By Sarah Bennett
By Adam Lovinus
By Jena Ardell
By Nate Jackson
By Gustavo Arellano
By Nick Keppler
By Nate Jackson
By Alex Distefano
XBXRX could be the last best hope for rock & roll. But they aren't getting too excited about it.
"It's nice for people to say we are re-defining rock or whatever," they say demurely. "But we personally don't agree with it. Everything we do, we're sure has been done by someone else before."
Maybe that's true. Maybe Iggy already got naked, and Kiss already set things on fire. Maybe there's a long list of people banned for life from rock clubs they nearly burned down, people who had their pants literally torn from their bodies by hordes of ravening fans. Maybe it all happened while XBXRX were still in high school—in Mobile, Alabama. White-hot, unadulterated, bug-out, puberty-fueled, teenage-noise-terror, rock & roll insanity? Yeah, it's been done. But maybe not quite like XBXRX does it.
"I think it's a huge compliment when people react that way," they say. (They also insist on doing the interview as a sort of unified hive-mind, not as individuals, and via e-mail only. "We get misquoted a lot," they say. Perhaps because they really are that intense.)
"Everyone is so used to the gross amount of bands that are totally recycling something that's been done by thousands of bands a lot better for the past X amount of years. As for 'going insane,' we have to disagree. We are just really involved in what we do as musicians and just let our bodies act the way they should when we perform. Plus, nobody comes to see us stand there."
And they definitely don't just stand there; eyewitnesses on the front lines of the XBXRX rock re-education campaign have experienced nothing less than total artistic devastation. Live, XBXRX is a tactical nuclear device, except possibly with more nudity and breakdancing. They get in, they set up, they explode. Forensics experts identify AC/DC, Sonic Youth and a bunch of faceless geeks who composed music for Metroid and Super Mario Brothers as among the casualties. It's all over in less than 10 minutes, and that's it—death by rock & roll. Maybe that sounds scary. It shouldn't; reportedly, they've stopped setting fires. It should sound awesome—terminally awesome.
"When people show up, we don't know what to tell them to be ready for," they say. "Maybe dancing? We don't know."
When they started XBXRX, the band members didn't know what to expect either—they were just a mishmash of misfit Alabamians who, they say, just "really wanted to rock. We didn't care where it took us or anything like that." So one night, they four-tracked some guitars and a synthesizer together, and something strange and new was born. A week, a drummer and a bass player later, they did their first show. "Pretty horrible," they admit. But who gives up that easily? Noise mutated into songs, and soon, they were a taut, jump-suited, breakdancing, samples-and-feedback-powered rock machine.
"We thought we had hit the climax our first time in a 'real' studio —can't get any better than that, you know," they say. "We never would have imagined any of the things happening to the band that have happened, if we had thought about them when we first started—even if we had thought about some of the things six months ago."
Things like incessant national touring (well, incessant except for high school, when applicable); putting out an album on hotshot, cryptopunk label 5 Rue Christine; recording with überproducer Steve Albini; and, of course, the whole re-defining rock & roll thing? Yeah, maybe. You wouldn't think snappy jump suits and freaked-out, mutant-chord torture could really get your attention anymore, but these kids may well have tapped into something primal. We think it used to be called "fun."XBXRX performs with Squab, the Sissies and the Intima at Koo's Art Cafe, 1505 N. Main St., Santa Ana, (714) 648-0937; www.koos.org. Thurs., April 19, 7:30 p.m. $5. All ages.