In a recent interview for urbanoutfitters.com, Iggy Pop weighed in on the music scene in his new hometown: "There's a band here in Miami called the Jacuzzi Boys. It's a stupid name, but they've got a good spirit."
Contacted by phone in the midst of a lengthy U.S. tour, Jacuzzi Boys bassist Danny Gonzales takes the ribbing with good grace. "I'd rather him think we we're a cool band and think our name sucks, than think we suck, but we have a good name. That's cool by me." The punk legend even came to a local show. "We were able to meet him — he was like super friendly, welcoming, stoked to see us play, standing in front."
The same atmosphere of stokedness will likely prevail when the Boys play Nashville for the first time on Sunday. Since modest beginnings in 2007, they've been gaining notice thanks to their compulsively catchy recordings and energetic live show.
The Boys' first iteration was as a two-piece, a collaboration between guitarist Gabriel Alcala and drummer Diego Monasteri. (The much-decried stupid name was, Gonzales explains, "kind of a joke" that stuck around.) After playing a few shows and doing home recordings — "they were, like, horrible," Alcala observes — they asked friend-of-a-friend Gonzales to join them on bass. Meeting Rich Evans, proprietor of the state's foremost garage/psych/punk label, Florida's Dying, gave their career a further boost. A few singles preceded a full-length on that label last year.
The 12 songs on No Seasons are solid, simple garage compositions, with few chords and observational, sometimes cryptic lyrics ("cosmo grass, pig made out of glass"?). Their playing is obviously tight. But rather than going for speed and punk abandon, the recordings are psychedelic in a laid-back way, reminiscent of the 13th Floor Elevators and Spacemen 3, with a glaze of fuzz and reverb. The mix has just enough layering (extra percussion, unsettling dub-y echoes) to keep things interesting, without ever sounding muddy or unclear.
The songs inhabit a relatively narrow spectrum, from propulsive three-chord pop songs ("Smells Dead) to more relaxed, languorous psychedelia. "Komi Karicoles" is a "Gimme Danger" kind of dirge, but with a This Year's Model-era Elvis Costello backbeat that suggests a sunnier tune than you actually get.
None of these sonic elements are new; rather, the Boys have garnered critical notice because they inhabit their chosen aesthetic so perfectly. As a result, a recent Miami Herald article describes them as "the most significant band Miami has produced in years."
Gonzales responds to such hype by saying, "It's kind of weird. There might be a bit of truth to that — not as in we're the best band or the most important — but not many bands make it out of Miami. Maybe because of where we're located, it makes it hard to leave town and get national recognition. We've been able to tour a decent amount, get some decent name recognition." But Gonzales isn't gloating: "I wish there was a million bands doing the same thing," he says.
Many listeners profess to hear a distinctively Floridian sound in the record's steamy grooves. Whether it's real or imagined, the band members' landscape has made its way into their lyrics. "Island Avenue" is a local landmark; "Smells Dead" is a first-person account of sharing a dwelling with a decomposing snake. This may be an effect of their practice space, located in Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park. It's in the home Gonzales shares with his parents, who run a cafe there. Of the bucolic workspace, he says, "It's definitely cool, kinda like a weird little secret hideout. People from Miami don't know people live in that park. The beach is walking distance ... we got, like, raccoon, possums, iguanas, snakes, rabbits, squirrels."
Some recent articles have claimed the band gets its inspiration from obscure Florida garage rock. Gonzales corrects that as a misperception, admitting, "In all honesty, none of us are that familiar. I don't have a lot of old Florida garage stuff. ... There's, like, a book on it, [and] my brother bought me the book, I was like, 'Oh cool,' but then I never got into reading it."
In fact, they don't think in terms of influence. "We're never like, 'Let's try to sound like this.' None of us are super accomplished players, so we just kinda like do what we can do."
This relaxed attitude extends to their songwriting process — band members might bring in the beginnings of a song, and work together to complete it — and even to the experience of recording their first album. It was a one-week process at Atlanta studio The Living Room, which they chose because "we didn't have much money, it was affordable and close by."
The Jacuzzi Boys sound ridiculously laid-back, but they're also ambitious and focused. They plan to get started on songs for a new LP as soon as they get back from tour. Asked if their sound will change, Gonzales responds, "Most definitely — the sound will be a bit different. I don't know what necessarily that means, but we don't wanna make the same record." Alcala confirms: "Maybe a little glammier, spacier, but it'll still be simple rock 'n' roll."
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