October 1, 2009
Local punk rockers Flamingo Nosebleed are three men with a lot of opinions. Consider the blurb on their MySpace page in which 26-year-old frontman Jake Emissions dares to dis not only hippies and emo/hardcore kids but the queen of daytime TV herself, Oprah Winfrey. And as for what they like? One need look no further than the back of bassist Phil Nieswender’s white mini-van. It’s plastered with bumper stickers of bands Nieswender, Emissions and drummer Turbo – who has a reputation in the band for “unadulterated sexiness” – have come to admire: bands like Country Bob and the Blood Farmers, Urinal Mints, The U.S. Beat and the Misfits.
“And the Ramones, of course,” said Emissions a few weeks ago when I met up with the guys in their rehearsal space, the living room of Turbo’s house on Brooklyn Avenue. “Our music is a lot like theirs in that we have a poppy sound with an edge to it. The Ramones were aggressive but they still had melodies and hooks. That’s what we’re trying to do too.”
Flamingo Nosebleed were born two years ago following the break up of Emissions’ previous band, The Goddammits. At that time he and his friends Druie “Ooie” and Pete Dio decided to form their own punk act. The name “Flamingo Nosebleed” was Emission’s idea.
“I wanted something that would get people’s attention. I mean, who in their right mind puts the word ‘flamingo’ in their band name? I paired that with ‘nosebleed’ to bring in the edginess factor. So the name really represents the kind of music we make. We do three-chord punk rock that’s fun and has a bite to it.”
When Ooie and Dio left the band just two months ago Nieswender and Turbo stepped in, and they’ve been working hard ever since to master Flamingo Nosebleed’s impressive setlist of originals, which includes “Alcoholic Teenage Queen,” “Jessy with the Guts on the Backups,” “Mommy and Daddy” and the group’s heartwarming tribute to Fort Wayne, whose title, unfortunately, cannot be printed here.
These songs and others can be found on Flamingo Nosebleed’s first album, William Zabka, named for the blond actor who played bad boy Johnny Lawrence in 1984’s The Karate Kid. The guys are currently working on a new CD, tentatively entitled Headbanger, which they hope to have out sometime next year.
Emissions said that while the band is in a way starting over, that it’s also stronger than ever because the guys all share the same vision: to set the standard for punk in Fort Wayne and take that on the road.
“We want to be the biggest damn band there is,” Emission said, “or maybe I’d settle for growing old, playing punk rock and paying the rent.”
While Flamingo Nosebleed have a pretty active calendar (they’ll play their first gig as a threesome this Friday night at O’Sullivan’s Italian Pub and have shows booked at the Brass Rail, Indianapolis’ Lizards bar and Cincinnati’s Blue Rock Tavern, just to name a few) they still have to hold down day jobs to pay the rent. Emissions divides his time between stocking magazines and working part-time on a farm and as a hairstylist.
“He gives the best guy bikini wax in town,” said Turbo.
“I do not give guy bikini waxes,” Emissions said. “That’s where I draw the line.”
Turbo is a carpenter, and when I asked Nieswender how he pays for the gas that gets him from his home in Coldwater, Michigan to Fort Wayne for rehearsals, he hung his many-pierced head and said, “I’m ashamed to say I work at Wal-Mart.”
The day jobs are there so the guys can spend their nights doing what they love – as Turbo puts it, “Playing punk rock that’s an adrenaline rush and puts a smile on people’s faces.” Because that’s what punk rock has done for them.
Emissions fell in love with the genre when he was a teenager. His father had forbidden him to play the guitar, saying it was a waste of time, but Emissions was sneaky and played his dad’s guitar any chance he got. Later he came across a Punkorama CD and immediately gave up playing classic rock for punk. He taught himself songwriting by listening to Buddy Holly, Roy Orbison and The Ramones, specifically their 1976 hit, “Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue,” over and over again.
“I like writing songs about chicks,” Emissions said. “It’s like Mike Ness said. ‘Even tough guys fall in love.’”
Indisputable tough guy Turbo started playing the drums roughly 13 years ago when he robbed a Wayne High School pop machine and used the proceeds to buy his first kit.
“I’ve got no shame about that,” he said. “I don’t mind everyone knowing that little part of my history.”
And Nieswender was playing lead guitar for Citizen’s Plague when Emissions approached him about switching bands and instruments.
“I like the bass a lot more actually,” Nieswender said. “I figured, ‘Why not learn it?’ I didn’t have anything else to do. I don’t have a lot of friends.”
The guys were obviously itching to start rehearsal. Emissions warned he’d be tuning a lot. He’d just gotten his guitar re-stringed. They launched into that Fort Wayne song, and suddenly Turbo’s nickname made complete sense. He was a whirlwind on the tubs. They followed that up with the infectious “Jessy” and then a ear-bleeding version of their newest tune, “Headbanger.”
It was a fabulous free concert, but Emissions seemed to feel the need to apologize. “It’s not as cool, just watching a rehearsal,” he said. “If we were at a show people’d be slinging beer. It’s punk rock, you know?”
Which, to Turbo, is not just a form of music but a way of life. “It’s about not conforming to what society expects of you,” he said. “It’s about questioning a lot of things other people take for granted.”
Emissions agreed, but added that there are a lot of misconceptions out there about who’s “punk rock” and who isn’t. “You hear a lot of people say, ‘Oh, that is so punk rock.’ But you don’t have to have a three-foot Mohawk to be punk rock. It’s not about what you look like or what you wear and it’s definitely not about looking down on people. And, of course, it’s about good music.”
It reminded me of another sticker I saw on Nieswender’s van, this one on the driver’s side window: “Quit work. Make music.”
Almost sounds like something Oprah would say.