Irony Maiden

Photo by Matt OttoBeing a heavy-metal band is a pain in the ass, Adam Capilouto says. The shorthairs laugh at you, tell you Bon Jovi sucks, tell you to get a haircut. You can't get shows because the clubs are clogged with brainless teeny-punk bands who have spent more on skate-boner wardrobes than guitar lessons. The cops pull you over for being longhair scumballs when you're test-driving a used car and make you sit unjustly busted on the curb in front of the entire Orange Street Fair. And then there are the real sacrifices.

"I gave up chicks, man," says singer/bassist Eddie Westre emphatically. "Girls that used to come up and hug me in middle school—they stopped even looking at me in the hallway."

There's an uncomfortable silence—although he's answered a question you've been dying to ask—but just for a second. Because, as befits Orange's heaviest metal band, the boys in Tyranis are never quiet for long.

Before practice, they're sprawled out in the back of guitarist Adam Duncan's fucking beautiful El Camino in various states of denim-clad shirtlessness, letting the Doors spill out all over this white-picket-fence neighborhood. Hang out with Tyranis, and you'd better have earplugs (they'll let you borrow some, if you want): you can hear muffled drums from their car stereo blocks before you see the car itself, and the city has written them warning letters about their high-volume practices (there's a "Loud Party" citation taped in a place of honor in their rehearsal room). Drummer Capilouto even remembers losing his metal virginity at Wherehouse to Black Sabbath's mid-'70s vintage "We Sold Our Soul for Rock 'n' Roll," slipping it into a CD listening station and grinding the headphones into his ears as hard as he could. Why?

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"So it'd be as loud as it could get," he says reverently.

"See, if you make noise loud enough, people will have to listen," says Duncan.

"But make noise the right way," Westre adds sternly.

And what's the right way? Hard, fast and—of course—loud, the unholy trinity since the days when the words "heavy metal" first took on meaning beyond the periodic table of elements.

You'll hear a little Metallica—the good Metallica, not the puss Metallica—on their "Gods of Thunder" demo. You'll hear a lot more new wave of British heavy-metal references, with Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Motrhead and Sabbath all echoing loudly in Westre's wail (and lyrics—he's living his life like a "crazy train," you know) and Duncan's and guitarist Brian Stone's dueling guitar solos. And you'll hear the obsessively impressive musicianship that can only come from years of after-school bedroom noodling, which is made even more impressive by half the band still being in high school.

And what you won't hear is any of the hairspray-sticky butt rock—Warrant, Whitesnake, Winger, whatever—so beloved of Wayne's-World-copping retro-hipsters, or any irony at all. Tyranis, as they will matter-of-factly and repeatedly tell you, is a for-real heavy-metal band.

"Metal today is a joke, a pose," mutters Westre darkly about nu-metal bands that barely know one chord. The Osbournes notwithstanding ("My mom watches that with us," says Capilouto. "She says it's like our house"), Tyranis don't pay much attention to the metal of today. They'll even give Britney Spears points for technical virtuosity over someone like Slipknot. (On Britney: "I wish I was pretty, so some fat guy could tell me how to write songs," sneers Westre.)

Sure, they know the music they love is basically the domain of people their parents' ages—indeed, the source to this day of inspirational record collections and logistical support. Tyranis moms are (in)famous for their attendance at live shows.

But they don't worry: when Westre tells you real rock & roll will never die, he says it with enough conviction to evaporate whatever hipster jadedness you've cocooned around yourself. Fuck, they all do.

You ask how they got into all this. Capilouto remembers the poster that made him want to join a band, a shot over Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich's drum set into an adoring audience of thousands. Everyone murmurs in assent as he tells the story—they remember exactly the poster he's talking about.

"I just saw that huge crowd out there, saw Metallica kicking ass, and thought, 'I gotta do that,'" he says.

Do what, you ask?

"Conquer the world!" say Westre and Duncan, laughing, just as precisely together as they are during practice. You let the moment play out and then ask if there's anything else they'd like to add.

"Heavy metal. Rock & roll," says Westre, deadpan solemn. "Put that with an exclamation point."

Tyranis performs with Limit Point, Candy Apple Black and Save Ferris at the Noise for the Needy Benefit, Chapman University, 1 University Dr., Orange, (714) 997-6761. Sat., 6 p.m. $25. All ages.

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