The Sacramento-based Groovie Ghoulies formed ten years ago, dazzled by the rock-and-roll theatric glow of Kiss, Alice Cooper, and David Bowie. "I wanted the image of these great big bands, but without the twenty-minute songs," says singer Kepi. Since then, the Ghoulies have settled into a more subtle, less theatrical approach.
"I want it to be about the songs," Kepi says, but adds that, if the band strikes it rich, they want to build a "giant castle backdrop" for their stage show.
On their sixth release, Fun in the Dark, the Ghoulies detonate their usual blend of fast bop (Dark's thirteen songs total thirty minutes) and horror-movie kitsch ("Vampire Girl," "She's Got a Brain Scrambling Device.") They also make room for offhanded tunes about Carly Simon and the monkey from the movie Outbreak, and dust off Sonny Bono's "Laugh at Me" for a sincere spin that's faithful to the original. The quartet (Kepi is joined by guitarist Roach, bassist B-Face, and drummer Jaz) also sports a serious Ramones fixation.
"I believe the Ramones should have been as big as the Beatles . . . Every one of their songs is a pop gem," Kepi says. "We get a lot of flak for that, but we're just trying to make a good little song."
Named after the '70s Saturday morning cartoon that featured characters cribbed from the golden days of horror, the Ghoulies haven't run out of monster imagery over the years. In 1998's "Zombie Crush," Kepi sings about how he won't stop lovin' till his eyes and mouth are stitched shut, and in "Graveyard Girlfriend," he cavorts with the living dead. Kepi attributes his morbidity to an obsession with classic horror films. "I like monsters more than slashers," he says, dismissing today's screamfests.
As for monsters, he'll take the Universal Studios' Frankenstein, Dracula, and the Mummy of the 1930s rather than the bloodier, kinkier British versions released by Hammer Films in the 1950s and '60s. But he's begun to appreciate the work of veteran British actor Christopher Lee (who played Hammer's splashy, full-color versions of Frankenstein's monster and Dracula).
"I like people who survive over the years, people who keep going and keep producing a quality level of work," he says, bridging, once again, monsters and music. "You have all these rock singers who die young. But someone like Iggy Pop is still around." And he doesn't look a day over 103.
The Groovie Ghoulies perform with the Eyeliners, the Beatnik Termites, and the Vermin at 9:30 p.m. Friday, May 7, at the Euclid Tavern, 11629 Euclid Avenue. Tickets are $6; call 216-241-5555.