Strong Killings Make Ordered Disorder Out of Tangy Punk
Seattle's Strong Killings are a fast-twitch, tangy, three-piece punk band. Tangy as in: to have tang, to be explosive, lovable, and smutty. They're also tight as hell, yet unraveled in just the right way. Singer/guitarist Nate Mooter's wide-ranged vocals are rambunctious. He's got an oddball rebel sex appeal and he will sock someone in the mouth. In the mostly instrumental "Stegosaurus," he displays Phantom of the Opera–style vibrato vocal skills out of nowhere. Drummer Mike Loggins (who was in the Lashes with Mooter) and bassist/singer Carlos Lopez-Lopez hold down the torrent with able hands, dicing and incising sections with clean-cut signature lines. Last year's self-titled full-length on Don't Stop Believin' Records was possibly the best local release of the year. In musical terms, Strong Killings are "presto con espressione bravura giocoso"—fast with expression and humor. Think Minutemen, the Plugz, and the Dead Boys. Think about beer and Funyuns. Think about Strong Killings pouring beer on a bald man's head. Then think about Funyuns again. Strong Killings do well for all that is ordered disorder. I sat with Mooter, Loggins, and Lopez-Lopez to discuss. We sipped aperitifs.
Nate, who did you punch in the face at your record-release show?
Nate: Some guy who was talking a bunch of shit. He leaned in and said some shit to me, so I socked him in the face. Talk shit, get hit! But I guess he was just drunk, the sound guy knew him and said he's not a bad guy. So we gave him a T-shirt and a CD to give to drunk guy. The next day, Mr. Drunky Pants was seen stumbling through Belltown wearing our T-shirt [laughs].
Who stole Mike's underwear when y'all were in LA?
Nate: Somebody smashed the window to our van when we were there, and all they stole was Mike's backpack full of dirty underwear.
Carlos: Mike gets mugged every other weekend on his way home from work.
Mike: Twice. I've only been mugged twice. But, yeah, in LA someone stole my Superman backpack.
Carlos: And he's the drummer, so those dirty undies were, you know, dirty.
What do y'all think of blues-rock duos?
Nate: I'm sick of all these blues-rock duos popping up in Seattle. It's so boring. Blues-rock is the original rap-rock. Why don't people exploit some other culture? I want to see a merengue-grunge duo like Eddie Vedder yarling in Spanish. Blues-rock, rap-rock—what's the difference?
Carlos: Whatever, dude, you rap in like half of our songs.
Nate: No, I don't.
Carlos: And on "The Basement," you and Pearl Dragon [Champagne Champagne] are rapping all over the place. Rapping over rock music.
Who are your favorite bands?
Nate: We're really into Wimps. Wimps is our new favorite punk band. They are so refreshingly punk. Also I caught Mama Utah's set at Block Party. The singer had an actual pig's head hanging around his neck on a chain. Like from a butcher shop.
Mike: My favorites are Don Caballero, Trans Am, Les Savy Fav, Hella, Japanther, Mclusky, Mogwai, and Beethoven. Nate likes to cry-dance. He only listens to Of Montreal and Morrissey. Carlos doesn't listen to music, just prerecorded sports broadcasts.
Where did the Mama Utah guy get the pig head?
Mike: The real question is, where did the pig head end up?
What does Strong Killings think of the Patty Hearst kidnapping in 1974 by the left-wing urban guerrilla Symbionese Liberation Army? They kidnapped her, then she robbed a bank with them.
Nate: [Pauses] Should we have a statement about that? Stockholm syndrome, right? Loving your captor? Brainwashing is pretty hot. [Sips aperitif.] Off-topic, but I think Chuck E. Cheese's was better when it was Showbiz Pizza. Rock-afire Explosion was the best band.
What's new in the Strong Killings world?
Nate: We've been writing, working on a new full-length to be released by Don't Stop Believin' Records. We are working on another dinosaur song. Booooring.
Mike: The new shit is harder on the outside than the last record, but with a soft, chewy center. We have a song that is all in five. Most of our stuff comes together in drunken late-night sessions recorded to boom box that we piece together the next day with sober ears. Cut out the fluff and keep the meat. We're recording in the fall with Justin Cronk at Toy Box Studios in Fremont, under Piece of Mind with the taco truck. We did our last record there with him. He gets us and our process.
How does the new stuff sound?
Nate: I don't know, crappy? [Laughs]
Mike: Yeah, it's not good. It stinks.
You've got a song about fighting an old man on a bus?
Nate: Sort of. I was on a super-crowded bus and this crazy old guy thought I kicked him. He told me he was going to punch my head open. For a second, I thought we were going to fight.
Carlos: There's also a song about stepping in gum. It's really artistic.
Nate, tell us about the pawnshop experience you had with your amp.
Nate: I love my amp. It's a crappy Randall head from the '80s that I've had forever. It was my first amp. I bought it for $100. It got stolen after a show when I was 19. Months later, my friend Scotty saw it in the storage room of his pawnshop. It wasn't police work or anything, just dumb luck. It's back with me now.
Nate, sometimes people see you in random spots around town playing accordion. What got you into playing accordion?
Nate: I was hanging out with my friend Phil Peterson, who produced the Kay Kay and His Weathered Underground stuff. We were listening to this Mat Mathews vinyl I have, he's a really amazing jazz accordionist, and I said something about wishing I could play accordion. Phil was like, "Oh, well, I have three accordions I don't play much, you wanna buy one?" He sold me a Hohner with all these rhinestones in it. He showed me how to use it without breaking it, and then I learned how the buttons were laid out from the interweb. Other than that, I didn't have any lessons or anything, but I was addicted to it. I would wander around the yard playing it for as long as I could stand, and after a year, I started busking with it. I paid my rent busking with accordion for a couple months when I didn't have a job. I'm proud of that. You have to go out every day to do that. When you play for three hours or more, you'll get bruises or weird marks that last a few days.
What's your favorite song to play on it?
Nate: The theme from the X-Men cartoon from the '90s.
Carlos: You should ask Mike what he thinks about crossing the street in traffic.
Mike, what do you think about crossing the street in traffic?
Mike: I hate it when cars hold up traffic for pedestrians crossing the street who aren't using a crosswalk. The people crossing don't want you to stop, just keep going! They'll get their turn when the traffic clears. It's a frustrating and awkward experience for everyone involved.
Why are there two Lopezes in Carlos's last name?
Nate: It's those fucking conquistadores. His mom is a Puerto Rican Lopez and his dad is a Mexican Lopez. So he's double Lopez.