Lots of punk bands go through members faster than they go through safety pins, but usually it takes them a decade or three to rack up truly impressive, Social Distortion-like numbers. The Verboden Boys, however, have amassed a small army of members in a much shorter span of time through a method far more intriguing than the usual drug overdoses and “creative differences”: They’re a franchise punk band, with chapters in cities all over the world.
Founded in 2015 by Dennis Tyfus, a Belgian artist, musician and head of punk label Ultra Eczema Records, and fellow musician Josh Plotkin, the original Verboden Boys chapter was based in Antwerp and, as far as I’ve been able to tell, played one gig — with Tyfus on “too loud vocals and synth” and Plotkin on drums — before breaking up. But fear not, for that one performance — all 14 minutes of it — lives on thanks to the Internet gateway to immortality that is YouTube.
Tyfus’ franchise concept behind Verboden Boys lives on, too — sort of.
Originally Tyfus laid down some ground rules each chapter had to follow: no songs longer than two minutes, all songs had to pull from the same list of titles (though beyond the titles, they could apparently sound like pretty much anything) and all chapters had to perform on the same day. Amazingly, he appears to have pulled off that last rule on May 18, 2015, the date of the Antwerp chapter’s first (and only?) performance. A Verboden Boys playlist on YouTube, put together by the Tapeways label, is full of performances by other Verboden Boys chapters apparently playing on that same day, mostly elsewhere around Antwerp (the Deune and Borgerhout chapters) but also in Melbourne, Montreal and, of all places, Easthampton, Massachusetts. I spent three years in grad school not far from Easthampton and I can assure you that even though the Pixies got their start in that corner of the world, it is one of the least punk-rock places you can imagine. So rock the fuck on, Easthampton chapter of The Verboden Boys. You’re like a punk-rock Alamo out there amidst the leafy splendor of rural New England.
Since 2015, there hasn’t been much activity in Verboden land — with one notable exception. Earlier this year, The Verboden Boys’ Belfast chapter released an album called Band From Reality (The Complete Demos) that takes the basic template of Tyfus’ original — shouty, over-driven synth-punk — and amps it up roughly 5,000 percent, until almost every track is just a few seconds of shrieked vocals, short-circuited synths, blast beats and random noise. The whole thing can be listened to in just over 17 minutes — or seven if you skip “Never Die,” the 10-minute closing track that’s basically an ambient, post-coital comedown from the violent ear-fucking of tracks like “Homeless With a Drum Machine” and “Nazi Synthesizer.” Among the things they’ve tagged it with on Bandcamp are “terrorcore” and “synthetic hypergrind,” both of which are pretty apt descriptors.
Verboden Boys (Belfast Chapter) were introduced to us by Chris Storey from Doggy Bag Records, the label that had the balls to unleash this stuff upon an unsuspecting populace. Even Storey wasn’t quite sure what had become of all the other chapters, but noted that, “to my knowledge, the Belfast chapter is the most unhinged.” We’d have to agree.
If you’re interested in starting a new Verboden Boys chapter of your own — well, you can probably just go ahead and do it. Asking permission isn’t very punk, now is it? But if you want to be all up-and-up about it, you could try sending a message to Dennis Tyfus via his label as firstname.lastname@example.org. Who knows? Maybe if enough new chapters spring into action, he’ll even revive the Antwerp original.
[Note: This post originally neglected to mention Josh Plotkin as co-creator of the Verboden Boys concept. Sorry, Josh!]
- Verboden Boys YouTube playlist
- Verboden Boys (Belfast Chapter)’s Band From Reality: The Complete Demos on Bandcamp
- Verbode Boys (Montreal Chapter) demos on Bandcamp
- Ultra Eczema official site