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Reveling in reverb-soaked garage rock with an anarchist bent, Gestapo Khazi are the kind of band you imagine tattooed old-timers mentioning in their cigarette-fueled discussions about punk’s glory days. The lo-fi, unapologetic aggression of thrashing tunes such as “Miss Temptation” and “Smoke Signals” continues to endear the band to rabid fans, scrappy punk labels and a vibrant underground scene that pulses in the bars and clubs of their native Long Beach. Vocalist John Roller, drummer Mike Shelbourn, guitarist Erik Fettes and bassist Dan Graziano talked to the Weekly about upcoming releases, humorous run-ins with Oakland hookers and plans for proliferating punk’s old guard in the New Year.
OC Weekly:You’ve been together just more than a year. Are you surprised by what you’ve accomplished in such a short time?
John Roller: We spent a lot of time working on tunes, playing shows, booking shows. The support we’ve been getting lately has been pretty cool. I wouldn’t say I’m super-surprised.
Mike Shelbourn: That’s kind of the idea with this band, just to come out of the gate running.
How did you guys get started?
Shelbourn: It was Erik’s project. I ended up in the band just for kicks, and then [Dan] ended up in the band just for fun, and [John] joined.
Roller: We’ve all been in bands together before, and it looked like they were having a lot of fun. [laughs]
Shelbourn: We actually played a lot of instrumental shows before John came over and decided to sing for us.
You’re currently working on a full-length album, right?
Roller: We have about half of it tracked; the other half we’re planning on tracking in a month. It may or may not come out as a full-length, depending on how the two sessions fit together. We got about 13 songs that are going to come out besides the [split] releases we’re working on now.
What’s the incentive for you to put out split singles with other bands?
Shelbourn: It’s cool to have the camaraderie, to make something almost immortal out of friendships or musical sympathies or like-[minded] ideas. It’s bands helping promote bands.
Describe an ideal Gestapo Khazi show.
Shelbourn: We just give it our all. We just try to connect with people and fuck shit up.
Are there other local bands you identify with or whom you enjoy playing shows with?
Roller: It’s usually bands that don’t sound anything like us. It seems like we kind of have the same way of looking at things even though our music is totally different. The two bands we’re doing split [records] with [Jail Weddings and Tijuana Panthers] are both really original, great bands.
Dan Graziano: We share some factors, but we’re not really in the same niche.
Do you guys have any stories from your shows or road craziness that you would like to share?
Shelbourn: Erik got propositioned by a very large hooker in Oakland.
Erik Fettes: I was sitting in the car while [the band] was going to buy beer, and this very large woman came up to the [car window], and she asked me what time it was. I said, “It’s 5 o’clock.” She said, “Whatcha doing?” I was like, “Nothing.” She was like, “Whatcha wanna do?” I was like, “What?!” [laughs] She asked what my plans were, and I said I was going to play a show in a little bit, and she’s like, “You want some head before you play?” And I said, “No, thank you.”
Do you have any specific plans for the band in 2010?
Shelbourn: U.S. tour, Europe tour, albums, singles, more tours, shirts . . . anything else?
Roller: We’re gonna be just as busy this coming year as we’ve been this past year. We’re not stopping.
Gestapo Khazi with Le Face, Blood Bath and Slaughterhouse Death Kamp at Que Sera, 1923 E. Seventh St., Long Beach, (562) 599-6170; thequesera.com. Sat., 9 p.m. $5. 21+. For more info on Gestapo Khazi, go to myspace.com/gestapokhazilongbeach.