Ever leaned on an electric fence after sledgehammering a watermelon? This is the sensation of Blood Drugs, a four-piece Seattle punk-rock band. Feel the voltage flow and wallop through you. The shock, the shot of pain, then pleasure from the pain. Guitarist Shawn Kock (from Absolute Monarchs), guitarist/vocalist Kyle Bradford, drummer Thomas Burke, and bassist Gwen Stubbs swing from muscled shoulders with tones of Hot Snakes and Fugazi. This past November, Blood Drugs signed with Good to Die Records, and they will have an album out in the spring. For this interview, Blood Drugs met me at the Puget Sound Blood Center. Platelets were everywhere.
Your song "Lowest" sounds very killer. How did the song happen?
Kyle Bradford: Shawn sent me a 30-second video of the guitar changes in a text message. He was so excited about the progression he didn't bother wearing pants or a shirt in the video. I was so into the song it took me a minute to notice all the nipples and pubes.
Gwen Stubbs: This was the best song of their set when I saw their first show, the only one without me, and I really wanted to play it.
Talk about the hesitation in the sequence toward the end of "Lowest." How did the nudity happen?
Shawn Kock: It was summer and crazy hot, so I didn't bother with clothing. I was in my attic, and I wrote it in one go. My songwriting style is mostly fumbling until I hear a part I like, then the rest of the song just writes itself.
Thomas Burke: It was a direct result of Shawn's love for playing guitar naked. Somehow he managed to get one of his testicles caught in his pickups. He hesitated in agony but continued playing. Thus the stutter was born.
GS: See the abuse I have to go through? [Laughs]
I love that I can't understand what Kyle is singing in that song. It reminds me of Nazareth singing, "Now you're messing with a son of a bitch." The words I think I understand are "swallowed a priest" and "playing a game of kerosene hide-and-seek at the Strike-Anywhere match-making plant."
KB: Shawn was adamant that I write actual lyrics to the songs, although I freestyled the fuck out of this song at our first show and nobody had a clue. Now the song has real lyrics. It's about the losing of faith and how disappointing that notion is to begin with. And subsequently the relief that follows. Then the utter bewilderment that ensues until you inevitably die [laughs]. It could be about anything anyone's actually believed, then found out to be bullshit.
If you could have a vial of sweat from any musician ever, whose would you have and what would it taste like?
SK: Easy—Lux Interior from the Cramps. It would taste like red wine, pantyhose, and glow-in-the-dark.
TB: Does it have to be a musician? I'd say Guy Fieri if it's open. It would taste like the most intense and lingering ghost pepper sauce, with a subtle yet distinct bleach tone. I'd pair it with a delightful Riesling.
GS: I'd say Jeffrey Lee Pierce from Gun Club. This is a bizarre question. Do you keep vials of other people's sweat, Trent?
Congrats on signing to Good to Die Records. What does Good to Die mean to the city of Seattle?
SK: Thanks. I think it's a vital Seattle label. I think the financial risk alone of putting out the type of music that Nik Christofferson puts out, mostly on vinyl, in this digital/Spotify climate is a huge win for the spirit of underground music here.
GS: Nik consistently signs bands that are on par with each other, and it's great to know we have a label family. It's really important to have labels like this around. There's only so much we can do as musicians, and it's great to have his support.
Speaking of labelmates, what's this about you all allegedly drinking all of Constant Lovers' beer and not replacing it?
KB: They had a shitload of beer left from their record-release party. I swear they said we could drink it, but I drank like 19 beers that afternoon so I could be wrong. But I'm almost sure they said we could drink that beer.
SK: While I'm not admitting any guilt, it culminated with them writing "DON'T DO IT" in Sharpie on the inside of our practice space's mini fridge as a deterrent. There were also a few text message reminders to lay off their beer.
TB: I'm still not convinced it was us, but we replaced it. We've since installed one of those annoying diet alarms on the fridge.
GS: The boys drink about six beers to my one beer. I am an honest and trustworthy person, and I was like, "Hey guys, maybe we shouldn't drink ALL of that beer."
What do Blood Drugs make you feel like?
KB: Exactly like playing through your set while drinking an entire double bottle of cheap red wine and snorting 12-hour time-release Adderall in a tiny practice space at 7 a.m. on a Sunday. You know, like going to church.
What do you say to people when they ask about your band name?
KB: Mom, I'm not on drugs.
TB: I usually have to repeat it, one word at a time. My oma really loves it. I hope she likes the shirt we sent her.
GS: I usually say it all peppy and awkward, like, "We're called Blood Drugs!" With a little smile, and I put my hands under my chin like you did for school pictures, or like that Big Business photo.
Blood Drugs, Blood Drugs, good for the heart, the more you eat 'em, the more you... what?
SK: Throw a dart at a photo of Kenny Loggins.
How was working with Matt Bayles? He's magic at capturing magic.
SK: Some people would say Matt has the reputation of being blunt or a bit of a taskmaster, but when he killed that puppy in front of Gwen for rushing her bass lines, the magic came pouring out.
GS: I loved working with Matt. I like that he runs a tight ship and forces us to be disciplined. He's interested in recording great records, not stroking egos. No puppy was harmed in the creation of the Blood Drugs record.
Explain your "12th Man/6th finger" T-shirt.
KB: I had the idea of writing "Blood Drugs" on two hands with extra fingers. Shawn sent me a shitty sketch. I misinterpreted which way the hands were facing, so when I drew the hands, it never crossed my mind that the two hands would appear to be grabbing at one's own titties. We sold a shitload of those shirts to the ladies at the Capitol Hill Block Party. So, happy accident, I guess.
SK: The best part, Kyle, is that I told you, "It's gonna look like the hands are grabbing the boobs," and you said, fucking verbatim: "No one will think that."
GS: Obviously, as I'm the unofficial T-shirt model for Blood Drugs, it looks like it's grabbing my boobs. Vivienne Westwood would approve!