Monday, August 11, 2014
Square Zeros #25: VULTURE SHIT (Red Vs. Black, Black Jello, Purple Cocks)
Bassist Mike B. and drummer Mike D. were playing as a duo called Purple Cocks, while vocalist Randy Vandal was fronting the hardcore band Red Vs. Black. They’d shared stages on the road a few times, but it didn’t occur to them to join forces until one night in Crown Heights.
A large building near the corner of Franklin Ave. and Park Place had erupted in flames, and Mike B. had stopped to see what was happening. The spectacle had grabbed Randy’s attention too.
“I saw him and I was like, ‘Hey,’” Mike recalled. “And we didn’t really talk too much. We just watched this building burn.”
Something about that interaction — and I’m not even sure the guys know quite what it was — spawned the drums-bass-vocals noise punk powerhouse Vulture Shit.
Mike D. compared it to the home run that legendarily inspired Haruki Murakami to write novels.
“You guys saw that building burning and you were like, ‘I could be in a band.’”
Whether it’s all an embellished account or pure objective fact doesn’t matter: when you hear Vulture Shit or see them live, it seems totally appropriate that they were conceived in the glow of a flaming piece of architecture. Almost everything about the band is an attack on convention and piety, musical or otherwise — from their dirty, guitar-less production to their darkly satirical lyrics to their name itself. And what’s great about Vulture Shit is that, radical as they are (they really do believe that destruction of the nuclear family would be a good thing), it all comes with a wry and intelligent sense of humor. They kind of embody H.L. Mencken’s “one horse laugh is worth ten thousand syllogisms,” particularly on songs like “That’s My Little Guy,” “Dinnertime,” and the hilarious crowd favorite “Area Dads.” If you haven’t seen them live, you’ll have plenty of opportunities in the coming weeks (SEE BELOW). In the meantime, do yourself a favor and pick up Expensive Tastes, their new split with Clean Girls (SZ#11), and check out the rest of their stuff on Bandcamp.
We packed a lot of music into this episode, starting with two cuts from Randy’s Red Vs. Black. The first is “Red Vs. Black Theme,” which they’d open their shows with. The second is “Rhetoric” from the Rage EP.
The Rage EP is a rare and precious piece of art. Red Vs. Black had burned a few dozen CD-Rs of the record for a countrywide tour and assembled cases out of red and black construction paper with titles written in Sharpie. At a show in New Jersey with Mike and Mike’s Purple Cocks, someone stole the entire stack.
“There was no value,” Randy said. “It was awful. We were touring with no money, like putting $10 at the gas station and hoping to make it to the next show. To have the main financial contributor to gas gone for no reason was a bummer.”
It’s a shame we couldn’t get our hands on one of the originals, but we’re stoked to showcase a couple of those tracks here.
The Mikes were self-described band geeks who grew up together in suburban Maryland and played in a series of projects together. Among them was Black Jello, a jam band that saw some relative success in high school. Not only were they making some pretty sophisticated music as adolescents — they did a great job archiving a lot of it. The first song is a live recording of the Incubus-meets-Weather-Report song “Isaac,” recorded live at The Recher Theatre in Towson, Md. They follow that up with a truly impressive cover of “National Anthem” by Radiohead.
Black Jello was the super-sincere, almost naïve flexing of Mike and Mike’s musical chops. Some years later, that gave way to Purple Cocks, which Mike D. characterizes as the product of “one of those particularly listless, deadbeat summers that you only have when you’re in early college and you come home and work a bullshit job and get stoned way too much.”
The band’s backstory is a lot more elaborate than any building catching fire. Mike D. was Girthman Stiffinstein, Mike B. was The Bone, and the guitarist was Beefeater Junior — three residents of the nation of Cockswana who had never seen the outside world until a man named Reginald Spalding discovered them in his Jeep and took them to America to play. “Top Of The Mountain” is a sludgy, hypnotic mess of blazed-out nihilism with a really catchy bassline and a crescendo that you’re just gonna have to hear for yourself.
Thanks to Vulture Shit for coming on the show! You can catch them a lot this month — 8/15 at Cake Shop, 8/22 at Netherlands, 8/29 at Brooklyn Night Bazaar, and 8/30 at Palisades. Pick up their new split with Clean Girls at Mirror Universe Tapes.