If the name of relentlessly visible Knoxville punk upstarts Wyld Stallyns rings a bell, it has very much to do with the southern California town of San Dimas, where guitarist Brandon Biondo spent a chunk of his adolescence before moving to Knoxville. San Dimas is also home, of course, to Bill S. Preston, Esq., and Ted “Theodore” Logan, whose musical collaboration as Wyld Stallyns was supposed to usher in a new era of word peace and prosperity following the events of Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure. The duo’s excellent adventuring/bogus journeying was mere fiction, though, so two decades later the real Wyld Stallyns have stepped forward to accept the burden of uniting our planet.
Just kidding. If Knoxville’s three Wyld Stallyns are utopians, it’s not apparent in the angry, jangly music they’ve been steadily peddling throughout the summer. (Nor did drummer Mike Ellison have any idea of Biondo’s San Dimas roots when christening the band.) And if you’ve heard of them in the first place, it’s because Wyld F-kken Stallyns (as they prefer to be called) would appear to be the hardest-working band in Knoxville.
“We’ve played about a dozen [local] shows over the summer, with a few more to come,” boasts bassist Brad Fowler of their unusual approach to the local scene, where one or two shows a month is the norm. Wyld Stallyns formed in mid-May, readied seven songs during their first practice, and played their first show three weeks later, never stopping to catch their breath.
“We’ve joked a few times about ‘touring’ Knoxville, bumming places to stay and stuff,” Ellison says, highlighting the impressive breadth of venues they’ve found to play, going from noise-punk haunts like Pilot Light and the Longbranch to less-obvious spots like World Grotto and the floor of Lox Salon in the Old City—sometimes within only a few days. There’s also been the usual summer glut of parties and house shows, including sets at Fowler’s long-running “Third Thursday” series of monthly DIY showcases.
But the real key to Wyld Stallyns’ work ethic is a simple one, reflecting Wyld Stallyns’ no-nonsense charms.
“It’s my fault we play so many shows,” says Biondo, who largely handles the band’s booking. “People keep offering them to us and I keep saying, ‘Sure, okay.’”
More practically, Wyld Stallyns may also be motivated to make this initial sprint count before Biondo dives back in to his other main gig: playing guitar for indie-rock buzzmongers Royal Bangs, who will be hitting the national circuit for two months after their CD release show at the Catalyst on Sept. 3. Thanks to the collectivist undercurrents of the Pilot Light/Whisk-Hutzel scene, though, neither Ellison nor Fowler will be out of practice when he returns. Each has a number of other projects, including shared membership in the SoCal-style hardcore outfit Choreboys.
Still, all three admit that Wyld Stallyns has quickly become a priority, if only because it’s the “easiest” band they’ve played in. This is partly due to close friendships—Biondo and Ellison’s dates back to their days at West High School—as well as their clear agreements about how the band and its music should be. (That is to say, loud, fast, catchy, and careless.) But it likely has as much to do with their creative process, in which each member typically composes or outlines songs on his own before bringing them to the band, where they hash out an arrangement.
The revolution of duties isn’t limited to the practice room; though listed to this point as playing their “preferred” instrument, all three members spend fairly equal time at each position, with guitar and lead vocals typically reserved for the song’s author. It all gets a little confusing and time-consuming for both the band and the crowd, but the Stallyns aren’t sweating it.
“That’s part of the appeal of punk rock,” Fowler says. “It’s kind of you against the audience, in a fun way—tuning guitar strings and yelling back and forth. It adds flavor.”
The one song currently available on the band’s MySpace page—a surprisingly hi-fi mid-tempo stomper, one of the few songs co-written by the whole band—is a peek at even better things to come from the Stallyns, who promise to have a tape out by the end of the year.
Yes, a cassette tape.
“It’s a generational thing, I guess,” explains Ellison. “But they’re also just so sturdy! You could find a Gerardo cassingle someone threw out of their car window and it’d probably be perfectly okay.”