A Better Pill
The newly minted SoCal-via-NorCal punk rock of Roofie & the Nightstalker has a familiar ring—and some familiar faces
Attention, Southern California punk bands: You are getting schooled by a foursome from San Francisco called Roofie & the Nightstalker. What’s really embarrassing is that not only are a group from the rival Northern California region teaching you a lesson on how classic surf/skate punk sounds, but also the quartet have only been a band since June and played their first show in September.
But before you go breaking up and getting into disco, there’s a SoCal silver lining. Roofie & the Nightstalker feature two members with ties to the area, so even though they claim San Francisco as their home turf, Southern Californians can take credit for how hard they rule.
The group—singer Jenny Angelillo, guitarist George Rager, bassist Andrei Bouzikov and drummer Josh Carman—combine the best elements of the 1979 compilation Beach Blvd. (featuring the Simpletones, Rik L Rik and the Crowd) and Orange County hardcore such as Middle Class and TSOL. Traditional? Yes. But when you consider what passes for punk rock circa 2009, these influences sound as current as the first go-round.
If Angelillo’s name sounds familiar, it should. Maybe you remember a little group called the Orphans? They released the Dangerhouse-esque single “Electric S” on Vinyl Dog/TKO Records and pretty much blew away every band they ever shared a stage with, thanks in part to the antics of lead singer Angelillo, who would run, jump, roll, kick and scream until you thought she’d explode. The Orphans broke up when Angelillo moved to the Bay Area; other than a one-off reunion at Que Sera in 2007, the singer has been absent from music. Until now.
At a show in San Francisco, Angelillo ran into Rager, a Cleveland native who somehow found a way to meet every person in the Orange County punk scene during the 365 days he lived in Long Beach in 2005, and the guitarist presented her with a proposition to form a new band.
“He asked what I was doing [musically], and I said I wanted to play bass,” Angelillo says. “He asked if I wanted to sing, and I said I was retired, but he coaxed me out of retirement. He didn’t have to coax me that hard.”
It didn’t take long for Angelillo to dust off the cobwebs and get back to her spastic ways. This, Rager says, is fine by him. “I got the Jenny I wanted in my band,” Rager says, “and I assume it’s the same Jenny from the Orphans. She hasn’t lost it or changed her style at all.”
Another advantage Roofie & the Nightstalkers have over other bands is Rager himself. There’s a common belief among musicians that any jackass can play punk, but what most can’t do is play punk well. Rager can, and it comes from downstrumming his instrument for more than half his life. The result is a bombastic blast of chaotic noise that channels both Greg Ginn and the late Johnny Ramone.
“I’ve never wanted to play any type of music other than punk rock,” Rager says. “I stopped learning how to play when I was 17 because I pretty much perfected what I was trying to do. It’s easy to sit up there and strum, but to put your whole body into it and attack the guitar with your arm, it adds a little something. I’m never going to be sweet at guitar solos, but I can definitely downpick.”
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As of late October, Roofie & the Nightstalker have played a grand total of two shows, which means Friday’s gig at Alex’s Bar is not only a homecoming of sorts, but also the opportunity to see an already-good band in their infant stage. Other groups might perfect their craft before hitting the road—particularly to an area where two members know a bunch of people—but Rager and Angelillo say they don’t care about that.
“A lot of people have asked us why we’re going south so soon,” Rager says, “but it just makes sense. I expect to run into old friends and have a good ol’ time, and that’s all we’re looking to do.”
“There are no expectations,” Angelillo says. “I want to go down there, hang out with my friends and play music. It’s party-fun-time.”
Roofie & the Nightstalker with Christ on Parade and Bad Reaction at Alex’s Bar, 2913 E. Anaheim St., Long Beach, (562) 434-8292; www.alexsbar.com. Fri., 9 p.m. $12. 21+.