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Tinkle Town. Draculoid. Knights of the Reptilian Order. St. Bernard. You could've seen any one of those band names on a flier of theirs, but instead, this Los Angeles quartet of self-proclaimed geeks settled on Snake Versus Wizard.
"It was the best out of the worst shit we were thinking of," says bassist Miguel Carrillo with a laugh. "People make fun of us for it, but that's okay," continues singer/guitarist Scott Martin. "Even to this day, we'll be at practice and wonder, "What about this name . . . ?"
So yeah, what about this name? Snake Versus Wizard? Even we thought they were a bunch of Magic: The Gathering nerds before we witnessed their awesome rock. "It's turned into a metaphor of sorts," says Mike McGill, the other singer/guitarist. "Snake being the instinctual part of the writing process, and wizard meaning the thought-out, wiser parts of what we create."
"We dig it," states Carrillo. 'Nuff said.
The Snake Versus Wizard story began a little more than a year ago, but Martin and McGill have been friends and playing in bands together for the past 10 years. (We think they mumbled something about being in a ska band called Big Ass Ham once, but we can't be certain.) Carrillo was also an old friend and ex-band mate, so when he moved back to LA from Monterey a couple of years ago, it was easy to fall back into a friendship and another band. As for their drummer, they stole Austin Cotler away from another band (à la X scamming DJ Bonebrake from the Eyes). "It literally took one night of us playing," recalls Carrillo, "and we were like, 'Fuck it! Let's start a band!'"
"It took off so fast," says Cotler. "When we first started, we were just writing and writing, and then after [we had] five songs, we were playing all the time. And it hasn't really stopped."
Snake Versus Wizard played their first show out of town ("In case we bombed," says Martin) and got a really good reception. "It was so nuts because we have a fucked-up name, so no one knew who we were, and we were playing really weird music," states Cotler.
"We were kind of spoiled from day one because of that good reception," continues Carrillo.
Not too spoiled, though. They've had their share of being billed with bands that are nothing like them, as well as promoters screwing with their set times. So why keep doing the music thing? "This shit's fun!" says Martin, with a big smile. "It's a blast!"
McGill admits that sometimes it can wear on you, but they all agree that music's a lot more fun than work. "And it doesn't even have to be playing onstage," says Carrillo. "Just playing music in general. It's kind of a sickness."
So what about the music Snake Versus Wizard create? It's beautiful—Throwing Muses manic, but oh-so-precise like Jawbox, intricate like Built to Spill and a little bit odd like Yes. In essence, it's nothing at all like the music that's happening right now around here. In fact, Snake Versus Wizard are more than willing to point out that nothing is really happening here. But whatever it is that's going on, they've got a name for it: Sha Na Na 2000.
"Almost every band is 4/4," says a bummed-out Martin. "And people are eating it up. That's the 'cool thing' in LA, I guess, so I'm glad we're not cool."
One can dream, though. Let's say Snake Versus Wizard were an overnight success and everyone latched on, all White Stripes-like. Would they take their shirts off for the cover of Rolling Stone? "No way!" says Martin. "But I'd take off my pants!"
McGill, on the other hand, would take his shirt off for anything, while Carrillo would merely unbutton, "Just to show young girls that they didn't have to starve themselves," he says. And with that, a roomful of Wizards keel over in hysterical laughter.
Once Rolling Stone catches on, the stadium tour wouldn't be far behind, and if it were up to Snake Versus Wizard, you'd probably see either Ween or Spinal Tap on tour with them, along with a stage full of baby dolls and lots of fire. And they'd warm up the crowd with spoken word, standup comedy, a puppet show or maybe some regional theater.
Until that time, though, they'll settle for opening up for Har Mar Superstar, which they recently did at the Glass House. "Miguel was dry-humping Har Mar onstage," says Martin.
"I was a little tanked," admits Carrillo, "and I said to Scott, 'Let's go double-team him.'"
Only when Carrillo turned around, he realized his friend wasn't behind him, and Har Mar walked right into Carrillo. "As soon as he grabbed him," [Superstar] got on his mic and was going 'Awwwwesome,'" Martin says, superbreathy.
"The best part was that I could feel his pud on my leg," says Carrillo with a laugh. "And he was wearing little satin jammies." At this point, Carrillo would like to point out, just for the record, "I don't endorse cock in any way." Not that there's anything wrong with that.Snake Versus Wizard perform at the Prospector, 2400 E. Seventh St., Long Beach, (562) 438-3839. Sat., 9 p.m. $5. 21+.