Lobster à la Royale
Noise, beer, Sir Francis Bacon
by Kevin Crowe
"Why am I drinking, man?” Mitchell Garza asks. The lead singer of local speedmetal quartet Lobster Lobster Lobster orders another beer. “It’s Friday,” a bar regular says.
“Damn right it is,” Garza answers. Here, in Barley’s around 3:30 p.m., Garza asks the bartender for a cigarette. “I’m really trying to quit. It’s bad for the voice.” But what’s bad for the body isn’t always bad for the music. The Lobster M.O., it seems, is get drunk, get rowdy, get loud . At a typical show, often impromptu, guitarist Will Fist plays in a naturally fluid blues-style, heavily distorted and, of course, loud, further enraged through Josh “The Crow” Wright’s more-or-less walking bass lines and Cary Balch’s thrash drum virtuosity. On top of it all, Garza’s always screaming, like an angry jazzman at a scat session, bebops turned to arrgh s. “I don’t necessarily think that the style of music we play demands a certain kind of polishedness,” Garza says. “It demands rawness.”
That rawness creates a visceral, hectic aura, the kind of miasmic noise-clutter that gets you brainsick, lingers, and eventually makes you want to go feral, slipping into the primitive by way of hypnotic, raw, jetsam beats. There’s little flashy showmanship, as if that kind of gimmickry would bedaub the otherwise innate, and therefore pure, rock. These guys just play, that’s all that can be said, not needing to think up a shtick, not wanting to be labeled as anything other than fast , hard and most definitely fervent . The only gimmick, perhaps, is the zany name, three Lobsters.
The story of the name feels stoner-Vaudevillian. “I think what actually happened was that we were all getting high,” Garza explains. “And, uh, yeah, that’s why. And I was like, ‘How about sandwich?’ ‘How about broccoli?’ And, ‘How about lobster?’ ‘How about lobster lobster?’ that’s what Will says. And I turn to him, and I say, ‘Man, what about lobster lobster lobster?’ And for some reason he really thought that shit was it.”
It’s a name that came out of the munchies. Fantasy munchies actually, the stuff that kids can only dream about when Cap’n Crunch and Doritos lose their initial charm after years of doping it up in their living rooms. This band’s a dream, too, a piece of filet mignon amid beef jerky. At least that’s what Lobster will tell you about the band’s sound, turned up to 11 with an extra stick of butter clogging the arteries of the not-quite-metal/not-quite-punk sound. “I think that there’s a shortage of fast, good rock bands,” Garza says, adding: “In Knoxville, everything’s this that and the other. I dunno, a lot of sissy-rock.”
They make up a plucky band, no doubt, known to burst into random house parties in the Fort completely unannounced. One partygoer, at a house near the corner of Laurel and James Agee, was heard to say, “I appreciate y’all’s free-spiritedness and all that. But, Jesus!” Sometimes, on a lucky night at the Pilot Light, Will Fist will roll out an old, raunchy, beer-coated rug, and Lobster will play. It doesn’t matter if the band isn’t scheduled to play—if it feels like the right time, then it’s the right time, dammit. The Pilot Light patrons will often eat Lobster Lobster Lobster even if they’re expecting Fecal Japan.
But the Lobster sound hasn’t always been a constant. In the early days, up until about a year ago, Julia Hungerford of another local celeb band, The Cheat, handled percussion. And until very recently, there was a trombone, a distinctly out-of-place instrument that nevertheless gave the violent music a haunting consistency, filling in the slack spaces with the brass cocksureness now handled by bassist Josh Wright. Yet, after all the changes, the quartet appears to have stumbled upon something great, a new breed of metal that’s hard to pin down stylistically. But if there is a constant, it’s undoubtedly the experience of seeing Lobster onstage, seeing fans full of beer and eager to hurl their empties at the band.
When asked about influences, Garza mentions George Jones and The Melvins. But, at the end of his list he adds Sir Francis Bacon, the 17th century philosopher and statesman widely known for defending the scientific revolution and engendering modern scientific thought and methodology. As an influence it doesn’t seem to fit; however, with a band like Lobster, it doesn’t need to fit, it just is.
Bacon taught that the best proof is experience. He would later say that silence is the virtue of fools. Either intentionally or quixotically, Lobster has stumbled upon a philosophy of sound that’s backed up by 400 years of history. “Future plans? Long life? Uh, hmm, I dunno,” Garza contemplates. “It’s chaotic, man….
“There’s a big tour planned for this summer,” Garza adds, after a long pause. Oh, yeah? That’s great! Where about? “Scandinavia,” he says, barely cracking a smile. m
Who: Lobster Lobster Lobster, w/ The Sand Cats and Lexie Mountain