Federation X is going to kill you. Make your head explode. Make your brain melt. Reduce your teeth to their component powders and enamels. Or at least clear up your stuffy nose. Because if you've got a problem—psychological or physical—then they've got the cure: play loud. And not just loud like a couple of guys with a couple of amps. More like apocalypse loud.
"We're actually trying to tone that down a little," laughs singer/guitarist Bill Badgley, who, at 25, is working on going as deaf as one of those guys with the tin ear horns in the old Warner Bros. cartoons. "We had to realize there was a difference between what was loud to us and the point where people could actually enjoy it. In Boston, this guy came up to me after the show, and he looked kind of disturbed, and he said, 'Hey, that was loud.' And I was like, 'Yeah!' And he was like, 'No, you don't understand. My sinuses drained.'"
So in the interest of public welfare, they have since cut some equipment (now Badgley and band mates Beau Boyd and Ben Wilderhaus are down to just one titanic speaker rig each, plus an unaugmented drum kit). But it's still gotta be loud, explains Badgley. Most of your quality rock & roll bands are (consciously or subconsciously) trying to destroy themselves anyway—that's what makes them quality, obviously—and if Federation X is doing it with monster slabs of noise instead of needles and knee-jerk nihilism, it makes them even more dangerous. There's nothing between them and the noise, you know?
"It's always just been this thing for me," Badgley says. "I needed to wrap myself up in [the noise], try and get deeper and deeper inside this thing where it had to occupy every empty space completely. I remember when I was 15 and I got to a show, and it was just the loudest, most insane thing I'd ever seen—I remember breathing this breath, like it was the biggest breath I ever breathed in my life. And I guess I'm just trying to get back to that point."
And before then, Badgley was a pretty quiet guy. Born into an intensely committed Christian household somewhere in rural Washington, he grew up speaking in tongues, healing people with the power of the Holy Spirit, and living every day as a pitched celestial battle between invisible angels and devils vying for his immortal soul. There was no loud, heavy music in his life—well, unless it was Jesus-friendly loud, heavy music, and we're figuring Black Sabbath didn't make the cut. It's the kind of upbringing that can have an effect on a kid. "In a lot of ways, I feel like I was raised 100 years ago," he says. "Because nobody is raised the way I was anymore."
So shotgun-marry that mystic disconnect with whatever's in the Northwest's water (the kind that constantly falls from the sky as much as the kind you drink), and that's "American Folk Horror," which happens to be sort of the way Badgley tends to look at the world, as well as the title to Federation X's debut CD (on local indie fixture Estrus Records—Fed X is the only band from Estrus' native Bellingham, Washington, to ever cut vinyl on the internationally slobbered-over label). Buried in seven tracks as dense and scary as the Northwestern woods from which Federation X hails—you know, the kind of place where Bigfoot hangs out—are bleak thumbnail sketches of a desolate, isolated America.
We're not surprised: suckled on a 20-year tradition of crush-core bands like Karp and Godheadsilo (and fuck, even Mudhoney and old Nirvana and all that desperate dirge-y sludge that got marketed to death) and infinite murky generations of shit jobs and stormy nights, of course Federation X wasn't gonna end up too radio-friendly. There's something about songs like "Song About the Knife" or "The Hatchetman" that sneaks up on you like a Sasquatch: slow, quiet and then all at once suffocating you. Heavy. And loud. Apocalypse loud.
"We got a comment when we played once," Badgley says. "Nick from the band Cherry Valence said, 'When you were playing that song "Hatchetman," man, you looked kind of disturbed for a second. I had shivers up my spine.' And I was like, 'Man, that's great—I'm glad.'"
Federation X performs with Slumber Party and the Manifolds at Koo's Art Café, 1505 N. Main St., Santa Ana, (714) 648-0937; www.koos.org. Fri., 7:30 p.m. $5. All ages.
Check out this week's featured ad for Entertainment