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The Eyes Have It 

Veronica Lipgloss & the Evil Eyes continue the age-old tradition of merging sex and trash

Wednesday, Aug 10 2005
A handful of my friends and acquaintances have a fascination with all things trashy. The fetish includes the obvious, like those scummy Mötley Crüe T-shirts dredged up from the bowels of the local Goodwill, but it also extends to crappy apartments fashioned out of cinder-block walls and cheap linoleum and a preference for intentionally cliché-ridden nights of debauchery spent, for example, sniffing coke off a girl's ass cheek, or, as my friend Jolynn's favorite war story goes, being drunk enough to leftover-surf off of gummy tavern tables.

I'm sure this all sounds familiar. The trash trend is national and most of you probably either have a buddy who blows his or her trust fund checks on pitchers of PBR and Guns N' Roses mudflaps, or have yourself spent some time in Williamsburg, that skeezy hotel room in which the current trash trend was conceived. Hell, you may even secretly own an ironic trucker hat, now a frightfully unfashionable relic of the craze's early, more Kutcher-friendly days, which is hence stashed away in a closet.

Regardless of what we call it (hipster anarchism, class fetishism, icky fad), the scuzz scene is nothing new: Its forefathers include everyone from the trendy middle- and upper-class whites who went "slumming" in jazz clubs and speak-easies in the 1930s to Andy Warhol's Factory crew.

This is the heritage from which Veronica Lipgloss & the Evil Eyes are descended. Their live shows have the ambience of a seamy tryst in the alley behind the neighborhood dive bar (complete with nudity and an enticing creepiness), and their aesthetic is equal parts no-wave bleakness, goth-y occult, queer camp, and acid-jazz trip, with a heaping side of vulgarity. Fresh off a national tour, with a debut full-length album, The Witch's Dagger, that taps into the legacies of trash masters ranging from Lou Reed to Hedwig, the Evil Eyes, denizens of the San Francisco underground, are now fixing their gaze on dives and dumpsters the world over, ready to talk dirty to a whole new set of self-identified freaks.

Lipgloss frontwoman and founder Rhani Remedes says she doesn't really know how she came up with, or what she meant by, her band's mouthful of a handle. "I had to come up with a name, you know?" she says over the phone from the East Coast leg of the tour. "We had a show and the name wasn't very exciting, so I decided to change it. ... [But] I think there is some correlation between the name and the way we are as a band. ... Like, the Evil Eyes -- having these, like, mystical undertones of, like, witchery and stuff like that. I think that we are compelled to those aspects of life sometimes."

In keeping with the band's name and its professed penchant for supernatural freakiness, the story of how the current group of musicians came together is equally, as Remedes describes it, "serendipitous." The frontwoman is the only holdover from the original lineup, which she formed with, among others, Elizabeth Davis-Simpson (of Von Iva and formerly of 7 Year Bitch). When her fellow co-founders were unable to continue with the Lipgloss project, Remedes went about putting together -- or rather, happening upon -- a new band.

"I was, like, walking down the street, and I noticed this cute guy walking down the street, and he noticed me. And we were, like, 'Hey,' 'Hi,' and then I basically was, like, 'Do you play drums?' And he was, like, 'Yeah, actually.'" Remedes and the cute drummer, Andrey Netboy, compared influences and decided to hook up. Equally fortuitously, when Remedes went looking for a "young, queer, straight-out-of-high-school, fucking genius guitar player," James Brooks Caperton, who exactly fit that description, showed up at one of the Evil Eyes' shows and introduced himself.

Krispy Pickles was brought in to play bass and synths when he e-mailed Remedes to tell her that he felt "strangely compelled to join your band." Remedes, who has a voice laden with both hipster ennui and an easy laugh, says, half-jokingly, "If someone says, 'I feel strangely compelled' to do anything, I'm, like, 'OK, well, I can't stop you,' you know? 'OK, well, I guess you're in the band then, because you feel strangely compelled.'"

During this period of auspicious new beginnings, Remedes also took the opportunity to reroute Veronica Lipgloss' sound, moving the band away from a more conventional blues-based rock 'n' roll vibe. "I think naturally the synthesizer and the saxophone changed the direction ... and everyone's different musical influences added to it, too. But I think that it was a semiconscious decision to move to something that was, like, a little less traditional."

The Witch's Dagger is an album made by a band interested in experimentation and shock. While none of the track names ("Just for Fun," "Driving Thru the Rain") really matches the paranormal mysticism of the album title, a general portentous creepiness pervades the record. Caperton's saxophone wheels and squeals up and down a dissonant scale, stalked by menacing guitars, a predatory bass line, and Netboy's aggressive hammering on the drums. Remedes howls over the whole cacophony, hovering between one or two notes per song with an eerie monotone that makes your skin bubble, bubble, toil, and trouble.

But the overall effect is not so much bed-wetting ghost story as Rocky Horror Picture Show. The band threatens the crowd with a carnal dance beat, demanding that revelers abandon themselves to a sweaty licentiousness. Of these shows, Remedes says, "It's [about being] fun and silly and letting go of your inhibitions, like, just go ahead and make out with the person next to you, it doesn't matter. ... My favorite shows are when I can just look into the audience and ... see, like, this crystal of energy that's, like, rising from the audience and it's almost like a visual thing, you can just see, it looks like a cloud." She also adds that some shows have included dancers, whose job it is to go out and get the crowd riled up.

Vulgarity for vulgarity's sake can tend to feel played out and more than a little tedious, and the Evil Eyes' brand of bacchanalian degeneracy sometimes dips a little too deeply into Jim Morrison's pool of pompousness, its dark-with-a-capital-D modalities and affected lyrics working so hard to be fucked up that they cease to be interesting. But for the most part the band stays safely within accessible John Waters territory, reveling in moments of hedonistic distastefulness without going quite so far as to make Divine eat shit. Like crabs, the trash trend has historically been tenacious, so don't be expecting these Evil Eyes' raunchy stage shows and sleazily spine-chilling music to be disappearing anytime soon.

About The Author

Rachel Devitt


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