Photo: Katie Panzer
On Friday, Nov. 18, head down to the Urban Lounge to check out the spaced out, experimental Pretty Worms, the drug-dazed, dirty rock n’ roll of Dark Seas and opener The Rose Phantom. As always, a mere $5 gets you in.
El Moron – Bass
Red Siren – Vocals
Zachsis – Drums
Wylie Deadskin – Amp
Pretty Worms formed approximately a year and a half ago, initially as no more than a practical joke. “We talked about an art prank—doing a band that was a hoax, that didn’t actually exist and didn’t actually have any music,” says El Moron. What started as an idea for a hoax on Salt Lake City’s music scene turned into an actual project—one of the more unique and eccentric ones currently playing Salt Lake. “I think the backgrounds of everyone in the group are pretty diverse. So often in a band situation, you get tied in with a bunch of people who have the exact same ideas as you and you get a more uniform result,” says El Moron. “This time, since we’ve had a multitude of different perspectives, it has been a more experimental methodology.”
Although each member has plenty of experience under their belts, Pretty Worms has given them all a chance to explore areas of music that they hadn’t been able to in earlier projects. El Moron has played guitar in so many local projects that it’s impossible to keep track—The Wolfs, Pink Lightnin’ and Ether to name a few—but Pretty Worms is the first time he’s played bass in a project. “It’s really quite a lot of fun to not have any idea whether it sounds like shit or not, to not worry about it and just be able to let the music come,” he says. Zachsis got his start playing drums with orchestras before moving into more abrasive music, playing with groups like Subrosa, Laughter and Dwellers. “When I’m not stuck behind a drum set, I love noise,” he says. “Pretty Worms is definitely up that alley. I get to mic my drums and put it through a space echo.” Red Siren says working with El Moron provided her the chance to fulfill a goal of creating a record, something she moved to New York City to try to accomplish. “My last band, Milk 4 Cats, started doing fancy recordings and that unraveled at the seams,” she says. “As soon as I moved back, El Moron was mentioning a project he wanted to start and I told him I was in. Whatever [he was] doing, I knew it was going to be good,” she says.
This past fall, Pretty Worms released three 7” singles on 8ctopus Records, each in limited runs of 200. Two of the three are splits with other local bands—one with Plastic Furs and the other with Blackhole. El Moron pulled out all the stops when creating the 7”s—all three releases feature custom artwork and multicolored vinyl—but the Pretty Worms 7” contains the most special touches of the trifecta.
“They are homemade cookies, for sure,” says El Moron. “The [Pretty Worms] record starts in the middle [on one side]. It also has locked grooves in the center of the record, which repeat infinitely. They work forward and backwards at any speed. The fucking records glow in the dark, too. I’m not sure how you play an inside-out record in the dark, but you know … That’s what we have.”
Initial buzz about this set of releases made it seem like you needed a special, high-tech record player to play the inside-out cut record. According to El Moron, any record player can play the release, it’s just a matter of slowly moving the needle to the center of the record to avoid engaging the auto-return mechanism found in many cheaper record players. “It’s probably why not many people do inside-out cut records, but what the fuck … Here we are,” says El Moron. “I figure the number of people who are still interested in recorded music, and still interested in records is pretty small, so we might as well go for it. We’re really not trying to preach to the unconverted. This is for people who are already seeking out the unconventional. ”
Although El Moron was instrumental in the creation of the records, he says that it took an army of creative types for the project to come together. “It wasn’t just the musicians and the engineers and the people who did the audio part of the record. We had some fantastic visual artists who helped with the record covers,” he says.
Come be converted to the land of the unconventional when Pretty Worms play Localized on Nov. 18.
Irvin Martinez – Bass
Kyle Wilcox – Vocals
Rhett Hansen – Drums
Diego Mijares – Guitar
Dark Seas is a band that almost never was. These days, you can find them regularly playing with Max Pain and the Groovies and Spell Talk, but they were reluctant to play at first, and almost didn’t make it to their first show. Luckily, with the help of a California tour, a poncho and a whole lot of peer pressure, they’re making a name for themselves playing dirty, drug-hazed rock n’ roll.
The group had been tinkering around, playing Joy Division songs for approximately five months before the drummer of Max Pain, T-coy, called to say he had booked them a show at Kilby. Unable to play any of the covers that their “set” was composed of, the band asked T-coy what the hell they were supposed to play. “He said ‘Well, can’t you guys just write some songs and play them?’” says Wilcox.
With only 21 days to prepare, they managed to write four songs, but at the last minute decided they weren’t ready. “We tried to back out and T-coy said, ‘Fuck no, you guys are playing,’” says Wilcox. Unable to ignore the peer pressure, and out of a fear of having their “balls ripped off” by T-coy, Dark Seas played their first set of original material on Feb. 22 at Kilby Court. “I think for the amount of time [we put into it], it actually came together pretty well. Obviously, it wasn’t the best sounding shit, because we didn’t have time to practice,” says Hansen.
Considering that the bulk of the members picked up their instruments a little over a year ago and that they’ve only been together for a mere nine months, it’s pretty astonishing how far Dark Seas have come since that first show. What Dark Seas may lack in experience, they make up for with their enthusiasm for playing music.
The project actually got its start due to Mijares’ extreme alacrity to learn to play the guitar. “I met this old-ass dude and I was watching him [play], and I said, ‘I want to play the guitar so bad––I love music,’” Mijares says. The “dude” told Mijares that if he played 30 minutes per day, he would eventually learn to play some songs. “I know I sit at my house for more than 30 minutes a day,” says Mijares. The realization led him to purchase a guitar, and after spending almost three weeks playing for numerous hours to learn Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here,” he convinced Martinez to try to learn the bass. “I’ll buy it, and if you don’t like it, I’ll keep it. If you do like it, you keep it and just pay me back,” Mijares recalls telling Martinez. The two went to the pawn shop, bought a bass and then recruited Wilcox to sing because of his love for karaoke. A while later, they ran into Hansen at a party. He told them he had some drums in his basement, and they exchanged numbers and made loose plans to jam.
“We didn’t know how to jam. We didn’t know what the hell that meant,” says Martinez. Since they didn’t know how to start from scratch, they started with what they knew, liked and was easy—Joy Division. When it came time to actually write their own material, Mijares says they pulled from those same songs they originally learned. “It was the same chords, but just strummed differently. [We] mixed ’em up and came up with something,” he says.
Although they started with a single influence, these days, Dark Seas are inspired by a much larger group of bands, including The Black Angels, The Doors and Link Wray. “Our style has changed a lot. It was more of a Joy Division sound back then. I think we’re branching off now and finding our own style, developing our own sound,” says Wilcox.
Their stage presence has also grown to match the energy of the local groups that initially encouraged them. An April tour to California with The Groovies seems to have helped Dark Seas find their footing while performing live. “We were really stiff on stage when we first started—we didn’t do stuff at all. We were just like mannequins. After we went to California … That’s when I lost that,” says Martinez. According to his bandmates, the trip to California wasn’t the only thing that helped their bass player become more fluid on stage. “Irvin got a poncho and he fucking loosened up,” says Wilcox. A poncho that he wore on stage in a venue in Hollywood that was nearly 90 degrees—“I’m sure Irvin lost at least one pound that night. He was sweating so much,” says Mijares.
At the time of this interview, Dark Seas were in the process of recording their first release with Kent Rigby at Midnight Recording Studio. The eight-song self-titled album will be released the same night at their Localized showcase.
Check out the unconventional eccentricities of Pretty Worms, the vintage-influenced rock n’ roll of Dark Seas and opener The Rose Phantom at Localized on Friday, Nov. 18.