The Goondas: real cut-ups

The hyper-rocking blues-punk quartet has amassed injuries - and insults - to become one of First Avenue's best new bands.

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Josh Miller, Brenden Green, Andy Meuwissen, and Jackson Atkins, of the Goondas.

Photo: Carlos Gonzalez, Star Tribune

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Theirs is the album cover with a guy pulling his underwear up into his crack. Theirs is the music video with not one but two scenes of booger picking. Theirs are the YouTube clips where one guy is trying to light his farts on fire, while another is yelling at the band manager for kicking him in the crotch.

Ladies and gentleman, meet the future of rock 'n' roll in the Twin Cities.

"What's the point of being in a rock band if you can't act like you're 14?" Goondas guitarist Jackson Atkins asked.

"We can't afford to trash hotel rooms yet, so we have to do what we can," drummer Josh Miller added.

The Goondas have certainly earned the right to act like juvenile delinquents, decadent rock stars, or whatever they want to be so long as they only hurt themselves. Which they do quite frequently. In a year and a half of literally tearing up stages, the quartet has quickly worked its way up to being voted best live act in our Twin Cities Critics Tally 2010 and earning a choice slot at Wednesday's Best New Bands showcase at First Avenue.

In an interview last week at bassist Andy Meuwissen's memorabilia-filled attic in south Minneapolis -- Boy George, Sid Vicious and John Belushi adorned the walls, and the Animals and Kinks were on the stereo -- the band members emphasized just how serious they are about their hard-stomping, head-bobbing brand of bluesy garage-punk. Even as they mocked each other and just about everything else surrounding the band.

"It doesn't really matter to us whether you love or hate our band," Miller declared in one of the more serious moments. "We really just want to be a band you remember."

All four members vividly remembered an "ugly," "miserable," "painful" show at the 400 Bar in the spring of 2009. They stunk up the place so bad that the Goondas didn't play live again for seven months.

The four school friends from the Chaska and Chanhassen area -- ages 23 to 24 -- had cut their teeth playing Black Sabbath, the Pixies, Led Zeppelin and other rock giants at suburban bars. At the 400, they tried to make the switch from a covers band by playing a meagerly written batch of original songs while attempting the wild, bouncing-off-the-walls shtick that is now their trademark. Said Atkins, "We realized if we were going to be the kind of original band we want to be, we couldn't do it half-ass."

It's not too clichéd to say the Goondas came back storming from their hiatus. At their first gig, they smashed an old practice guitar onstage, kicked over the drums and monitors, smuggled in a (stolen) $200 bottle of whiskey and "wound up bleeding all over the place," they remembered.

"An older guy came up to me and said, 'I saw the Who in 1968, and I haven't seen anything like that since,'" Meuwissen boasted (with nary a smirk to suggest he was fibbing).

Since then, the band has amassed a pile of broken gear and injured body parts. All but one claims to have chipped a tooth during a show. Meuwissen got clocked in the head by singer Brenden Green's microphone stand, which prompted a rebuttal punch to the face. A dehydrated Miller upchucked all over his drum kit during another gig.

"When I'd hit the drums, I'd be blasting vomit up into my face," he remembered. "But I kept playing."

The wildest performance, they agreed, was their CD-release party at the 331 Club last summer. Champagne was spewed everywhere. Green crowd-surfed all over the bar. He also climbed over the partition wall by the bathrooms.

"I think I had health insurance back then," the singer glibly recounted.

Most of the Goondas' hospital-baiting antics seem to spawn from Green, a lanky, pouty-lipped, vaguely effeminate frontman (Mick Jagger anyone?). Offstage, though, he's the most mild-mannered. He's also something of an odd-duck-out in the tight-knit group: He attended the private Holy Family High School while all the others went to Chaska High, and he apparently was quite the jock.

"I never could've foreseen Brenden acting like he does now," said Atkins, who has known him since second grade.

From his perspective, Green said, "I'm actually just being myself. I didn't really know how to sing when we started, but I did know how to act really [expletive] weird." he said. The antics "really aren't the hard part. Anybody could do it."

The difficult part, he and his band mates agree, is creating quality songs and capturing them on record. They got a pretty good start with their self-titled debut, produced by Rank Strangers frontman Mike Wisti and featuring such live staples as the North Mississippi-flavored "Jackalope Jesus" and the full-throttling punk romper "Raunch 216."

It seems that their bad experience at the 400 Bar continues to shape the Goondas' outlook. Said Atkins, "We're never going to be like Radiohead trying to write the next 'Kid A,' but we have to have music that's good enough to back up everything else we're doing."

 

The rest of First Ave's Best

PINK MINK

These poppy punk rockers, who won City Pages' latest Picked to Click poll, could be declared the scene's unequivocal It Kids except they aren't really kids. Co-leaders Christy Hunt and Arzu Gokcen made their marks years ago in Ouija Radio and the Selby Tigers, respectively. The youthful spark generated when they finally hooked up last year is a big part of the fun.

PHANTOM TAILS

These guys are more like kids. Twentysomethings who have played in about 10 different bands, including the Plastic Chord and Me & My Arrow, they concocted a menacing blend of reverb-soaked guitar work and electronic beats here. If the words "dance rock" make you yawn, these guys might wake you up.

HASTINGS 3000

Guitar grinder Joe Hastings left the F--- Knights to start his own thing, a scorching combo of surf-punk, psychobilly twang and psychedelic grunge, spiked with '60s garage-rock fuzz.

BNLX

Sort of like wholesome musical virgins, Polara frontman Ed Ackerson and the Mood Swings' co-leader Ashley Prenzlow put off starting a band together until they got married, but then it was off to the races. In eight months' time, they issued four EPs loaded with '80s-echoing fuzz-pop, and it appears they're just getting started.

GRANT CUTLER & THE GORGEOUS LORDS

Two years after playing the Best New Bands show with Lookbook (R.I.P.), the electro-pop duo's sonic guru is back as a Leonard Cohen-heavy singer/songwriter with a dark, minimalist but often mesmerizing electronic backdrop à la the XX. His lineup includes bassist Noah Paster (Askeleton) and drummer Matt Scharenbroich (Plastic Constellations).

BADNRAD

Hey, you gotta have a little kitsch at a new-bands show. A 26-year-old mash-up metalhead "raised on Casio keyboards and cartoons," per his Facebook page, Jake Sullivan has a pretty fun gimmick with his dizzying mix of fluorescent lighting, Girl Talk-lite samples and Guitar Hero-style licks.

 

Chris Riemenschneider • 612-673-4658 Follow him on Twitter: @ChrisRstrib

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    Wednesday January 19, 2011

    "Raunchy 216," by The Goondas off their self-titled CD

  • The Goondas

  • BEST NEW BANDS

    With: The Goondas, Pink Mink, BNLX, Phantom Tails, Hastings 3000, Grant Cutler & the Gorgeous Lords, BadNraD.

    When: 7:30 p.m. Wed.

    Where: First Avenue, 701 1st Av. N., Mpls.

    Tickets: $7. 18 & older. 612-338-8388.

    HEAR

    samples from the Goondas and more bands at startribune.com/music

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