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June 4th, 2008 Erik Bader | Music Stories
 

Skull Splitter

A really conversational look at Eat Skull’s fractured noise rock.

     
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BASKETCASES: Rob Enbom (left) and Scott Simmons of Eat Skull.
IMAGE: Erik Bader

Dude No. 1: Duuuude.

Dude No. 2: ’Sup, man?

Dude No. 1: Not much, just writing this article about Eat Skull. It’s kinda difficult.

Dude No. 2: How is that possible? The basic facts are easy: Eat Skull is a totally fucked-up-sounding band from Portland. Four mutant weirdos with warm-fuzz guitars, roller-rink keyboards, caveman drums and a space-echo microphone playing through a ’70s AM Gold radio on fire, laying some kind of truly twisted ’60s-style surf-garage trip through the filter of blown-out ’90s No Wave with all the aesthetics of “Who Cares?”-style ’80s punk. Anyone could tell you that. What’s the problem?

Dude No. 1: I guess it’s just that I’d like to consider myself a pseudo-professional rock journalist. Yet, when I sit down to write something righteous about a real-deal punk unit like Eat Skull, I just don’t know what to say. Talking to those dudes, you get the feeling they don’t even know why they’re in a band. Way I see it, being in a band like Eat Skull isn’t a lifestyle choice—you don’t just wake up and say, “Let’s do a band that sounds like Eat Skull.” No, you wake up and you’re in Eat Skull—that’s what I’m trying to say here, dude.

Dude No. 2: Totally losing me, man. But if I’m picking up what you’re laying down, it’s that Eat Skull doesn’t have a ready-made template that lazy rock journalists can rewrite for shitty reviews. No press sheet, no website, no PR agent. Just a handful of tunes and an attitude. What happened when you called frontman Rob Enbom and asked for an interview?

Dude No. 1: He said if I wanted to meet up tonight they were practicing in a basement in Southeast, and if I wanted to meet up tomorrow they were playing a house show in North Portland.

Dude No. 2: Sounds to me like what you’re dealing with isn’t a project, or a genre, or a trend. Sounds like what you’re dealing with is a band.

Dude No. 1: And in these days of MySpace phenomena, YouTube “stars” and GarageBand being a program, not a thing, it feels like an actual band is a rare occurrence indeed.

Dude No. 2: Let’s talk about Eat Skull’s new record.

Dude No. 1: Oh, you mean Sick to Death? Yeah, it’s pretty fucking great.

Dude No. 2: Sporting a beyond-retarded hand-drawn cover and featuring such scum-encrusted tracks as “Beach Brains,” “Dog Religion” and “Puker Corpse,” we’re easily looking at one of the top five long-players of the year.

Dude No. 1: To hear it from them, they had no idea what they were doing. Most of it was recorded drunk with a 4-track they could barely figure out, the rest with an 8-track that was even more confusing. The drums sound like they were thrown down the stairs while the microphone was lying on a rainy lawn.

Dude No. 2: Meaning it sounds completely destroyed and 100 percent awesome, i.e., the total opposite of Sega laptop crap like, oh, I don’t know, Crystal Castles.

Dude No. 1: I bet they only have a MySpace page because it’s free.

Dude No. 2: How about that basement show? Total chaos, right?

Dude No. 1: Crazy wasted kids crowd surfing in a smoke-choked low-ceiling basement as the band goes completely nuts, Enbom snarling into a microphone while holding on for dear life to a can of beer.

Dude No. 2: It’s like zines, or high-fives, campfires or beaches—y’know, things that aren’t the Internet. Bass player Scott Simmons owns Southeast Portland’s Exiled Records, as in vinyl, the opposite of MP3s.

Dude No. 1: Their label, Siltbreeze, put out the first two records by Times New Viking, an Ohio group with a similar aesthetic (sweet pop beneath harsh noise). TNV just got picked up by Matador and are newly minted Pitchfork darlings. Is Eat Skull next?

Dude No. 2: Who knows. Global warming is real, the economy is fucked and this article’s narration got split like the Democrats. When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. And when pro no longer works, at least there’s Eat Skull.

Dude No. 1: Amen to that, brother. Thanks for the input.

Dude No. 2: Any time, man. Any time.


SEE IT: Eat Skull celebrates the release Sick to Death Friday, June 6, with the Hunches, the Mayyors and DJ Blackhawk at East End. 9 pm. $5. 21+. Also Sunday, June 8, with Fabulous Diamonds, the Mayyors and Psychedelic Horseshit at Twilight Bar & Cafe. 9 pm. Free. 21+.
 
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