The music video for their song, "Panic," tells you just about everything you need to know about the Yokohama Hooks. Posted on their MySpace page, it begins quietly, a little ominously, like the intro to a horror film. You see a weird, glowing, buzzing orb in the middle of the street, cars speeding past. It's quiet, but for the crunch of footsteps on concrete, a woman's voice repeating the word "panic" in a strange falsetto.
Then a tinny hi-hat drumbeat starts up, and an electric guitar saws away at a few slow chords while a beeping kind of bass line bounces along the bottom. This could be the soundtrack for a Quentin Tarantino movie, for that moment when the chic heroine goes berserk and starts her killing spree. We see a woman walking down the sidewalk in red leather boots and black fishnets. We see lead singer Judith Davis looking angry on the telephone.
The song hasn't even really begun in earnest yet, but already we get a sense of the Hooks' sensibilities -- arty, edgy, punkadelic. When it really starts rocking, it exudes '80s fashion and attitude.
The clever video was pieced together by drummer John Swanstrom in a tiny dark building near North Central High School, on Indiana. The place used to be a Chinese restaurant, then the ill-fated Cybergate Caf & eacute;. Now the space is rented out by the Hooks and Foxxy Moron and the Sexy Revolution. It's filled with ... stuff. A couch. A pillow shaped like a fish. A combination kitchen/walk-in closet, replete with costumes. The two bands each practice in the front room, crowded with sundry drums and sound equipment. They use the space for practice, for partying and -- with a green screen in one corner -- making movies.
Swanstrom has been an amateur filmmaker for years, and a Spokane rock scene mainstay for decades, having played with groups like the Vampire Lesbos, TFL and the Flies. "I'm the grandpa in the band," he says. Last year he was approached by James Hunt, another local rock regular, who hit him up to play drums for "this cool new band." Swanstrom usually plays guitar and Hunt usually plays bass, but they agreed to play drums and guitar, respectively, to make room for Judith Davis and Doe Hawkes-Roach, half of the Clap (now defunct), that notoriously bizarre all-girl group that turned so many heads at last year's Worst Band Ever competition at the Spike.
Together they formed a sound that's very Spokane -- frenetic, seriously lo-fi ("It's kinda cool having people in the band who are new to their instruments," Swanstrom says), a little trashy and drenched in the sounds of the '80s.
"It's not like we tried [to sound that way]," says Davis. "It just happened ... I'm a huge fan of New Wave. I guess I have a weird voice. It really just came from me listening to Cyndi Lauper and imitating her." But then she also describes their music as "whiny" and "annoying." "It bugs me," she says.
The group played its first show, at the B-Side, on Jan. 1. They've since played about a dozen shows at venues across town, as well as a mini-tour that took them to Portland and Richland. But they say (surprise, surprise) that they get their best reception at Mootsy's, where they'll play again on Monday.
"It's nice not having a stage," Davis says. "You're closer to the audience. Plus, it's easier to hump people's legs."
We're looking forward to it.
The Yokohama Hooks at Mootsy's, 406 W. Sprague, with Skirts of Fury and Rivercity Tanlines (Memphis) on Monday, July 10, whenever they get around to it. Tickets: $5. Call 838-1570.