My experience with punk music extends about as far as Green Day, who, according to general sentiment, aren't even punk these days, having sold out long ago.
At any rate, when I was assigned to profile Fort Wayne punk band The Beautys, I approached the assignment as I would any other. I wasn't expecting any more than what usually happens in interviewing rock outfits which, in spite of the hyped and glorified personification of the writing style in certain media channels (think Almost Famous), is fairly commonplace. I didn't really expect to get a taste of living, breathing punk in its primordial state - the way perhaps it was meant to be.
The Beautys exude a punk persona that is completely in tune to the fundamentals of the genre. They live the music. Acclaim, success and notoriety are words as alien to them as the thought of playing stadiums. Talking to them reminded me of watching vintage footage on VH1 about the days when The Ramones and The Sex Pistols were just upstarts nobody had really heard of yet. The days when three-chord guitar riffs and anarchical lyrics were looked down upon by the 'rock gods' of the era.
During my conversation, I was most impressed with the members' sincerity and conviction to their music and everything it stands for.
"We don't take ourselves too seriously," says Beautys' guitarist/singer/frontwoman Chica. "But we take our music very seriously."
She says something about her real name and something else that makes me think split personality for a split second.
The phone conversation is dominated by Beautys' bassist Erick Coleman. Throughout the conversation, however, he repeats each question so that Chica, in the background, can answer for him. It's clear who is in charge of the band.
I get them talking about how the band formed. Chica deflects the question in typical Johnny Rotten fashion: "We formed out of a pile of dirty socks and tampons in a corner." Later, I'm told the band formed in late 1995, with Chica, Salsa Dave, the drummer (so named for his ability to make 'badass salsa,' Coleman says) and a bassist whom Chica did not name. Coleman, who plays bass, wasn't added until late 1998 after, apparently, the bassist he replaced and Chica had some sort of falling out, the details of which were not imparted to me.
Coleman played his first show with the band on New Year's Eve, 1999. "The Beautys gigged with popular Indianapolis punk act Sloppy Seconds for a show that drew more than 1,000 fans," Coleman says.
I ask about their music, which they say has some surf in it. Coleman, repeating what I hear Chica say, says they play their music "because nobody told us to stop. So at this point we will continue onward."
They play almost entirely original music, with the occasional Ramones' cover song. One of their songs was written about Wildwood Liquors on Broadway in Fort Wayne. "Wildwood," Chica explains, "had been around for some time with music only and no lyrics." While in the studio recording "Thing of Beauty," Chica finally came up with the lyrics. She was thinking about some place happy and comforting. She thought of the liquor store which is three blocks from her house. "You write what you know," she says. "I knew they were always cool to me there."
Opting to play their own tunes means, "locally we are limited to the places we can play," Coleman says. He says the band never plays weekend shows in town.
In spite of having such limits, Coleman says the band still is well received in the area. "Our hometown crowd is really supportive. We have a good crowd base here."
The band's name, an intentional misspelling of 'beauties,' was chosen after the band discovered another band was already playing under the name. Coleman says the other Beauties are a California glam metal band. I hear Chica adding in the background while Coleman is explaining where the name came from that "we called ourselves The Beautys because of low self-esteem.
The Beautys have recorded two albums. The most recent, Thing of Beauty, was released in May. Their first album was a duet of sorts with the band The Nobodies, from Colorado Springs. That 1996 album, called Hugh, featured songs by both bands and was recorded and sold to raise money for cancer survivors and to aid cancer organizations, Coleman says.
Coleman explains that The Beautys met The Nobodies on the road through a mutual friend. The mutual friend died of cancer. Band members became and remain good friends.
"The road tour," Coleman says, "is one of the best aspects about being in a band."
"We love the road," he says. The band has been on tour nearly every year since forming. Three weeks ago they returned from a tour in support of Thing of Beauty. The tour took them through much of the West, from Austin, Texas, to Seattle, and "everywhere in between," Coleman says.
The band made a stop in Des Moines, Iowa, hometown of hardcore metal band Slipknot. Coleman says he and The Beautys met Slipknot while in the city. He doesn't make it seem it was that rare and exciting.
He gets excited, however, when he tells me the band also "trashed our gear" while in Des Moines. He says it was the first time they've ever destroyed their instruments. He doesn't tell me what I expect him to say - that the experience was liberating, as I've heard many other musicians say. He just explains, regretfully, it seems to me, that instruments are expensive and it's not a good idea to destroy them if you don't have a lot of money.
Coleman says the band returns each year to certain cities and certain clubs. In particular they often play at Stinky's Peep Show, a large lady's strip club in San Francisco. That popular club is lots of fun to play. He adds the band usually has a lot of fun playing in Los Angeles.
The Beautys are scheduled to play at Columbia Street West on October 23. After that they will return to Des Moines for an October 27 show at Hairy Mary's.
The band's web site, www.thebeautys.com, contains pictures, music downloads, a show date calendar and lots of punk-inspired words of wisdom.