Teeny bop fan-boys and fan-girls from as far as Los Angeles County invaded Santa Barbara Saturday night to see Liverpool’s finest, The Wombats, perform at Velvet Jones. The Britpop band was accompanied by fellow United Kingdom band Morning Parade and Los Angeles’ very own, Beware of Darkness, who opened the set.
Before the show, I had the privilege of talking with Beware of Darkness about the Backstreet Boys, musical genres and the perks and perils of a “glamorous” life on tour. The band, whose name stems from a George Harrison song, consists of: Kyle Nicolaides (singer/guitarist), Tony Cupito (drums) and bassist Daniel Curcio.
Before I met the band or saw them perform, I had some idea of what they might be like, namely from reading a description from their PR team: “They are ready to frighten your children, sleep with your daughters, and make you shake, scream, and contort like it’s a Depression- Era, Southern exorcism.”
That may be a bit … intense, but lead singer Nicolaides admitted that their real goal is to “divide, conquer and seduce.” I was not surprised, as I soon learned that Nicolaides is a Scorpio. But, after stuffing their faces with Greek food and enduring their third consecutive hangover, the boys weren’t as talkative as I would have liked.
Victoria Essien: Are you guys as good as you’re “typed up” to be?
Kyle Nicolaides: Yeah, we are. We are.
Tony Cupito: We don’t want anyone to leave our show without a body bag. That’s our goal.
VE: How did you guys all meet?
TC: [Kyle] said I kissed really well.
KN: We met at a glory hole.
VE: Awwwwww … wait, is this a joke? What if you break up?
KN: No. Fleetwood Mac made all those albums and they were all f**king each other, so we got one of em’ right…
VE: Oh … so SPIN called you guys a “suped up Black Keys.” What genre do you consider yourselves?
KN: Great songwriting. Great music.
VE: That’s not a genre …
KN: … Probably alternative rock. We played in Oakland last night and they called us “voodoo rock.”
VE: So, you’re no Jason Mraz. Your lyrics are pretty dark.
KN: Not like Jason Mraz? Thanks!
VE: I don’t even know who I’d compare you to these days [lyrically]… maybe like early Panic! At The Disco/Fall Out Boy lyrics. [laughs] That’s not an insult. (Note to world: Never say that to a former USC Lit major songwriter dude or anyone in general who has good taste in music. My bad.)
KN: No. No. I don’t think we’re anything like that. [mini-debate ensues]
VE: I listened to them in, like, middle school.
KN: Oh, so like a year ago? [chuckles]
VE: Dude, that was insulting. [hairflip] Like in ’06. Anyways, word on the block is that you have a new album, Orthodox, coming out soon. What details can you tell us about it?
KN: Yea next year. It’s less angry and aggressive than the [HOWL] EP.
VE: Ohhh, your music is evolving?
VE: So what genre are you guys gonna be next? I like to categorize things.
KN: People like to categorize things. That’s just nature.
TC: 80s pop!
KN: NO! I HATE 80s pop!
VE: Really?? Why??
KN: … I’m allowed to not like things.
VE: No. Not things that I like.
KN: Oh? Is that how it works?
TC: It’s gonna be voodoo blues.
VE: Why should people go out and buy your album?
KN: It’s gonna be really good. There’s gonna be lots of piano, and I love every song.
VE: What’s your goal with this album? What’s your five-year plan?
KN: To put it out and get it on radio, and we all want to headline shows.
VE: How can fans gain access to your music, legally?
KN: They can find us on iTunes or Spotify.
I admit, as I elbowed my way through the sea of fan-girls occupying Velvet Jones, I began to regret skipping out on a night of debauchery in I.V.. Then, Beware of Darkness emerged from the curtains. Robert Plant-esque, frontman Nicolaides freed his chest hair and jumped into song with “Holy Men.”
Boy, was I impressed. They individually played the s**t out of their instruments. At any given moment, at least one of them was mid-air. It was a high-energy performance to say the least. With a voice like a tri-blend of James Mercer, Jack White and Julian Casablancas, the emotional rawness of Fiona Apple and a southern bluesy-rock sound reminiscent of the Black Keys, what’s not to like?
All the way from the UK, Morning Parade played next. They successfully got the crowd jumping with their familiar-sounding, loud, synth-pop melodies. However, the reactions of their diehard fan-boys in front of me gave me the most joy.
Finally, the Wombats and lead Matthew Murphy’s hair (Yes, it is its own separate entity) made their debut onstage. There was not one moment, from when they started to when they finished, to rest. It baffles me that dancing — much less, breathing without getting a mouthful of someone else’s hair — was possible in that crowd. Everyone had surged forward towards the stage. Bodies were constantly moving and hands were held high, clapping and swaying in unison. It was surprising to see the majority of the crowd sing along to every single song they played. It was very atypical of the standard indie rock, “hipster” show where people slightly bop up and down and nod their heads. The Wombats seemed to play everything from their acclaimed second album The Modern Glitch and all of their hits from their first album, A Guide to Love, Loss, and Desperation.
With every song they played, I remembered more and more why I and so many young adolescents like them. Besides their infectious Britpop melodies, their songs are so youthful and relatable. When they played “Moving to New York,” I definitely had a fan-girl moment; that was my anthem for a long time. Overall, the show felt like a time travel back to my early adolescence. With my teen years coming to an end in a matter of weeks, it was a great last hurrah to early youth.