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Portrait of bakamono

bakamono


About bakamono

San Francisco, CA

Not too long ago, pop diva Paula Abdul was caught flirting with short-lived cartoon star MC Skat Cat in a video for her heartfelt, tear-jerker of a hit, "Opposites Attract". (Boy, was Emily Estevez pissed.) She supplied the pizazz and he provided the hip-hop. "Two steps forward, two steps back / we get together 'cuz opposites attract." Oh, if only such wisdom was dispensed on a daily basis.

Scratch the surface and you’ll see; Ms. Abdul was right on the money. Some of life’s greatest concoctions are a result of seemingly disparate ingredients, a veritable list that includes; salty McDonald’s French fires dipped in a chocolate soft-serve cone; any and all forms of sushi’ tequila and worms; and peanut butter / marshallow peep sandwiches. (Although I hardly endorse it, it seems that a porcine, rhinestone-caped Elvis Presley had a particular hankering for peanut butter/bacon sandwiches. He died on the toilen with a half-eaten one in his hand if that’s any indication.)

Such is the premise of San Francisco’s beloved Bakamono, a quartet of wayward souls in search of Bigfoot, er, I mean, Big Fucking Sound --, fitting quite snuggly with the bottom-heavy racket generated by kind, local folks – past and present – like Steel Pole Bathtub, Flipper, Star Pimp, and the Melvins. But before we take two steps forward, let’s take two steps back, shall we?

When most people think of Santa Cruz, images of the Boardwalk, cotton candy, elephant seals humping, and Annette Funicello doing the shimmy in her pink and white polka dot bikini come to mind. And yet, this sleepy resort town hasn’t always been fun and games. Buried deep in the heart of Santa Cruz, beyond the hordes of smelly tie-dyed, patchouli scented neo-hippie burnouts, likes a grim, long forgotten past of mass murders and mischief in the 70s, a dark era that was largely responsible for the illegalization of hitcy-hiking in these parts. In a town tainted with such bouts of amnesia and whimsical glee, it was only natural that a brooding musical force like Bakamono would thrust its ugly head from the underbelly of punk.

In the latter part of 1991, Bakamono (Japanese for “foolish people”) was born from the smoldering ashes of Slumberfoot, a restless trio of improvisationalists bent on creating a mighty din in the quiet neighborhood, liking their particular brand of noise to the work of John Zorn, Helios Creed, and Sonic Youth’s patented circle jerks. But that’s exactly what it was, musical masturbation, and we all know how tedious that can get. When it became readily apparent that a certain degree of structure was becoming part of their sound, it was time to disband.

After a 2 month sabbatical, Eiso, guitarist and Wheel Watcher, spent much of his free-time retooling, fiddling with the axe and scribbling “songs” on salsa-stained paper napkins. Equally, Paul, guitarist and anti-rock star, felt the debilitating effects of Santa Cruz ennui setting in and searched for a new kick. The two did a little talking and, once again, became partners in crime. As fate would have it, Eiso’s housemate, Sean, happened to be an incredible fretless bass player and Sean’s friend, Dan, was a pretty top-notch drummer himself. (Dan’s employment at the local theater also provided much free entertainment for the hipsters in town, but that’s another bio.)

Convenience aside, one must wonder what on earth could have brought these people together. Although hearvily rooted in punk rock, all the members came from relatively dissimilar backgrounds, just like in the move The Breakfast Club. There was the Death Rocker, the Art Phag, the Metalhead, and the Jazz guy. (Please place the appropriate tail on the appropriate donkey.) Three months later, after numerous session here and there, the “band” with no name played their first show together to the delight of a handful of pastey kids. From the, the boys knew they were doing something right, if not painfully loud.

Bakamono’s early days were pretty humble. In its infancy, they were mostly an instrumental unit with a blaring soun that teetered on the cusp of Fugazi and Joy Division. But you can only wear diapers for so long before they get all mushy. Take the bottle away and you’ll find your kid kicking and screaming for more, which is what Bakamono found themselves doing. Heavily influenced by Yamatsuka Eye’s (Boredoms) improvised primal, intergalactic yelps, Eiso and Paul became “singers” by default and pushed the envelope that much further.

Much to their parents’ chagrin, Bakamono’s sound became increasingly bitter, volatile, and unpredictable, and the earplugs dotted the audience weren’t a mere fashio statements. Fueled by ex-girlfriend related angst and Taqueria Vallartas supper burritos, Bakamono have become notorious for belting out a uniquely uncompromising musical storm. Live, the two guiterrorists in Eiso and Paul join forces in a furious blizzard of white noise while Sean and Dan, the shirtless wonders in the blistering rhythm section, kepp everything in check. Imagine David Yow fronting a jazzier hybrid of Steel Pole Bathtub and Slug and you’re only half way. There have even been instances where pent-up tension and extreme personality differences within the band have flared onstage and let to more than just your average quarrelling. Audiences have often mistaken such incidences as mere punk rock posturing, but believe me, there’s nothing contrived about it. It’s a harsh reality that bleeds into their cantankerous sound and leaves the clueless even more so.

So it’s 1995 and, after much hobnobbing with likes of Drive Like Jehu, Oiler, Jawbreaker, Ruins, A Minor Forest, Star Pimp, and Omoide Hatoba (an offshoot of the Boredoms) {Yamamoto-san!}, Bakamono returns with their brand of “psychological turmoil” on their debut album Cry of the Turkish Fig Peddler, ten spine-tingling tunes bubbling with religious fervor. Never mind the kooky title and, fer Christsake’s, stop staring at the beautiful cover art! {by Harvey Bennett Stafford} Give it a spin and you’ll see what all the fuss is all about; you’ll be pleasantly surprised, indeed. But before you plop this doozy in, might I suggest you call your insurance agent and make sure you’re covered for damages due to musical onslaught. Basura Musica {RIP} can’t help you out there, pal.

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Portrait of bakamono
bakamono
 
 
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