Bellingham's No-Fi Soul Rebellion, playing at Seattle's Comet Tavern, is a one-man band — with a difference.
“I have this new song I’m working on — it’s about ritualistic cannibalism. Eating people to gain their strength,” says Mark Heimer, on the phone and snowbound in his Bellingham condo, both his van and his Xbox broken down.
“I’m singing about how I’m weak, I’m like a zombie, ’cause my flesh is rotting, my bones are cracking. I need your power. And then I’m eating you and it turns out you were a zombie too and everyone kinda feeds off everyone else’s power.”
Heimer laughs an anxious laugh.
“I don’t know if that’s necessarily a positive image, but it’s hopefully something people can relate to.”
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Behold the inside-out, life-affirming vision of No-Fi Soul Rebellion.
For a soul-pop-punk duo whose most rabid audiences are of the under-21 set, No-Fi is strangely conceptual. The concept is this: Heimer, 29, writes songs, sings, and plays every instrument on the band’s six self-released albums. His wife, Andrea Heimer, 27, offers long-legged moral support.
During performances, she “plays” a stringless bass outfitted with an iPod containing all of Heimer’s songs, sans vocals. Heimer — spectacularly sweaty, tethered by a 50-foot-long green mic cord — thrashes through the crowd, singing over his tracks karaoke-style and contorting madly like a teenager alone in his bedroom.
They dress in matching black and green outfits, Andrea in something sheer and snug, Heimer sporting his dad’s green basketball jersey and a black tie.
“My original big concept was I was wearing all my failures as part of being vulnerable,” says Heimer, who was never sporty enough to please his parents.
It should come as no surprise that there are only strong opinions to be had about this band.
“We wanted to make ourselves real vulnerable to either high praise or high criticism,” Heimer says. “I hope we never come off as one of those bands where people are like, ‘Meh, might as well be background music.’ I hope either people are like, ‘That sucked!’ or ‘That was rad!’ “
There’s something warmly juvenile about Heimer’s approach, devoid of affect or irony and overwhelmingly enthusiastic.
Acceptance, vulnerability, and self-definition come up often in No-Fi’s songs. Heimer’s awkward between-songs repartee is either endearing or irritating as he mingles with the crowd, hugging and high-fiving.
He’s a kid basking in his rock ‘n’ roll fantasy, unfettered by the second opinions that come from a full-fledged band, going home with his only bandmate every night to their marital bed.
The whole package makes an easy target for cynics and hipper-than-thous, but has won Heimer a certain segment that couldn’t care less about cred.
“Generally the kids tend to grasp onto what we’re doing a bit more than adults,” he says. “Kids, they’re there for a social experience, but it feels like kids might actually be there for the music a little bit more, too. I like having my music associated with the magic and crappy time of your life when you’re 14 or 15, to be the soundtrack to the emotionally weird part of their lives.”
Perhaps overshadowed by the iPod, the outfits, and the hyperactivity, the core of No-Fi is Heimer’s pop-compositional brilliance. He garnishes seemingly simple, head-bobbing songs with electro-punk flourish and funky, loose-limbed counter-rhythms, something akin to “Midnight Vultures”-era Beck roughed up by the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion.
“We tend to get lumped in with dance bands but I don’t think we’re necessarily a dance band,” Heimer says. “We’re more of an anthem band. We need a certain amount of focus if we’re gonna have a successful, meaningful connection with the people as we, like, illustrate our songs.”
Considering the New Year and the new album on the way in ’09 (tentatively titled “Oh Please, Please, Please” — “like you’d say if you were hoping something would happen”), Heimer makes a resolution:
“I’ll resolve to not care what people think so much. To try not to care about others’ definition of success and just put out stuff that I’m happy with. I’ve been resolving to do that for the last seven years.”
No-Fi Soul Rebellion plays the Comet tonight with Onry Ozzborn, Mad Rad, and Boy Eats Drum Machine (9 p.m.; $5).
More must-see shows this week:
Palindromic spaz-punks TacocaT, inscrutable grunge upstarts Talbot Tagora, and lo-fi post-dub jammers Flexions play a Sunday matinee at Vera Project; with Finally Punk (4 p.m.; $6, or $5 with Vera club card).
Rebirth Brass Band, New Orleans’ second-most-popular brass band, brings a horn-heavy good time wherever they go, and since they’re the only band on the bill Wednesday at the Tractor Tavern, they’re sure to go long (9 p.m.; $17-$20).
Brightblack Morning Light make the sexiest music not made by black people; with Dan Higgs, at Vera Project (7:30 p.m.; $11, or $10 with Vera club Card).
Jonathan Zwickel: firstname.lastname@example.org.