Friday, December 17, 2010

Southern Fried Geek

Meet the band.
I make it a point not to tout my own perceived skills or abilities – generally because that's the quickest way to come off looking like an uninformed chump – but please indulge me when I state that I know a few things about nerdy music. Following such acts has become, if not my bread and butter, at least my coffee and jam over the last several years. I put a fair bit of effort into such endeavors, so I hope that when I say that Florida's Sci-Fried is a geek rock band like no other you'll at least entertain the notion.

I discovered Sci-Fried in the same manner as many other nerdy outfits – it all started with an email. Drummer and co-founder Jim Frederick introduced himself (and the band) to me by way of a track entitled "Level UP!" From that point I was hooked.

By the time I caught the guys at this summer's Nerdapalooza I'd already committed a number of songs, both standard fare like "Level UP" and b-side material like the KISS send-up "Doctor Jones," to memory. Not by choice, mind you, but because tracks like that, music that combines the most studious of geeky passions with the power of classic-style arena rock, appeal to me on a base level.

You see, I am a lover of hip-hop and I've said many times that I grew up punk rock, but the most elemental components of my formative musical years were steeped in Zeppelin, Rush, ZZ Top, Nugent and all the other iconic bombast of rural classic rock radio. Yet despite the uncanny influence of these powerfully patch-worked styles, few modern artists (geeky or otherwise) mine it directly.

And yet Sci-Fried does just that.

Formed in 2007 when Jim and guitarist Chuck Silver set out to combine their twin loves of science fiction and rock 'n' roll, Sci-Fried began in a most unsuspecting manner – by cranking out high-energy parodies inspired by their favorite movies and TV shows. The addition of co-vocalists Dr. Vern and Mike "KSV" Jensen and bassist Sunni Simmons rounded out the lineup and also shaped the band's overall sound. Sunni's metal roots helped to add an additional level of musical aggression, while the combination of Vern's soulful, theatrical voice and KSV's low-key almost nerdcore-style delivery helped to smooth out the mix. Which brings me to my second and likely counter-intuitive point.

While Sci-Fried are perfectly comfortable channeling the wild energy of what I have affectionately come to think of as redneck rock – Sunni once referred to the band as the Mötley Crüe of the geek scene – they refuse to be musically boxed in, to limit their repertoire to what may be simple or expected.

Though I find it hard to quantify the exact essence of their intoxicating blend of styles and influences, let me endeavor to do so:

Part Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, part Anthrax, part Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem,Sci-Fried has easily inserted itself into the list of my favorite bands in all of musical nerddom.

Across the breadth of two albums Sci-Fried have explored a sonic palette colored by everything from American soul to British pub rock, from rap to punk. I'll be the first to admit that all this sonic experimentation leads to an occasional ill fit, but the guys are always expanding their musical scope while still holding onto that very classic rock element that provides their greatest strength.

Slated for an early 2011 release!
The aforementioned albums showcase the band as a split entity. Their twin debut LPs Geeks Unite (which features an amazing selection of original material) and Ramming Speed (a humorous collection of filk-rock parodies) present the Sci-Fried sound in very different ways.

Geeks Unite opens with "Welcome to the Geek Age" and the title track – a clever and hard-hitting affirmation of nerd life. From there it weaves ably through surreal noise rock ("Don't Phase Me, Bro"), aggressive sleaze metal ("Sci-Fried") and ridiculously hilarious Dementia Music ("Ninja Drinking Song.") Occasionally the band's odd juxtaposition of styles fails to satisfy ("A Hero"), but more often than not it manages to hit the sweet spot. Nowhere is this more apparent than on the album's stand-out track "Saturday Night on Syfy" - a song infinitely more palatable than its titular subject matter.

Ramming Speed likewise starts strong with another odd spoken-word piece that bleeds into the Primus send-up "Too Many Zombies." It's not exactly KSV's strongest vocal performance, but it manages to grab the listener. Joints like "Stargate Zone," "Trippin' through The Wormhole" and " My Name Is Spock 2.0" also blend the easily recognizable sounds of their musical source material with properly geeky lyrical content, but this album also has a few skippable selections. More often than not, though, Ramming Speed's material tends to fall along the lines of WAR parody "Land Speeder." It's fun in small doses, but not exactly the most compelling stuff the band's provided to date.

I'm not going to mislead you here; I genuinely adore Sci-Fried. A number of my friends were a tad skeptical as I talked the act up early this summer, but seeing the fellows perform live on the Nerdapalooza stage managed to make true believers of most. As much as I enjoy the sound of the band on wax, the live experience truly showcases their strengths. From Vern's larger-than-life voice to Chuck's classic licks, Sci-Fried is a band that begs to be experienced live.

