Heavy Metal Marching Band are going to write you a jingle whether you like it or not.

Just ask United States Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen or Taco Bell, the latter of whom have been the subject of three different parody/tribute videos that are just begging for a framable, nacho-scented, cease and desist letter from the corporate Meximelt overlords. 

“Many moons ago Young Evils played a CMJ showcase sponsored by Taco Bell that was focused on ‘supporting’ touring musicians, and instead of paying the bands they gave you $500 worth of $5 Taco Bell gift cards. So we became very, very acquainted with the entire menu on that tour and I don’t think we’ve ever recovered from the very real and lasting damage it’s inflicted upon us.” 

Struggling to bridge the gap between art and commerce during the pandemic, Troy Nelson (who you may also know as a KEXP DJ) and Michael Lee (co-owner of eateries Saint John’s and Solo)—who have been playing music together for well over a decade—found themselves in need of COVID funds and comedic relief. The result was Heavy Metal Marching Band, a semi-satirical branding firm that’s as at home making holiday-centric parodies of grunge songs as they are writing cheeky commercials. 

Their first unsolicited clients were Caffe Vita. While eating Bang Bang Kitchen’s much classier version of Taco Bell tacos, Lee recounts how that little song took on new life.

“It snowballed into a cartoon animated by my childhood best friend Ryan Taggart. Then (we did) some video game music. A year later we somehow find ourselves onstage as the backing band for Triumph the Insult Comic Dog. The through line of this project is definitely not straight, though neither am I.”

Soon the duo focused on beginning a new approach to “rebranding,” not only themselves as creatives but how to approach branding and marketing for local businesses.

“We’d been playing in the Young Evils together for over 10 years, and when you’re around someone that long you inevitably end up scheming about other possibilities,” said Nelson. “We did a '60s-tinged jingle for Scuttlebutt’s Transistor IPA, which they pressed on beer coaster-sized vinyl that actually plays on your turntable. That’s the moment we realized we could expand on this adventure and Heavy Metal Marching Band was born.”

One of two bangin’ locations, Bang Bang Cafe in Belltown is more of a brunch-centric spot offering folks what they miss in owners Yuki and Miki Sodos’ former Capitol Hill eatery Café Pettirosso. Bang Bang Kitchen on Othello, where we all met up, is an afternoon joint and exceptional happy hour destination. There is generous outdoor seating and a picturesque park across the street, which gave us the perfect place to smoke. 

Lee and Nelson are both self-professed weed lightweights, so I went with my very favorite brand in Seattle right now, Raven Smokes. Much like Heavy Metal Marching Band, Raven Smokes understands the lighter side of marketing can be very effective. 

Most weed packaging communicates the more basic information. Raven Smokes, though, creates labels that include very specific, elucidatory copy that lets you in on the weed’s properties and tells you exactly how you’ll feel. 

This particular strain called the Keanu Effect is a ⅗ CBD/THC ratio that provides a strong body high and a smiley, light brian buzz. The packaging reads: “This isn't about Keanu. This is about you. Open and free. Keen and inquisitive. Goofy and kind. The 'effect' is making you a better version of yourself that’s been there all along.”

It was not just was beautifully descriptive, but accurate, too, and primed us for our happy hour taco adventure. 

Better than Taco Bell. Better than the tacos your mom made, too (apologies to your mom). Ma'Chell Duma

Bang Bang’s Mom Tacos are true in form to your homemade Tuesday faves. The toppings are traditional—diced tomatoes, cheddar, and shredded lettuce. What distinguishes them from your mom’s actual tacos (no offense to your mom, I’m sure her tacos were everything) is the freshly fried shell, which is super crispy and just the right kind of greasy. It’s a messy mouthful meant, cracking with each bite. The second star is the meat—jackfruit for vegans and brisket, ground beef, or chicken for omnivores—prepared with New Mexican flair and a lovely house salsa that's heavy with chili and cumin-y goodness. 

As Lee put it when I followed up after the high had worn off, “What I noticed most about this particular strain and these tacos is that we all kept agreeing to order ‘just one more.’ I don’t think we ever thanked you for that seventh taco.”

I could go on, but Heavy Metal Marching Band were so inspired, they went ahead and did what they do best and jingled those tacos for you:

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by The Stranger 🗞 (@thestrangerseattle)

As is often the case, the folks who are most clever at marketing often struggle to market themselves, and throughout our tacoing Nelson let me in on his woes regarding online dating. I suggested he make a video for himself the way he would for Taco Bell. But with his permission, I’m going to give the enterprising ladies of Seattle over 35 a chance to shine. If you love music, work in an artsy field, and (most importantly) are interested in a long-term monotonous relationship (Nelson’s specialty), send me a 2-minute video to stonedandstarving@thestranger.com and creatively tell me why you should date Nelson. I’ll pick the top five to forward to him.

Your first date will be Bang Bang tacos and, should it go well, I’ll officiate the wedding.

As for what else is ahead, the Young Evils have new tunes on the way, Lee is performing all summer around town as Mikey Moo, and Nelson is back as co-booker for West Seattle Summer Fest. Catch them both there this weekend—Mikey Moo hits the mainstage at 3 pm.


West Seattle Summer Fest is July 14-16 in the West Seattle Junction at California Ave and SW Alaska St. It's free and all ages, with live music from the Cave Singers, Polyrythmics, Shaina Shepherd, Sandrider, and many more. More info here.