A slightly perturbed hometown reviewer said the Seattle band the Girls didn't have any post-1982 influences, and Girls drummer Mario (Long-Italian-Last-Name-He-Refuses-to-Disclose) says that's perfect, even though he likes At the Drive-In: if rock & roll petered out in the early '80s, he's proud to be a historical reenactor.
The Girls' Return to Zero EP (coincidentally, the title of the upcoming Alleged Gunmen full-length—someone call a lawyer!) emerged from the primordial ooze around Roxy Music's For Your Pleasure, grew legs for Here Come the Warm Jets and hit the evolutionary wall about the Cars' Candy-O. Sure, the calculation that must have characterized the band's first practices might have been a little creepy, but to their credit, the Girls are nothing if not comprehensive. They're not just lifting riffs. They're cracking open a cryogenic capsule: they've got enough '70s swagger (Mario's doing this interview while sitting on a toilet with his cell phone—and he has a handlebar mustache) to make something that could be pretty superficial almost . . . seductive.
"Iggy looked the best in makeup," Mario is saying. "He wore makeup well. David Johansen is just an ugly motherfucker. And Brian Ferry, as far as looks, came into his own in the early '80s; in the '70s, the music was better, but in the '80s he looked better—and probably scored more, too."
The last time they played SoCal—at Downey's, um, proletarian Anarchy Library—a truckful of dudes rolled up, boners poking into the six-packs on their laps, and demanded to know where the Girls was at: "We're like, 'You boys are gonna be real disappointed,'" Mario says.
Because, you see, the Girls are all men, makeup or no (Is it in Ladies and Gentleman, the Fabulous Stains! where the glam-o has to explain to the Camaro-heads, "It's just a look, all right?"). They got picked as 2003's first Studs of the Month in Namella Kim's Struts Magazine ("Thank gawd they are not a namesake band 'cause that would mean the Struts Sluts went all carpet-munch crazy," Kim wrote. "No, not when the Girls are in town! Sccchhooowww!").
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After a minute of abashed contemplation, Mario says no female has ever said anything wholesome to him about the band. "The past couple of weeks, I've had a lot of mustache compliments—from random girls at shows," he admits. "I'm finding personally women wanna hate it, but they gravitate to it. It's like, 'Ooh, it looks so bad, yet god, it's dangerous and exciting!'"
And the band? Yeah, Mario figures, it does at least as well as the facial hair. Singer Shannon Brown is the reason they get the Stooges (but not Iggy and the Stooges) comparisons. Guitarists Zach Davis and Vas Kumar (once the Briefs merch guy) hold up the Cars end of things, especially on such Ocasek-esque songs as "Flesh" ("I can't get away from her/it's the car/the car won't start") and current bassist Steve Ross—an actual Brief—probably didn't even have to rebleach his hair when he joined ("We're all about haircuts, basically," smirks Mario).
"Yeah, it's just about rock & roll," Mario says. "Get up there and deliver—stay sweaty and good and have people leave wanting to fuck or fight. Being called the Girls doesn't hurt either. There's a lot in a name—when you're called something a lot, you start to become it. Not that we're becoming women," he adds quickly. "We're not afraid of girls."
The Girls perform with the Orphans and Street Trash at the Prospector, 2400 E. 7th St., Long Beach, (562) 438-3839. Sat., 9 p.m. $5. 21+.