Unless you’ve happened upon one of the nine-month-old band’s first two under-publicized live outings, you’ve likely never heard Devils Teeth. However, the new garage rock trio boasts a lengthy and impressive list of associated acts that includes Green Bay’s own [email protected], Oshkosh notable The Susperios, and Milwaukee mainstays like Tigernite, Liar’s Trial, White Problems, Golden Coins, and The Squish.
Though the band composed of veteran rockers combines for decades of on-stage experience, Devils Teeth isn’t worried about releasing records, touring, or eclipsing past accomplishments. Friday night, Devils Teeth will put a bow on a respectable (abbreviated) first year at Shank Hall while playing in support of Local H. Before the band’s biggest show to date, Milwaukee Record asked Devils Teeth how they came to be, how the project compares to previous acts, and what’s planned for 2017.
Milwaukee Record: You’ve all bounced around—both geographically and as part of other bands. What led to this lineup getting together?
Chuck Engel: Eric [Arsnow] and I worked together on the “Unintimidated” video project last year, and it wound up being a lot of Eric and some of me basically quarterbacking the whole video side of the project. Through working on that, we just started talking about bands and stuff. It all just kind of came together from there.
Eric Arsnow: Jon [Hanusa] and I met through working in video production. We both work in that area. We actually tried doing something like this before Tigernite, but then things just got too busy.
MR: With Tigernite being a relatively established act, was it a hard thing to leave it for an unproven band?
EA: It was definitely hard leaving Tigernite. Initially, I was going to put music off for a while, but Jon emailed me about doing something a couple weeks after finding out and it seemed like it’d be a lot of fun.
CE: I wasn’t even thinking about playing in bands at that time either. For all intents and purposes took three years off playing in bands to do politics. In that line of work, there’s really no time for anything else. I was pretty well removed from [music] at that point and not really thinking about it.
MR: Well, it seems like you guys have hit the ground running. You had the demo out near the end of summer and you’ve landed some really good opening slots early on. And you have Local H next, which seems like your biggest show yet.
EA: I’ve been a really big fan [of Local H]. They were that high school band that we always went to see. It’s been exciting. The Blind Shake is another one of my favorite bands. It’s been kind of a bucket list end of the year for me.
MR: So you’ve hit some goals for this year, but what’s on next year’s bucket list? Are you hoping to have a physical release out? Maybe tour? Play more shows?
EA: We actually have a lot of cool shows lined up already. We’re playing The Pukes’ record release, then Bitter Fest in Racine. And in February, we’re doing Thundersnow in Escanaba, and we may have a date in Green Bay. We’ll definitely have a substantial release, too. We record all our practices in a basement, and we enjoy the process in the basement so far, so that’s probably the way we’re going to go with the full release.
Jon Hanusa: Lo-fi and live. The live nature is fun.
CE: This band is very efficient. We maybe practice twice a month for two hours each time. Then we’re trading demos via email and editing the songs, then sending them back via email for the next time we get together.
MR: Are finding there’s an underlying pressure with some of you not playing in a while or with these often-referenced bands you were a part of? Do you find there are expectations that wouldn’t be there if this was your first band?
CE: I don’t even care about expectations at this point. Frankly, I’m just excited to be playing music. I feel like every band I’ve ever been in, to a certain degree, has been a victim of overthinking. That’s something this band does not do. I’ve been playing in bands most of my life at this point, and it wasn’t until recently that I have started enjoying it. It’s because I stopped thinking about it so much, and we get along very well.
MR: Let’s get into the music. I know it’s hard to do so this early, but can you describe your sound?
EA: Jon just writes really brilliant, catchy songs. The thing that’s interesting about his writing style is that it’s all character-driven. I haven’t met somebody who writes based off of a story narrative. It’s cool.
JH: Every song is like a little movie with its own narrative where the words match the mood of the music. Like there might be a fight scene. What does the music sound like for this fight scene?
MR: Musically, it seems to be stripped-down, bare bones, and simplistic in the sense you’re a three-piece. In the limited listens I’ve had and the one time I saw you, it seems like pretty straightforward garage rock, but it also touches on surf rock.
JH: Yeah, we’re not trying be Led Zeppelin or anything. It’s pretty straightforward and songs are about a minute and a half long and that’s it. Genre-wise, yeah, there’s some surf rock in there, a lot of garage rock. There’s kind of a psychedelic element to it.
Devils Teeth will play in support of Local H at Shank Hall on Friday, December 30. The show begins at 8 p.m. Tickets are $20.