Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Sasquatch & The Sick-A-Billys - from 1/18/06 Mercury


With Demon Truckers
Sat., 1-21, 10 p.m. Doors open at 9.
Area Venue, 3 River Lane, Newport
$8 cover


Sasquatch and the Sick-A-Billys are a band on a mission.

That mission, according to 32-year-old singer/guitarist Dave "Sasquatch" Caetano, "is to save f***in' rock 'n' roll."

The way to salvation for this Providence band slated to make its third Newport appearance at Area Venue Saturday night is a countrified blend of full-throttle, balls-out rock 'n' roll. Caetano's outrageous onstage antics- he's been known to set his pubic hair on fire and vomit on stage - tops off the Sick-A-Billys' energized, unmistakably rockabilly-infused sonic stew.

"It's gotta be done that way," Caetano said. "That's what rock 'n' roll should be about. I tell people it's OK to say 'F*** you' to your boss, it's OK to say 'F*** you' to people. Somebody's gotta be the asshole that says it. I'm just trying to take that fascist stress off of people's shoulders."

The Sick-A-Billys sound, which they've been fine-tuning for more than three years now, has earned them stripes among the psychobilly (read: fusion of punk and rockabilly) camp - not to mention opening slots with the likes of Reverend Horton Heat - but none of the band's members is comfortable with the concept of playing to the constraints of a single sub-genre.

"It's definitely a bastardized version of rockabilly," said Natalie Courville, a.k.a. "Miss Natalie," the band's 26-year-old drummer. Courville, a tattooed "hardcore kid" (as she put it) and Slayer enthusiast, grew up in Connecticut and played in punk and metal bands before becoming a Sick-A-Billy just about two years ago.

Upright bass player Johnny "Custom" Viveiros, 27, a Cranston resident who grew up in Warwick, never heard of the term psychobilly until he joined the band, though he'd taken to the rockabilly image - the "shirts with dice on them, the creepers."

"Most psychobilly bands, to me, just sound like punk bands with upright bass," Viveiros said. "I think we have different influences. I bring a little more punk (to the sound), Natalie brings the hardcore, and Dave brings the Frank Zappa-psychedelic-metal-bluesy mishmash or whatever you want to call it to the table. A lot of Dave's riffs are metal riffs with a twang."

Caetano, originally from Pawtucket, was a dreadlocked metalhead with a fairly omnivorous musical appetite before moving to Texas for two stints during the 1990s, but he credits a live Wayne "The Train" Hancock performance for turning him on to twangy sounds. "I just fell in love with it," he said, referring to the guitarist's trademark "hillbilly swing."

With a self-released CD, "Burning Miles of Sin," a win last spring in WBRU's Rock Hunt, and some increasingly aggressive and extensive touring under their belt, Sasquatch and the Sick-A-Billys are on the brink of another monthlong, Tasmanian devilesque spin around American clubland with dates booked everywhere from Pennsylvania to Texas. Perhaps an elaborate ruse to escape as much of New England winter as possible, Caetano has named it the "Cold as a Bastard Tour."

They also happen to be in distribution negotiations with the roots rock-purveying label Yep Roc, who could very well be getting both their first disc and the yet-to-be-released, 17-track follow-up - which is on the brink of its final mastering stages - out to record stores and radio stations everywhere in the coming year.

The Yep Roc roster includes the likes of Th' Legendary Shack*Shakers and Reverend Horton Heat. Both bands - and Reverend bass impressario "Jimbo" in particular - helped encourage Yep Roc to take note. "Those guys pushed for them to take a look at us," Viveiros said.

While lineup changes were frequent in the early days of the Sick-A-Billys and the band seemed more like Caetano and a revolving cast of characters fleshing out his singular vision, Sasquatch and the Sick-A-Billys have developed into a group effort. Viveiros said that Caetano handles most of the lyrics and comes up with the basic guitar parts, but the rest of the band has a say in the finished product.

"We've definitely sped up a lot of stuff," Viveiros said, referring to some of the band's older material. As for new songs, Caetano welcomes their input. "When it comes to the music and arrangement, it's all of us," Viveiros said. "Do 200 shows a year and you're going to get tighter," he added.

"The three-way relationship, musicwise, is like nothing else. We feed off each other like nobody's business. It's awesome. I've never had that in a band before," Courville said. "All three of us have a pretty strong work ethic when it comes down to it."

While they all have busy lives outside the band, Courville said, they're all dedicated to dropping everything to go on the road, rehearse, or put in studio time. "It's part of our lives and we love it. It wasn't always easy at times, but since then it's become a part of us."

Caetano's in-your-face stage presence has earned him some apt comparisons to Jello Biafra, the similarly-left-of-center former singer of politicized punk legends the Dead Kennedys. But he says the vomiting and self-immolation are subliminal things that happen maybe once a year. There are a number of factors - including how much he's been drinking.

"It gets people's attention. It's an expression of how sick to f***ing death I am of the world. (But) I'm not a novelty act. I've got these songs, so maybe that's what I need to focus on."

One thing the audience at the band's Newport show this weekend can expect is an energized set. "We always play like it's the end of the world," Courville said.


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