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It takes something special to make a game of mini-golf turn frightening. Right now, that something is the image of Alex Vincent of the band Something Horrible sporting a black peacoat while standing over a hole on a kiddie putting green, screaming bloody murder next to some plastic dandelions and a fun-sized Dutch windmill. Already set back four strokes, he misses his putt yet again in front of his band mates. Channeling Billy Madison, he unleashes his club-wielding rage. And now the grade schoolers around him are staring as though they're startled fawns.
"NOOOOOOOOOO! SON OF A BITCH! " With skinny arms outstretched, his throaty howl of discontent rumbles similar to a belch from a satanic Cookie Monster. It's been like this for most of the game.
Some might consider it a vocal warm-up for the pit-swirling, throat-shredding, teeth-gnashing intensity personified by Vincent, who is joined by keyboardist Bryce Green, guitarist Andrew Talley, bassist Fernando Pacheco and drummer Dyllan Shoemake. Despite their shittiness at miniature golf, the Mission Viejo quintet enjoy a seasonal round of success with their constantly evolving, spooky, horror-rock sound. It would be easy to write it off as an October gimmick, but the band have been this sick and twisted since forming more than a year ago.
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While a music major at Saddleback College, Vincent developed an attraction to horror-movie soundtracks—it was all the former punk rocker would listen to. For him and longtime musical partner Pacheco, that eventually morphed into a fixation on serial killers.
"Not like, 'Ah, serial killers are the best,' but just getting into their psyche," Vincent explains as he tees off in front of a phony, fuming volcano. "So I started getting into the idea of writing spooky music. And then I was into spooky music and I liked bands, so why not make a spooky band?"
When he says "spooky," he's referring to Something Horrible's persistent effort to cram the styles and visions of Danny Elfman, the Melvins, Bram Stoker, Rachmaninoff and Screamin' Jay Hawkins into a blender. Pour the results over a tight, bone-cracking Misfits drum beat, and what you get resembles the track "Dusk," released last month alongside the aptly-titled companion "Dawn."
They hope to alter their style slightly from record to record, and their nimbleness in a fairly niche genre (spook rock? ghoul punk?) is impressive. That goes double when you consider their previous names, including the Dead (already taken, obviously) and Dead Terror (now being used for their separate, scary-music cover band). Though they originally focused on the savage monsters of reality—psychos such as Albert Fish and Jeffrey Dahmer—Vincent says the new sound steers more toward monsters of traditional lore, such as vampires and werewolves.
The sound, as far as we can tell, isn't all about frenetic thrash. Everyone from Shoemake to Green has had some form of classical or technical training. "It's the only band I've ever been in that incorporates real musical dynamics, orchestration, not three instruments playing the same chords," says Green. With a handful of released singles, scratch demos and even a few random iPhone recordings, the band are piling up their ideas so they can brew an undoubtedly terrifying debut release by this time next year.
But for now, being the vampires they are, this month is more of a hunting season than anything else. And when you're a lonely, spooky rock band roaming in a landscape of unsuspecting indie hipsters, one must be ravenous.
"Really, the best strategy so far is to find bands who are remotely spooky and steal all their fans," Vincent says.
That definitely sounds a lot easier than a hole in one.
This column appeared in print as "Re-Vampires."