Punk Curmudgeons

Triclops! unleashes its latest effort Out of Africa — sans llama hair.

Okay, so we could glue llama hair on the first thousand!”

This is not the first thing you expect to hear upon entering a Haight Street dive bar. The members of Triclops! lean over their drinks, discussing how to import enough Peruvian llama hair to augment the cover art of their forthcoming LP, Out of Africa. And though they are laughing and gesticulating wildly, they’re deadly serious.

Bands that have been together for a while have a language all their own, an internal rhythm that’s somewhere between a married couple and a cadre of guerrillas. Triclops! carve out sonic space in an interview the same way they do on stage — with impeccable timing that is at once chaotic and deeply intentional. They bounce off of each other in rapid-fire succession, keeping tangents alive like a bouncing Hacky Sack. If the men of Triclops! seem like a well-oiled Voltron of psychedelic punk, it is perhaps because they each have at least a decade of eardrum-splitting chaos to draw from.

“We’ve all been in at least five bands,” explains bassist Larry Boothroyd, formerly of jazzy punk trio Victim’s Family. “We’re, uh, seasoned.”

“We’re tenderized,” quips singer John Mink, former frontman for Fleshies and Astrolloyd. (Full disclosure: Mink and I are longtime friends and played in bands together until 2000.)

Indeed, the band’s extensive family tree reads like a flier for the Bay Area punk festival you wish someone had put on. Guitarist Christian Beaulieu’s last band was the goth-tinged hardcore outfit Bottles and Skulls, and drummer Phil Becker is a veteran of the math-metal ensemble Lower Forty-Eight. Their impressive combined résumé may explain how the band emerged in late 2005 with a slightly embarrassing amount of cred, and by February 2007 had released their Cafeteria Brutalia CD-EP on Chicago-based indie label Sick Room, with a 12″ picture disk version on NYC-based Missing Finger Records. This August, LA’s legendary GSL Records put out Triclops!’ Too Many Humans 7″ just before imploding earlier this year. The Out of Africa LP, originally planned as a GSL release, will now be released on Alternative Tentacles, the label started by Dead Kennedys singer Jello Biafra, who’d been shadowing them at gigs for months trying to lure them to his roster.

In addition to a pool of ultra-hip contacts, experience has made Triclops! more intentional about how they approach the experience of being in a band. They may have cut their teeth on punk rock, but calling Triclops! a punk band is somewhat like describing a psychedelic mushroom as a cow pie. The wild catharsis of ’90s punk is there, but sharpened to a saw-blade edge in polyrhythmic soundscapes and action-movie riffs. There’s something deeply bent about them, but at no time do they seem out of control.

“We’re more particular about recording and performing,” Boothroyd says.

“Most of the horribly destructive behavior is ruled out,” Becker pipes in.

“I bleed less in this band,” agrees Mink, who typically spends most of his performances rushing the audience, rubbing against them as if infected with a disease he’s committed to sharing. “If I haven’t sobered up by the end of the set, I figure I’m doing something wrong.”

Triclops!’ seasoned savvy extends to how they release their music. The band toasts the resurgence of vinyl as the iPod has turned CDs into little more than shiny drink coasters.

“Vinyl is obnoxiously collectible,” Mink says. “People want something tactile.”

“If you’re putting out vinyl and it’s not some weird color, it’s just lazy,” Beaulieu says, noting that all of the Triclops! vinyl releases thus far have been picture disks.

But lest the Information Age catch them unawares, Triclops! is looking ahead as well, brainstorming possible delivery systems for their focused madness. Comic-book adaptations of their songs are in the works, as well as paintings, sculptures and … somewhat less orthodox media.

“What’s the ultimate format?” Becker ponders. “A download to the brain and a tattoo of the art?”

“We’re trying to figure out how to emblazon our logo on the AIDS virus,” Mink says without blinking.

I feel a small tingle of fear. Whatever is leaking out of the fifty-gallon barrel marked “Triclops” is messing up the soil. I’m keeping my shotgun aimed at the spot where punk lies buried, just in case anything tries to claw its way out.


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