For those blessed with a lust for the so-raw-it’s-still-bleedin’ rock ‘n’ roll, bands that play really good punk blues seem to channel electric shocks. There’s a healthy crop of talented white boys doing the Muddy Waters shuffle these days, but the hyper-energy Immortal Lee County Killers are the ones sounding dangerously close to short-circuiting every time someone plugs them in.
It’s not just the band’s name, or the fact they’re from a small Southern town (Auburn, in Lee County, Alabama) or the wily eyes of Jerry Lee Lewis (the Killers’ namesake) as he flips the finger on their T-shirts. There’s something boldly savage about calling your debut album The Essential Fucked Up Blues, with an opening song that is called “Let’s Get Killed.” Guitarist/screamer Chetley “El Cheetah” Weise wails about killing and cockroaches, frying accidents, and judgment day, all with a punishing, unrestrained violence towards his own vocal cords. The Killers’ original drummer, Doug “the Boss” Sherrard, sounds out Weise’s frustrations with brute caveman force on Blues, and together they must’ve scared the shit outta any timid types venturing near the small “shotgun shack” where Blues was recorded on an eight-track for Estrus back in the summer of 2000.
Since the release of Blues, the Killers’ lineup went through a bit of a shakedown. The Boss was “not willing to sale his soul [sic],” according to the band’s official Web site. Band member J.R.R. Tokien (aka “the Tokien One”), a man who played with Weise back when they both were in the Quadrajets, has since stepped in behind the drums, and the official band name has now been changed to the Immortal Lee County Killers II.
Weise describes his new partner as “bananas.” Smart-ass might be a more fitting description, as, on the phone from Auburn, the Tokien One claims that his job is “to entertain people, to make them forget about their shitty little lives.” After describing his band’s sound as “blue-collar as hell,” the Tokien One continues on his prideful, deranged rant, adding, “We emit electricity and entertainment twenty-four hours a day, 365 days a year, seven days a week, and that’s including leap year too. You’ve gotta understand where we’re coming from. We’re king shit of fuck mountain. Why would anybody want to fuck with us?”
The Tokien One may be the band’s resident comic, but Weise is the fiery soul of this twosome, jumping around in suits, boas, and cowboy boots on stage, writing all kinds of crazy lyrics, and playing a “bastard guitar” named the Moon Doggie MD 20/20. Weise and his Doggie rampage the blues — no shtick, no gimmicks, no “let’s make this shit cool” kinda planning– just a love for the sounds he knows and loves from being a kid in Tennessee.
“Growing up in Memphis helped me out a lot, ’cause I used to go downtown and see the blues performers when I was 14 or 15 years old,” says Weise. “I actually grew up in a pretty typical upper-middle-class suburbia. Boring stuff. Going down to Beale Street and seeing all those parties and the music and all that was quite exciting. They let me come into the blues bars and would serve me liquor and I’d watch Albert King. That left quite an impression on me.”
The Killers play their blues much faster than the other punks in their class, and Weise says the Killers’ quick tempo was also inspired by his surroundings: “I think the speed comes from being in the South and listening to Mississippi Fred McDowell and some of the people from the hill country. They really get things moving.”
“Whether they like to admit it or not,” interrupts the Tokien One, “people like their rock ‘n’ roll music like they like their sex — they like it fast and they like it hard.”
“But just like sex,” adds Weise, laughing, “every once in a while we’ll throw in a good gospel ballad just to switch positions.”
Whether or not you wanna picture these two in the sack, the Immortal Lee County Killers can only get better as these boys get their Tantric blues down for the long haul.