What makes a crap job for lousy pay worth all the abuse and frustration? Having the opportunity to free your mind up and focus on an outlet decidedly more creative -- like a band. When you know you've got rock 'n' roll waiting for you back home, suddenly nothing your boss throws at you seems all that unendurable. This work hard/play hard meditation was brought to you by all the musicians and songwriters across the land who punch the clock to earn the cash to pour into their true passion. While the worker bees in offices and factories drone on, the creative while away their 8-to-5 in a sonic reverie, where no one can reach them with withering, soul-crushing concerns. In those heads, lights are twinkling, sounds are crackling and crowds are cheering. Such is the case with the four young men of Coeur d'Alene punk band Scatterbox.
"It's money in my pocket to get by," asserts bassist Ryan White when asked about his daily grind at Home Depot. "I don't like my job. I hate it. I want to get out of there. And you can put that in the story. I wanna leave it on the break room table."
Guitarist Jared Brown bags groceries at an IGA store when he isn't Scatterbox-ing it or touring with Inland Northwest punk stalwarts Moral Crux. The band's singer, Tom White (Ryan's older brother), works -- grudgingly, I'd wager -- for Home Depot's competitor, Ziggy's. Only drummer Scott Rozell blows the hypothesis all to hell by not properly loathing his day job (working with the developmentally disabled at SL Start and Associates). In fact, he actually seems to enjoy it.
"It's pretty cool," he says. "But I never thought in a million years I'd be doing this kind of work. I figured I'd be working at Hollywood Video the rest of my life."
Now that you know where the guys in Scatterbox can be found during the day, the question becomes, where they can be spotted getting their kicks and chasing the dream at night? Caf & eacute; Sole, for one, and anywhere else around town all-ages rock shows are happening with any frequency. This Saturday night you can catch them wedged into a terrific three-band bill with some like-minded souls, the Creeps and Against All Odds, at Altered Skin Tattoo, a relatively new all-ages venue on the North Side (on East Francis near Fred Meyer, to be more precise).
Scatterbox has been together for exactly three years and has two albums out there, the full-length Run Faster, Jump Higher and a split CD with the now defunct American Zero called Lipstick Stains and Shotgun Shells. They've recently changed guitarists -- with Brown (ex-American Zero) replacing original guitarist Dan Stamper -- and are planning a return trip to the studio next month. They've done some limited touring around the Inland Northwest -- White says, "We tour Spokane all the time" -- and are looking forward to trips to Portland, Eugene, Richland and (perhaps) a spot on the Warped Tour this summer.
The band specializes in lean, loud and fast old- school punk played with precision and devotion. To my damaged ears, they sound like Dead Boys set to Circle Jerks tempos, a collision of East and West Coast styles that is fun yet satisfying to the intellect.
But what inspired a group of teenagers in the year 2000 to pick up on the tenets of loud fast rules? Why punk? Why not death metal or country or hip-hop -- or polka for crissakes?
"I grew up listening to a lot of classic rock and oldies," explains White. "Punk rock was the first music that actually touched me. I could relate to it. A lot of people bitch because it's really simple, you know, 'three-chord punk sucks ass.' But some of the best bands I've ever heard do three-chord punk."
Rozell agrees: "I moved here from Portland when I was 10, and I was listening to the radio. I had no idea any of that stuff existed. I was listening to Gwar and Vanilla Ice or some shit. Then my cousin gave me this tape with the Bad Brains, Suicidal Tendencies and DRI. And from there, I was just hooked."
The essence of punk ("back in the day" as well as "in the now") has far less to do with style than it does with killing the idea of rock stardom and allowing the boundaries between audience and performer to vanish in a rush of verve, intensity and perspiration.
"I like it because you can just go and do it," says Rozell. "And all the people in the bands are just normal and not up there on some big-ass stage."
"You're playing and you see all these guys that you know down there in the pit," says White. "And the next thing you know, they're up on stage and you're right in their place. When we play, I feel like the people going to the shows. They get the same feeling seeing us as I get when I see them getting into us. That does it for me."
Both White and Rozell (along with the rest of Scatterbox) deeply appreciate having this noisy outlet and strive to do what they can to make sure that punk rock by the people, for the people shall not vanish from the face of the local scene.
"It's a goal for me," says White. "I want to help get this scene back on its feet. I want to bring back punk the way it was years ago -- not new-wave punk but old-school punk. Just straight and from the streets."
"Yeah," adds Rozell. "Fast and loud."
The Moods of Andalou -- Also this Saturday night, two Portland bands (Avenue of the Strongest and Reduction Method), a Seattle band (Daytime Hero) and a San Francisco unit (Andalusia) will have an opportunity to make an impression on local audiences within the oh-so-intimate confines of Mootsy's.
Guitarist Cameron Ray and bassist Kirsten Burns started Andalusia in 1996. Jon Burns took up residence behind the drum kit a year later. Singer Suzi Maclay signed on in 2002. The band's mostly instrumental compositions (as found on its most recent self-released album, 2001's Such a Heavenly Eyesore) are typified by reverb-drenched guitars, silky rhythms, deep-focus atmospherics and bursts of shimmering, churning dirty white noise straight out of the My Bloody Valentine songbook. The vocals -- what few there are -- ooze with intrigue and vaguely recall Hope Sandovol's torch-y work with Mazzy Star. This finely constructed reflective music takes perverse joy in manipulating tension and release: It spreads alternately soothing, jarring and creepy noise into every crevice. In its orchestrated chaos, Andalusia's otherworldly music is the perfect soundtrack to your very own Lynchian encounter with that mysterious stranger you've been eyeing all night. Dim the lights. Check out. Love it live.
Publication date: 03/20/03