Though the band has existed for only a little more than a year, local quartet Triclops! might be the Bay Area's next major proponent of experimental mayhem. Comprising four veterans of respected local punk outfits, the group crafts a caustic stew that touches on the atonal ferocity of Jesus Lizard and the hallucinatory madness of the Butthole Surfers while still forging a dynamic sonic identity. The genesis of the group came when Bottles and Skulls guitarist Christian Eric Beaulieu and Fleshies singer John Mink (aka Johnny Geek, Johnny No Moniker, and, his latest in a long line of ridiculous stage names, Johnny Known Variously) started collaborating in 2005 on a new project specifically designed with warped sounds in mind.
"We were getting neurotic about our bands collapsing at the time," explains the vocalist while sharing pints at Oakland's Stork Club. "We eventually ended up in the studio writing a bunch of weird shit our other bands wouldn't stomach."
While Fleshies continue to produce their unorthodox brand of punk, Bottles and Skulls imploded, freeing Beaulieu to focus on the fledgling group. "There were four to six months of us just experimenting," says the guitarist, "writing songs that would branch off into total noise."
The resulting cacophony caused the pair to recruit additional Triclops! players. By early 2006, talented drummer Phil Becker of prog-punks Lower Forty-Eight and former Victims Family bassist Larry Boothroyd had joined the fold. Now at full strength, Triclops! shaped those early demos into vicious songs. "There were a lot of noise jams initially," recalls Becker. "I wanted to get more to the point, so we rearranged the initial ideas."
"It was a huge challenge," adds Boothroyd. "They gave me 45 minutes of noisescapes and at first I was just like, 'What am I going to do with this?' But I kept listening to it and pretty soon it was all making sense. I could hear songs and started to hear bass lines." With the rhythm section providing jet propulsion to Beaulieu's corrosive guitar and Mink's chaotic, effect-laden vocals, Triclops! crafted their debut EP, Cafeteria Brutalia, recently issued by Sickroom Records (the songs are also set to be released as a picture-disc 12-inch on Missing Finger Records).
"Mi Plisboy" kicks things off with the roundhouse combination of a metallic East Bay RayÐstyle surf-punk riff and Mink's seething anti-colonialism screed (howled in Creole dialect from the perspective of a New Guinean police officer, no less) before slowing down for a massive bridge that echoes Jane's Addiction's spacious psych-metal vistas. The vocalist's dark lyrics perfectly match the manic intensity of the music, whether detailing a john's fatal rendezvous with a wrench-wielding transvestite on "Jewel of Oakland," or depicting a surreal battle with mosquitoes on the swirling epic "Bug Bomb."
As compelling as the band's recorded material is, it pales next to the frenzy of the live Triclops! experience. The musicians lock horns on dense, multi-part tunes while Mink delivers his unhinged vocals while crawling underneath or riding atop his audience. With songs still pouring out of the band they've already written most of their first full-length, set to be recorded for the Gold Standard Labs imprint next month locals can expect more audio violence from Triclops! in the year to come.