Archie & the Bunkers to Headline Punk Rock Festivus 4 at the Beachland


Initially, singer-drummer Emmett and his brother, singer-organist Cullen O’Connor, thought their locally based punk-y hi-fi organ band Archie and the Bunkers would be a bass and drums duo.

When that didn’t work out, they mixed things up, and Cullen switched from bass to organ.

“We tried bass and drums, and it sounded like crap,” says Cullen, 15, one morning while sitting with his brother at the dining room table in his parents’ Rocky River home.

“I wanted to start a punk band,” adds Emmett, 18. “We kept trying stuff and would get our friends to try to play guitar and it wouldn’t work out with school and girlfriends or whatever. None of the kids were into what we were into.”

But Cullen wanted to learn to play keyboards, so the band took things in a different direction. And when his brother discovered the Screamers, a punk band that used keyboards extensively, he realized his band could adopt a similar sound.

“I didn’t think it would work with just drums and keyboards until I heard the Screamers,” says Emmett. “That was a revelation. They were two keyboard players and drummer and singer. I thought we could do it. I had played drums and sang. That along with old school punk bands from Cleveland like the Pink Holes and the Guns were really inspirational.”

Cullen learned by trial and error, and the two guys initially began recording music in their basement and self-produced their first two EPs, Comrade X and Trade Winds. They sent their music to a variety of different labels before the UK-based Dirty Water Records signed them.

“We had sent stuff to a lot of labels but when I looked them up, they had a good roster,” says Emmett. “I saw the Henchmen had put out an album with them. They got back to us relatively quickly. One of the things I like about them is that they were really passionate about our music and believed in us since the beginning.”

Dirty Water Records issued the band’s self-titled debut, which the guys recorded at Ghetto Recorders in Detroit with famed producer/engineer Jim Diamond.

Earlier this year, the band released the follow-up, Mystery Lover. Jason Tarulli, the front of house engineer for the Black Keys, recorded the EP at his Studio Time recording studio in Akron. Nick Knox, former drummer of the Cramps, worked as Senior Advisor on the album, which opens with the rousing Doors-like track “All That Lovin.'" While Tarulli produced the album, Diamond mastered it and put his grunge-y touch on the final product.

“We just wanted the record to be us,” says Emmett. “Jason has a great studio, even if the tape machine broke and we lost our music not once but twice. But it was a great experience. We really enjoyed working with him.”

“Mexican Garage” comes from the group’s first demo, and the album includes recent songs and older songs as well.

While the music has its punk rock precedents, the brothers say that classic movies had an inspiration on their approach too.

“I would watch those old movies, and both of us are old Hollywood film buffs,” says Emmett. “They were great movies and I thought they were hilarious. They’re from the mid-’30s. The song ‘The Thin Man’ revolves around my imagination with regard to the Thin Man films. The middle verse refers to another film, [1942’s] Cat People, which struck me as kind of strange. It has nothing to do with The Thin Man at all, but I think it works.”

The band has had quite a year. In February, it headlined two nights at the Golden Tiki in Las Vegas, where the club owner claimed the band blew out the sound system. In May, the duo headed to Europe for a three-week tour that included some great garage rock music festivals. The band was one of several garage acts to play at Gonerfest, the annual garage rock festival that takes place in Memphis each year.

“We hope that next year we’ll have an album out on a U.S. label, so we can start touring more in the states,” says Cullen, admitting that the band is much more popular in Europe than the states. “Record stores here can carry the album but it cost so much because it’s an import. Goner Records in Memphis had some of our records for sale and we wished we could have sold them some directly so they didn’t have to cost so much.”

In June and July of next year, the band will return to Europe for a four-week tour. And it also hopes to have a new album by the year’s end too. A 7-inch it recorded at Third Man Studios in Nashville will likely come out as well.

The group’s even recently recruited a New York-based management company to help their father with booking and promoting the band.

“We got enough songs to pick from to make a new album,” says Emmett. “Our music constantly evolves, and it’s a matter of what we’re listening to at the time and what’s inspiring us at the moment. Something I can say about us is we’re always going to be true to what we want to do. We had an instrumental song on our self-titled album, and we like doing stuff like that. We find influences from all sorts of places. We might put out a record that our fans don’t like, but that’s tough because that’s what we want to do.”

Punk Rock Festivus 4 Featuring Archie & the Bunkers, Bridesmaid, Fuck You Pay Me, 9 p.m. Friday, Dec. 23, Beachland Tavern, 15711 Waterloo Rd., 216-383-1124. Tickets: $8 ADV, $10 DOS,

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