They're also one of those acts that relishes the chance to connect with fans both on-stage and off. I'd be lying if I didn't say that some of the best parts of my Nerdapalooza experience was spent simply hanging out with Sci-Fried and their extended musical family. (What up, Jaime!) And it's important to note that Nerdapalooza was merely one stop on the band's dorktastic summer circuit. TOUR 2010: The Year We Make Con‐Tact took Sci-Fried from nerd hot-spots like Megacon, Dragon*Con and even the Klingon Feast. A fitting tour regimen for the reigning kings of southern geek rock.

Yeah, that pretty much sums 'em up.
Over the past couple of weeks I've had the pleasure of further cultivating my love for this most unorthodox act by way of a series of preview tracks from their forthcoming album Future Tense. Thus far I've been treated to a strong Serenity-themed ballad, a literal geek rock anthem and a proper studio version of the Marc with a C collab they unveiled at 'Palooza 2010. The sound of the album seems to be a bit more consistent, but the guys are still experimenting with styles and merging genres for the greater good of nerdy music.

To illustrate this point, I'll close with a season-specific single from Sci-Fried (and again featuring my brother Marc with a C.) It's the perfect example of the kind of good-natured musical madness one can expect from the band. And if this one doesn't do it for you I encourage root around a bit in the Sci-Fried back catalog. They offer a myriad of sounds for any mood.

Assuming, of course, that said mood involves geeking the fuck out.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Radio Free Hipster Ep. 101: Snowblind

I can't help but think that what our great nation – nay, the world needs is an irreverent and occasionally sexually explicit holiday podcast.

In fact, I've taken it upon myself to provide the citizens of Earth with just that. Because I am a giver.

Download Radio Free Hipster Ep. 101: Snowblind [hosting provided by Antisoc] Size: 42.5 MB Running Time: 49:25 Subscribe to RFH 

Show Notes:

Intro: Baddd Spellah – "Radio Free Hipster Theme (feat. Beefy)"
Tis the season for Baddd Spellah. #falalalalaalalalalaa 

Track 1: 30 Rock dialog / Catchlove – "It's Still Snowing (feat. Danny Dementor)"
Is it me or is Danny D channeling mc chris in this tune?

Z's 1st interlude: "Compliments of my fellow Christmas elf Dave the Knave."
Much seasonal love to Dave for the 30 Rock audio clips.

Track 2: Voicedude – "Fuck You, Santa!"
From the amazing new Santastic V: Snow, Man! comp.

Track 3: 30 Rock dialog / Billy the Fridge – "Bad Santa"
Billy the Fridge is the official nerdcore Santa.

Track 4: jmr – "Little Drummer Boy"
An OCR classic from 2007.

Track 5: Elliot Kimmel – "Mitosis in a Winter Wonderland"
Once again Church comes through with the holiday hook-up. 

Track 6: 30 Rock dialog / Anamanaguchi – "All I Want 4 Xmas Is U"
Yet another fine selection suggested by Dave the Knave. 

Track 7: Former Fat Boys – "Jingle Bells, Batman Smells (The Joker Got Away)"
This track starts out pretty low-key before getting all freaky and disturbing. Such is the FFB way! 

Track 8: John Anealio – "Batman Smells (A Rebuttal)"
Available on John's new Season's Geekings EP.

Track 9: Sci-Fried with Marc with a C – "Star Wars Christmas"
Easily at the top of this year's holiday music offering is this little ditty from my southern brothers.

Z's 2nd interlude: "Let's take a look back at this year's very early Hanukkah."
Dear Jewish calendar: you really confuse me. Love, Gentiles everywhere

Track 10: 8 Bit Weapon & ComputeHer – "Hanukkah (Festival of Lights)"
From their own It's a Chiptune Holiday collection.

Track 11: Schaffer the Darklord – "Terror of the Bells"
Just like the Billy the Fridge track, this one is from the Shael Riley-helmed Come Down the Chimney. 

Track 12: 30 Rock dialog / TheCoop – "Algorhythmic Bells"
I swear I've played this one in a previous holiday special. :/

Track 13: Abra West – "Lonely Christmas Eve"
If you're unfamiliar with this fan series check out the awesomeness.

Track 14: 30 Rock dialog / Paul Slocum – "Up on the Housetop"
Side note – I have convinced my son that the words for the original song are as follows: "Up on the housetop, reindeer balls…"

Track 15: Go Home Productions – "High Tides and Blocked Peace Pipes"
It's a very Blondie Christmas!

Z's final interlude: "As long as you buy me a present."
Let's not forget the important things this year.

Track 16: Insane Ian – "Yellow Snow"
Big-ups to Ian for sharing this new single with me early.

With this measure of holiday merriment out of the way we begin looking toward year's end. I pretty much have the final podcast of 2010 all worked out, so I've got that going for me. Which is nice.

As promised I'll also be sharing another interview, a profile piece and my annual year in review post over the coming weeks.

What will 2011 hold? Only time will tell. But until then, happy holidays to you and yours!