Hamo, the burly Lebanese-American lead singer for the Pink Sexies, doesn’t spend much time on stage during the band’s performances. He likes to get out in the crowd, trailing his microphone cord, and bring the audience into the show. He’ll pick someone out and sing right to him, slinging sweat and beer while the band keeps up a blare of garage rock on the stage. After a couple of songs, he’ll wind up on the floor, sometimes dragging somebody else with him. He’s lost his pants more than once.
It’s easy to pick out the people who have seen the band before, huddled against the wall or in the back of the bar, almost as if they measured the length of the mike cord and know just how much range Hamo has. I’ve been singled out more than once, and it’s an uncomfortable experience, a lot like a lap dance at a strip club. I never know where my eyes should be, or what I should do with my hands. Usually I just stand there, counting the seconds until he moves on to someone else.
There’s an undeniable deconstructive element to a Pink Sexies show. It depends on audience participation, some voluntary and some not, almost as much as the performance of the band itself. But the real motivation isn’t some egg-headed commentary on art and the media as much as it’s an effort to get rock ’n' roll out to the people. The one thing Hamo loves as much as attention is rock ’n' roll.
“People think Hamo’s a lot more confrontational that he really is,” says guitarist Fred Rascoe, huddling in the band‘s practice space on Central Avenue while Hamo and bassist Bill DeLeonardis deliver a barrage of one-liners and dirty jokes. Hamo and DeLonardis are born showmen, with a love for the spotlight and a delight in mildly shocking behavior. An interview with them is almost like a Three Stooges clip. Rascoe (who also plays guitar in Kill It Kid) and drummer Jason Stark (also in Ibrahim) are the straight men, trying to squeeze thoughtful answers in between the zingers from the other two.
The band happily shoulders the burden of being an act with a reputation for flamboyance and high-octane theatrics, but they’re also leery of the public perception of them as a threat to public safety.
“There’s a certain element of that to our shows,” DeLeonardis says. “But it’s pretty obvious we’re committed to this. We practice two or three times a week, and we’ve been getting some out-of-town shows. We’ve all been in several bands for a long time, and we pursue this as a serious hobby.”
The Pink Sexies formed in the summer of 2000. Hamo and original drummer Cheezo Fondu, now living in North Carolina, were still playing in the Come Ons. But Hamo says that band was quickly disintegrating when he met DeLonardis at the University of Tennessee.
Hamo and DeLonardis soon discovered they liked the same records—obscure punk, rock ’n' roll, and hard soul—and got together. They put together 10 or 12 songs in the first two weeks. (“Some of those have been excised from the set list at this point,” DeLeonardis says.)
They chose the name from a Japanese comic book. “They were having this sex contest, and whoever lasted the longest or finished first, I can’t remember, won the contest,” Hamo says. “And the band that was playing at the contest was the Pink Sexies. That’s where that came from.”
They’ve released one self-titled CD and just issued a split single with the Bitter Pills on vinyl. A new CD is in the works. In the meantime, they’ll keep playing their almost-monthly dates at the Pilot Light.
Along with the Bitter Pills, the Pink Sexies are the unofficial house band of the Old City club, with dozens of shows there in two years together. The two bands share a fascination with American ’60s garage rock, but Rascoe’s minimalist guitar riffs carry an undeniable association with the Fall and Gang of Four. But the band members insist they’re just a rock ’n' roll band.
“We’ve been compared to early Pere Ubu and the Pagans,” DeLeonardis says. “Those are good bands, but it’s a bad comparison. At the core we’re a guitar, drums, and bass band. We may augment that on record with piano or organ, but that’s what we’re doing.”