Tinnitus is a condition of the inner ear that produces a constant buzzing or ringing noise. It’s caused by sustained loud sounds—jackhammers, for example—or the acute shock, say, from a close-range gun blast of a double action .44. There are myriad ways to get it and listening to an album from the band Black Eyes & Neckties—with earphones on, and at full volume—is definitely one way to acquire the condition.
Black Eyes & Neckties is a six-member band from Bellingham, Wash., that plays the kind of ear-shattering music that’s part garage rock, part costume party and 100 percent loud. Think two guitars, pulse-quickening drums, thrashing bass lines and a singer-screamer who audibly smacks his uvula across your face. One could easily interweave any of the songs into a blood-splattered scene from the latest Rob Zombie film. Thankfully, there’s also an organ in the mix, which threads through the songs and brings sanity to the mania. (I should also mention the mandolin, since it’s listed in the liner notes, but I can’t conceive how the instrument fits in—nor can I hear it.)
The band’s sophomore effort, Apparition!, highlights its allegiance to all things ghoulish. This band digs the horror genre. But its interests reach deeper than typical B-movie schlock. Lead singer Bradley Horror cites Edgar Allan Poe, Mary Shelley and the visual art of Hieronymus Bosch and Hans Holbein as inspirations, notably Holbein’s “Dance of Death” woodcuts.
It’s fitting, then, that “Tombs,” “Tide of Bones” and “Dirty from the Grave” are a few of the band’s song titles. Further underscoring the creepy factor are the band members’ adopted stage monikers: Ryan Cadaver, Davey Crypt, Brenda Grimm, Josh Homicide and The Fist.
“We formed the band for a Halloween house party in 2002 and even though it was a side project, people loved it,” Horror says. “So here we are. We’ve been around ever since.”
Judging from the snapshot on the inside of the Apparition! CD case, the band members look like nice, hip people—despite one member’s resemblance to Vlad Tepes. The guy’s wearing a faux Dracula get-up.
“Dressing up is part of our aesthetic,” Horror explains. “It helps feed the energy of the show. Plus, it fits with the type of music we play.”
Over the phone, Horror is indeed a nice guy. He says the dressing up is as important to the show as not knowing what might happen on any given night.
Voted best rock band for four years running by Bellingham-based What’s Up! magazine, the musicians of BENt, as it’s commonly written, are currently touring the West. Rumor has it that more than music is included in the ticket price. Along with the crazed, horror-rock sound, BENt has a tendency to mix things up by incorporating fake blood, those aforementioned accoutrements and other show-stopping capers.
“On stage, we like to let go. We just played a show the other night in Bellingham. Apparently, I lifted the bass player and sort of threw him,” Horror says. “But we tone it down when we’re on the road. Mostly it’s just costumes and audience participation.”
Come Monday, there will be blood—fake blood. And along with fake blood, there will be cosmetically applied black eyes, ragged neckties and a band that looks like it stepped out of Night of the Living Dead. In other words, the show should be a blast.
Come early and throw some support to locals Jake Trujillo, Random Order, Lydian Gray and Yatagarasu. And just in case, you might want to bring ear plugs. Trust me: Your momma will thank me.