When a band names itself The Lou Reeds it's a safe bet that they're not angling for the country club crowd. It's a name that conjures up disturbing visions of half-dead junkies slumped in desolate alleys, glamorous drag queens on the way down and caustic critiques of American political life. It is, in other words, the perfect name for this band. If he heard them, I don't think Lou would mind that they've copped his handle.
The Lou Reeds are Naitha Bellessis, Kevin Blue, Andy Jackson, Nick Lee and Deric Shannon. It would be pointless to tell you what each member plays, because they change instruments more often than David Bowie changes genders. And, like members of the Gambino Family, they all eventually sing. This constant state of flux allows the band to explore different sounds and keeps the shows interesting. It also expresses the egalitarian attitude of The Lou Reeds, which, as Deric says, is "kind of a band and kind of a collective."
He isn't kidding about that collective bit. Since their formation two years ago, it seems that everyone in Muncie but the mayor has played in The Lou Reeds.
With their ominous name, revolving members, switching instruments and changing voices, I wasn't sure what to expect when I attended one of the band's recent practices. As I settled down to listen, I was prepared to dodge hurled beer bottles and witness terrible scenes of emotional turmoil, something like a Rudolph Giuliani press conference. Imagine my surprise as I watched, instead, a very entertaining and (they'll slap me when they read this) professional display. They tore through a 40-minute set with hardly a hiccup. Things didn't get ugly until the end when, for reasons known only to them, they began to play the greatest hits of INXS. If Michael Hutchence hadn't already ... well, you know.
As influences, the band names Jesus Lizard, Slint, Elvis Costello, the Neeks, Brian Wilson and John Wyatt. But their own sound, says Deric, "is impossible to categorize." Or, as Kevin adds, "What is music? Music is sound. What is sound? It's noise. Music equals noise. Noise equals music." In other words, it's up to me to describe what the band sounds like.
Their music is, like Bob Dole, mostly hard, but intelligently so. Take their 30-second song "Girl/Boy." Naitha sweetly sings "boy, boy, boy, boy" over a lazy background of melodic guitar and loping bass. Then, Deric screams "girl, girl, girl, girl" maniacally, punctuating each word with distorted guitar and a crashing rhythm section. Rarely has so much been said with so few words.
Asking a Muncie band about the local music scene is like asking Rush Limbaugh what he thinks of poor people, but I asked anyway.
"I don't think there are enough places to play," says Naitha.
"People have certain things that they want to hear, and they don't want to hear anything else," says Andy.
But they all agree that things are beginning to improve. As Deric says, "I think the band scene is starting to get a lot more solidified. People are working together now who I never thought I would see working together."
One sign of than improvement is last year's Workman's Comp, a CD compilation of Muncie bands, which Deric helped put together. Plans are currently being made to produce another compilation, but this time bands from any old place are welcome to join the digital party. Those interested in the fame and fortune that an appearance on this comp will, undoubtedly, bring is invited to inquire at the_mighty7@hot mail.com.
A benefit show to raise money for the new CD will be held at the Circle D on June 23. The Circle D itself, as Deric points out, is another encouraging sign for local music. It is an all-ages club that was recently opened by members of the band Daguessinge. The club is located at 304 S. Walnut, just a block down from where Jack Ruby used to keep an office. It's true. I swear.
Obviously, The Lou Reeds see music as much more than an interesting way to annoy the neighbors or kill time on the weekend. When I ask what their goals for the future are, Andy says, "My dream is to start a commune, set up a recording studio in the barn and have a place where everyone can make music all the time."
"Like Charles Manson," says Naitha. Ah, there's a cynic in every bunch.
Deric says, "I would like The Lou Reeds to be the forefront of a revolutionary force par excellance that overthrows the capitalist system that degrades poor people and continues to centralize capital in the hands of the rich." Everyone has to start somewhere. He continues, "I'm more interested in propaganda than music. Like the song Andy wrote about rich people, 'I will never f****** be like you.' Stuff like that excites me more than," in a whining voice, "I can't believe she broke up with me."
And what about Nick's goals? Proletarian revolution? Nuclear disarmament? Cars that run on oxygen? "I just wanna dance," he says. Wubba, wubba, wubba.