"There's a guy downtown near Euclid and East 22nd that I buy Polish Boys from sometimes," says Steve Peffer, supplying the how and why behind starting up the Homostupids. "I like that guy, and I was thinking of him when we were writing our first song at our first practice. So I guess you can say he had something to do with it."
Trying to extract a straight answer out of this vocalist, bass player, and total knucklehead sure is a taxing affair. Later on in our conversation, he finally opens up about the origins of his sludge-rock trio, spitting out, "The idea was just to have a very primitive shitbag sound. Real garbage music. The sound of early man. Just primitive banging over and over and over again."
There's no doubt that Peffer and his group -- drummer Dale Ursik and singer-guitarist Josh Banaszak -- have succeeded in attaining total crapdom. The tar-caked sounds the Homostupids yacked onto a pair of seven-inch EPs last year (The Glow and The Brutal Birthday) felt like a cement sack to the nether regions, one that confused and upset some of the underground's more politically correct denizens. Nowadays, you see, most music scandals blow up on online message boards, and a bunch of nerds who frequent these things objected to the band's name: too insensitive. Others, meanwhile, didn't jibe with the full-on brutal sound.
But none of this fazed the Homostupids. To quote the Dictators -- the godfathers of self-conscious dunce rock -- "Fuck 'em if they can't take a joke." And just like the Electric Eels, C-Town's nasty proto-punk legends, the Homostupids want to make your ears bleed and annoy the hell out of whoever is listening; that's just what real punks do.
The actual brain fart that started the band pooted out some 10 years ago, when Peffer graduated high school. "My friend Stephe and I would eat some acid, and for the first wave of it, the speed would slowly ride up. So during this part we'd jam out Supercharger and the Mummies and shit like that. Jump up and down and sweat."
These lysergic trips also inspired brainstorming sessions: Peffer and his friend decided they were going to start the most inept band in the universe and call it the Homostupids (a name simply referring to primitive man). But the group lasted only one practice. Like most drug-induced concepts, it went straight down the toilet.
Between then and now, Peffer played in the legendary Cleveland hardcore unit Nine Shocks Terror, but about two years ago he dusted off the Homostupids moniker, enlisting his roommate Joe Bernard and fellow Nine Shocks Terror member Kevin Jaworski. The group tried everything from lo-fi garage rock (like the Mummies) to a kind of nihilistic psychedelic punk influenced by the Dwarves. Their Toolin' for a Warm Teabag 12-inch was a big one for Peffer. "The way it was recorded, the lyrics, the song structure. Pretty much everything about it."
But in terms of music and personnel, it wasn't working out. So he revised his attack. "I just started asking around town for anyone who would be interested in starting a real lousy band," he says. "That's how I found Dale and Josh." The group released The Glow last summer and garnered praise almost immediately from underground websites that actually love annoying music, including Terminal Boredom and Siltblog. In its hometown, though, the dank waters sit still.
"We just keep to ourselves and play once every other month or so," says Peffer. "No bands here play similar-sounding music to us, it seems. No one gives a shit about us here. It's great."
But things could change. The indie world has seen a recent wave of noise-laden punk units all shitting out a sound similar to the Homostupids' -- hardcore brutality fused to pounding industrial grime. There's Philadelphia's Violent Students and Pissed Jeans, with Sub Pop soon to drop the latter's full length. And just north of Columbus, in the tiny town of Delaware, lurks a trio by the name of Lambsbread; it has a record coming out on Ecstatic Peace, a label owned and operated by Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore.
As for Peffer's Homostupids, their recent debut in New York was sold out. So it looks as if they're gonna rise from the rust heaps of Cleveland whether they like it or not.