Weird Band of the Week: The Verboden Boys

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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, 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” — 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 ultraeczema@hotmail.com. Who knows? Maybe if enough new chapters spring into action, he’ll even revive the Antwerp original.

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Weird of the Day: Robotnicka, “Discowgirlz”

Robotnicka

Today’s weirdness was passed along to us by reader Mateusz. Merci, Mateusz! Robotnicka are (or were—it’s not clear whether they’re still together) a French synth-punk quartet active in late ’90s and early ’00s, fronted by a bundle of spazzy energy in a cow hood named Zeseal Goubet. Not much information about them is available online, except for an official bio that’s fun to read (“the singalong dancetrack to the fall of corporate empires and fascist governments”) but short on actual biographical details. They seem to have released one album in 2004 called Spectre en Vue, which includes this delightful little lo-fi dance jam, “Discowgirlz.” The video features trash monsters, so if you’re afraid of cardboard, you may want to avert your eyes.

As obscure as it is, you can actually buy Spectre en Vue in CD form from Amazon.

Weird of the Day: Atari Teenage Riot, “Revolution Action”

Atari Teenage Riot

We’d like to wrap up another awesome week here at Weird Band HQ with an oldie but goodie from digital hardcore legends Atari Teenage Riot. Back when I worked in a cube farm, I prayed every week that something like this would happen right around 5 p.m. on Friday. Well, except for the part where everyone’s faces turn to digital soup. No, on second thought, even that would have been preferable to the mind-numbing drudgery of corporate life.

Happy Friday, y’all!

Weird of the Day: Polysics, “Mega Over Drive”

Polysics

Reader Aaron calls Polysics the “bastard Japanese offspring of DEVO.” Polysics themselves call their music “technicolor pogo punk.” We just call is awesome. Next party I go to, I plan to dance by flailing my arms around my head like I’m fending off an invisible swarm of bees, just like the girls in this video. Though I won’t look as cute in a Mylar tutu.

For more Polysics, visit their website or browse their entire catalog on Amazon.com. “Mega Over Drive” comes from their most recent album, Action!!!

Weird of the Day, Moogfest Edition: Dan Deacon

Dan Deacon

Next up on our countdown to Moogfest (Apr. 23-27 in the bucolic mountains of North Carolina): Baltimore synth ninja Dan Deacon. Deacon first gained attention in the mid-’00s with a sound and performance style that married the raw energy of punk with the danceable, programmed beats of techno and synth-pop. He probably also helped make giant glasses and beards popular with hipsters, but try not to hold that against him.

On more recent albums like 2012’s America, Deacon’s been incorporating more live instrumentation; he even toured with a 14-piece band for 2009’s Bromst. But he remains best-known for synth freakouts like this seizure inducer from 2007’s Spiderman of the Rings. (Apologies for the poor quality; YouTube was a primitive place in 2007.)

Dan Deacon plays Moogfest on Thursday, Apr. 24th. For more info, visit the official Moogfest site.

New Fabulous Downey Brothers video “Do It Again” is 42 seconds of awesome

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We love us some Fabulous Downey Brothers. They’re like DEVO for people with really short attention spans. Case in point: Their latest video (last we checked—I tweet slower than these guys make music videos) is just 42 seconds long. It’s for a song called “Do It Again” and it features some of the sickest dance moves we’ve seen in quite some time. And by “sickest” I mean “it really seems like this person might be about to collapse at any moment.”

In other Fabulous D Bros news, they’re playing a gig in Seattle tomorrow night (we can’t make it, but somebody go and yell “Freebird!” for us) and they have some new costumes that look both wildly impractical and totally fucking awesome. I give those outfits five shows before they’re completely trashed, tops. But what a five shows they’ll be.

Räuberhöhle

Krawalla and Barchin of Rauberhohle

I don’t know about you, but after all the shit that went down in April, I could use a little happy action in May. So let’s start the month off on a candy-colored electro-punk note, shall we? Meet Räuberhöhle, the happiest band ever to emerge from Berlin. (Sorry, Einstürzende Neubauten.)

Räuberhöhle, which is German for “Robber’s Cave,” is the brainchild of a tattooed, J-pop-obsessed Kirsten Dunst lookalike called Krawalla Chan. Since 1999, Krawalla has been turning out bleepy, hyper-caffeinated electro-pop over which she sing-shouts like a cross between Kathleen Hanna and an army of rioting Japanese schoolgirls. There are elements of punk, disco,  electroclash, chiptune and Japanese synth-pop, none of which would be weird in and of itself, but all of which Krawalla combines in some highly quirky and occasionally brilliant ways. Add to that a live show that often features puppets and a guy in a bear suit (named Bärchin) and you got yourself one unique bundle of ausgezeichnet.

Given Krawalla’s candy-raver/My Little Pony cosplay aesthetic and the fact that many of her songs have titles like “Shake Yr Anus” and “My Heart Bleeps Noisy Beeps,” you’d be forgiven for assuming that Räuberhöhle is just a feelgood party band. But she’s also written an anti-Pope song and has another one titled “The Collective Face Of German Volkszorn” which we’re pretty sure is political even though we’re not actually sure what it’s about. It has lots of spoken-word samples of German people sounding angry, so it must be about something.

Mostly, though, Krawalla writes songs about having fun and feeling good about yourself—especially if you’re a girl or, as she charmingly puts it on her website in broken English, “Gays, women, handicapped. These whole fringe groups… I am down with them as long as the personal level is okay.” Take this awesome video for the song “I’m not part of the shit,” which is all about letting your freak flag fly and not being, well, part of the shit.

But perhaps no video better sums up the fearless wackadoodlery of Räuberhöhle than this clip for “Shake Yr Anus,” in which Krawalla and her furry friends torment mall security and (no, really) fart glitter. Many thanks to reader Irrealidad for sharing this with us a few weeks back. It’s the best thing to happen to anuses since…no, that’s a sentence better left unfinished.

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