There's a solid core of art-punk groups playing regularly in and around Long Beach at the moment: The bands take a musical approach akin to the late-'70s Manhattan underground scene, playing hard, loud, grimy, deliberately minimalist and technically proficient. That group includes Gestapo Khazi, Some Days, Death Hymn Number 9 and Deadly Finns. The music of Deadly Finns parallels that of, say, Television--a two-guitar attack that employs interlocking riffs and improvised sections in which the guitars aren't necessarily noodling around, with one guy playing lead and the other rhythm. Rather, they prefer layering noise to provide an energetic point-counterpoint to tunes. "I like to see musicians go for it," says guitarist/vocalist and de facto bandleader Mike Vermillion, describing the way the band put songs together.
Mike and his wife, Eleanor Vermillion, who plays drums in the band, moved up to Long Beach from San Diego a few years ago. Mike had been playing in the seminal underground art-punk ensemble Gogogo Airheart, touring all over the U.S. and Europe while signed to the Sonny Kay-Mars Volta co-owned GSL label. Over the course of Gogogo Airheart's career--spanning approximately 10 years, beginning in 1996--the band witnessed the big Internet shift in the music industry, and for better or worse, it really changed the paradigm for a lot of indie bands.
"The climate of music started changing," Vermillion recalls. "If you weren't touring all the time, you had no money. We just kind of got tired of not having a home. I was still in Gogogo Airheart when I moved to Long Beach; we were touring a lot, but it was obvious our interests were going into different things. So it was time for a new band with friends from Long Beach."
He met guitarist Tyler Case through some mutual friends from the GSL label, and initially, Eleanor played bass with Tony Matarazzo (FM Bats, Jail Weddings) on the drums. This lineup recorded a full-length LP in 2009 before parting ways with Matarazzo. Eleanor quickly learned the drums, and GSL labelmate Mike Damico (Neon King Kong) arrived in Long Beach from Cleveland to take over on bass.
With a new roster, they released a 7-inch late last year--and there's an arsenal of new material on the way, Vermillion says. "[We have] a bunch of new stuff recorded," he says. "But my relationship with current mediums of sharing music has been an uphill battle."
Which explains why Deadly Finns' Internet imprint is relatively sparse, with a few old videos on YouTube, a MySpace page untouched since 2011, and a Facebook page with no tunes on it. But that's no matter to Vermillion; he's not in it for the media.
"Ideally, I would like to play shows in front of friends," he says. "The Internet kind of destroyed touring bands, you know? We used to get bands from the East Coast out here all the time, but they aren't really doing that anymore. They don't have to; you can sell your music online now. It feels weird to sell yourself on the Internet."
Not that Vermillion is rearing to get back on the road either. He and Eleanor just bought a house in Long Beach. She works as a teacher, and he's logging regular hours at a grocery store nearby. They are generally enjoying finally having roots down somewhere. For now, Deadly Finns enjoy being domesticated.
"Long Beach is great, being able to bike around and see your friends," he says. "I really like it."
Deadly Finns perform with Death Hymn Number 9 and the Walking Wrecks at the Prospector, 2400 E. Seventh St., Long Beach, (562) 438-3839 www.prospectorlongbeach.tumblr.com. Sat., 10 p.m. $5. 21+