC Masterpiece. And until a legitimate low-brow visitor’s guide is authored, under-the-radar bands will have to continue to make a noise loud enough to warrant such an encyclopedic tome. With that being said, you’ll be forced to venture out in the birthplace of Burt Bacharach in a quest to find live, above par garage punk. One such musical collective that’s scaring the locals (and Greyhound-riding tourists) is the enjoyably demented Witch Jail.
Fronted by the maniacal Guy Slimey, Witch Jail’s roots lay in the garage/surf sounds of the Spook Lights, which hailed from Lawrence, Kansas. Embroiled in the lively, local punk scene, the spooky ones were picking up steam (and a cult following) for their live shows and presence on the GaragePunk Hideout. However, after lasting for nearly 10 years, the Spook Lights were reaching a nadir, just as the once promising underground began shriveling up like a testicle sack in Iceland. Rock ‘n’ roll bands were making a mass exodus to Kansas City, while banjo-plucking beardos and Arcade Fire wannabes were pushing their hipster agendas. While all of this trail mix overdosing was engulfing the land of Jayhawks basketball, Guy turned the dimmer switch of the Lights from low to off, and pondered his next move.
Never one to follow commercially popular trends, Slimey decided to put his lurid fascinations with vintage horror, sleazy grindhouse cinema, kinky sex, surf culture, and witch history into a new band. One of the first steps was to come up with a name that he felt would embody such delightful obsessions. While perusing the internet one day (or was it a dark, stormy night?), he came across a 1940s-era photo of sorority gals posing by the old “Witch Jail” sign in Salem, Massachusetts. Obviously feeling that this was meant to be, Guy, along with his wife Suzy Bones, recruited some local talent to form Witch Jail. Spending a year (witch)crafting their chops, the Slimeys settled on the additional line-up of Eddie Morphine and Matty Rat, then headed to the more welcoming environs of Kansas City. Armed with a stable roster, Guy and his coven released the “Slimewave, USA!” 7″ while he was busying himself with writing material for a more ambitious recording.
Taking the experience of his previous band, Guy masterfully perfected his spooky surf-injected garage punk on Witch Jail’s eight song EP “Desperation Beach”. Yelping with the charisma of Lux Interior and the intensity of Jon Spencer, the frontman brilliantly combines the raucous twang of the Cramps with the raw energy of the Blues Explosion. The highlights of this collection are the faster numbers, like “Do the Shoplift”, “Trash Night”, “Compulsion!”, and the boss cruiser “Teen-A-Cide”. The tunes overall have a sinister edge, and this sounds like the lost soundtrack to a “Horror Of Party Beach” type of drive-in flick that should be required listening at any back deck Tiki bar. Let’s all raise our Mai Tais to Witch Jail, and hope that this is the beginning of an illustrious and lengthy discography.
“Do the Shoplift”
“Desperation Beach” and “Slimewave, USA!” are available on Bandcamp.
You can stay up to date on the official Witch Jail website.
You can also find them on Facebook.