Kinky Horse Sex!

Pud-pounding prose with punks Blood Brothers

For Seattle's Blood Brothers, it's not so much the drugs or the rock & roll—it's the sex. And not the squeaky-clean, oooh-baby-baby, vanilla-pop stuff: it's greasy, vivid, illicit, insatiably desperate sex. Plastic-surgery-disaster sex. Zombie sex. Art sex. Chemical sex. Mannequin sex. And horse sex. Kinky horse sex.

"It's sexual frustration and deviancy," says singer Jordan Blillie. "It's something everyone can relate to, and it lends itself to interesting lyrical images. Everyone's been that dorky, daydreaming, 13-year-old junior high kid."

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But this isn't junior high, and beneath the out-there imagery—the man with the golden crotch, the swollen vagina in the sky, and even the lonely horse who, in a vain attempt to win Blillie's love, shaves off all his hair—lies a decidedly sophisticated intelligence, humor and art. The Blood Brothers burrow through barriers, blurring revulsion with seduction and methodically dismantling what a hardcore punk band (you know—the tight-lipped, sexless, feedback-wielding, "shut the system down!"-screaming kind of band) is supposed to be.

For starters, hardcore bands are not supposed to be singing about horse sex.

"I've had to defend myself when people ask, 'Why is there no substance? Why don't you have a social conscience?'" says Blillie. "But our goal isn't to create political change. It's to give people something different from typical hardcore lyrics. There are only so many times you can hear a song about, like, scene unity, before it no longer means anything. If it doesn't grab me emotionally on a deeper level, it's not going to have staying power."

The Blood Brothers know this from experience: since before they were even in high school, Blillie, guitarist Cody Votolato, singer Johnny Whitney, drummer Mark Gajadhar and bassist Morgan Henderson were submerged in the ferociously do-it-yourself Northwest hardcore-punk scene alongside local bands like the Death Wish Kids and Behead the Prophet No Lord Shall Live. But after they put the Blood Brothers together in 1997 with now ex-member Devin Welch (while most of them were juniors in high school), the songs all started to sound the same.

"You listen to one type of music for so long, you want to branch out," says Votolato. "It's our roots, and it still has a place in my heart, but none of us listen anymore to the type of music we play."

Instead, just as the Germs somehow turned Freddie Mercury and David Bowie into searing, self-destructive punk, the Blood Brothers distort and warp a diet of Leonard Cohen and P.J. Harvey, of smooth '70s soul and easy-to-swallow '90s pop punk, into blistering minimalist avant-hardcore. Their newest album, This Adultery Is Ripe, bristles with discordant shreds of post-punk guitar-strangling, spastic staccato rhythms, and Blillie and Whitney's counterpointed shrieks and screams. You can see the strands that connect them to such seminal—and comparably intense—hardcore bands as Born Against and Angel Hair. But instead of "War waged on the people/Government lies fueled by fear," it's "Sugar, I'd come over, but it's very hard to hump in front of your children/They're horrific."

Blillie and Whitney's lyrics are rife with supercharged, gleefully unwieldy metaphors and drip with sensuality and sexuality, and uncomfortably rich detail; it's an album of lovers who "keep coming back to get fucked on the operating table . . . keep coming back a different shade of nauseating," of the "swollen navels of pregnant sirens" and "slit-throat confessions licked by randy flames of persuasion." It's largely tongue-in-cheek, Blillie says—but it reads a little tongue-in-something-else.

"It's an outsider's take on hardcore punk," Blillie says. "Political bands and lyrics are so uninteresting to the senses, but a lot of bands are afraid of doing something without that framework."

The first Blood Brothers release, a 1998 benefit for a women's self-defense organization called Home Alive ("Politics isn't important to us as artists or entertainers, but we support it through benefits," Blillie says), was just sexually anemic punk punk punk: "We weren't serious about being in a band —we just wanted to rock out," says Votolato. But the next single was a bit more evolved, and the cover—a svelte silent-screen siren smiling over a picked-clean skeleton—pointed straight toward the skewed eroticism of This Adultery Is Ripe.

And so they moved on, "doing whatever we like and doing something other people aren't," says Votolato. And the kids followed: their punk punk punk crowds are now augmented with a legion of staid high school guys and their mall-crawling girlfriends. They've done several tours, once flying cross-country during the middle of finals to play down the East Coast. And they've won a reputation as a powerful—and sex-obsessed—band from the national punk press.

"We were in Minnesota, and some kid said he thought we'd be a lot sleazier and more coked-up than we were—just all the extreme stereotypes of being in a punk band," Blillie says. "People are taken aback at how normal we look."

After this current West Coast tour, it's (fingers crossed) back into the studio to record another full-length, with 10 new songs written to flow seamlessly into one another. It's almost a hardcore punk opera—but Blillie prefers "opus."

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