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Sorry, OC and LA, but real experimental musicians come from South Dakota. Just ask the guys in Roosterhead. Spontaneously emigrating from the Midwest to Huntington Beach last year, drummer Luke Johnson and guitarist Shawn Her Many Horses (a last name bestowed by his native Lakota Indian tribe) gig steadily, their two-man show finding a following at such places as Que Sera in Long Beach and the Doll Hut in Anaheim. Onstage, their humorous, atonal punk fury collides with glow-in-the-dark paint and quirky, handmade instruments. On the heels of the spring release of their Burst Your Bubble EP, the band are dedicating the summer to spreading their sonic cock-a-doodle clusterfuck to audiences countywide. Next stop: the OC Fair.
OC Weekly: What led you guys to leave South Dakota and start a band in Orange County?
Luke Johnson: I was getting out of college, and I had an aunt who lived out here for a while. I said I’d come and see if I could find a job and my own place to live and set something up for the band. [Shawn] was still going to school in South Dakota at the time.
Shawn Her Many Horses: I moved here about a year later. We found this cool [apartment] between a car dealership and a strip mall, so we can make all the noise we want.
Your songs have a mix of humor and serious musicianship. Is that inspired by the music you listen to?
Her Many Horses: We’re big fans of bands like Cake and the Flaming Lips, where [the music is] fun but it has some different musicianship to it. The hardest thing to avoid is the traditional “verse-chorus-verse-chorus” because that just doesn’t work for us, playing with two people.
Luke, you have a pretty sweet-looking ’N Sync headset microphone for vocals. Where did you find that?
Her Many Horses: It’s actually a Back Street Boys mic.
Johnson: [My parents] got me that mic for Christmas the year I moved out here. Before that, I had a mic on a stand, and I was always knocking it around with my hand. I needed something that would be closer to my face. Now I’ve painted it all crazy and hang glow sticks off it.
You also have glow-in-the-dark amps, clothes and instruments onstage. Did that look just happen randomly?
Johnson: It was sort of a reflection of our sound, really, because we try to make our songs really intense. And you never see that. Typically, you go to a show, and it’s just guys up there in their flannel.
You have a lot of multi-instrumental parts on your recordings. Are you able to pull that off live?
Johnson: We can’t get away with it as much. I have one song on which I play bass and drums. What I found actually works is when I use a vocal-effects processor. If I actually drum on my microphone, I can get all these crazy sounds. Combined with beat boxing and drumming, I can get all these weird sounds.
Her Many Horses: We do what we can, but we only have four arms.
Johnson: You have four arms? [Laughs.]
What kind of set will you put together for your gig at the OC Fair?
Her Many Horses: We don’t usually do covers, so for the OC Fair, we’re covering some different songs.
Johnson: Some of our influences and some of our contemporaries and also some of the newer music out there. But we kind of tore the songs apart and put them back together.
Do you think the fair crowd is ready for you guys?
Her Many Horses: We’ll see. They’re gettin’ us.
Johnson: I think people will be surprised. Hopefully, they still have smiles on their faces.
Roosterhead perform at the OC Fairgrounds Meadow Stage, 88 Fair Dr., Costa Mesa, (714) 708-1500; www.roosterheadmusic.com. Sat., 1 & 4 p.m. $5-$10. All ages.
Hey, Orange County/Long Beach musicians and bands! Mail your music, contact info, high-res photos and impending show dates for possible review to: Locals Only, OC Weekly, 2975 Red Hill Ave., Ste 150, Costa Mesa, CA 92626. Or e-mail your link to: email@example.com.
This column appeared in print as "Sounds Like Chicken."