"Cute" and "punk rock" normally go together about as congruously as "poetic" and "brawl"; in the case of the Amazombies, however, an exception can be made. Norkio Kaji and Kim...
“Cute” and “punk rock” normally go together about as congruously as “poetic” and “brawl”; in the case of the Amazombies, however, an exception can be made.
Norkio Kaji and Kim Kelly seem like the cute girls from the neighborhood who suddenly grew up and became punk rockers. Even drinking beers inside a haze of tobacco smoke at Seattle’s definitive punk rock-bar the Funhouse, Kaji and Kelly come across as endearing and charming. They tend to finish each other’s sentences, giggle about working at the same ultra-conservative software company (“one time we played a company meeting it was hysterical!”) and, in what perhaps defines “punk-rock cute,” have matching tattoos.
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It’s a different scene when Kelly straps on her guitar and Kaji plugs in her bass, when they put on their game faces and crank out hard-edged, fast, ’70s-style punk. The Amazombies rock.
The Amazombies’ sound isn’t as angry-all-the-time, intense and/or over-the-top as some of Seattle’s hardcore/punk scene, which is part of the charm.
“We have our own description for it, which is kind of sissy: ‘punk lite,’ ” says Kelly, cringing slightly and looking to Kaji for affirmation.
“Good melodies, good vocals,” the bass player adds, nodding and punctuating with a swig of beer.
Kaji was raised in Japan, though you’d have to be a linguist to detect a hint of an accent. “I started this band because I moved here from Tokyo, and I didn’t know anybody,” Kaji says. “I was like, ‘I need friends!’ “
She got both a bandmate and close friend when she met Kelly, who spent her formative years in San Diego before migrating to the Northwest. The Amazombies started in late 2000 as an all-female band, then went through a few lineup changes and added a male drummer. Josh Kramer recently left the band and has been replaced on drums by Everett native Rob Olsen.
Led by Kelly’s clear, sharp singing, catchy lyrics (“frustrate me/irate me/I love you/can’t stand you”) and pedal-to-the-floor speed, the band has been compared to the Ramones and Joan Jett. They have a certain something that’s hard to put your finger on; perhaps it’s just easygoing stage charisma, as they keep things pretty simple, musically which, when they first started, was a survival technique. “We know how to play our instruments, now,” Kelly says, sharing a laugh with Kaji. “We’re finally becoming musicians we don’t have to fake it, anymore.”
The band is not nearly as well-known as Pretty Girls Make Graves, the Rotten Apples, Visqueen and a few other of Seattle’s new wave of female-led rock bands. That could change over the next year, as the Amazombies are just starting to hit the road, and feel they had strong response in places like Las Vegas, San Francisco and Phoenix at the latter, they played on cheap beer night at a place called the Rogue, where patrons built walls of empty beer cans.
“Some bands have ‘the hometown curse,’ they’re really big here but not anywhere else. We do really well on tour, but we’re not with the scenester crowd here right?” Kelly says, asking the latter to Kaji, who nods in agreement.
“Seattle’s big on garage rock, and we’re not like that,” says Kaji in agreement.
Kelly and Kaji have released an EP and an album (“Bitches & Stitches”), and plan to record again in the coming months.
The Amazombies will be playing songs like “Gotta Ride” and “Skirts & Scars” at Capitol Hill’s Comet Tavern at 10 tonight ($5).
Also on the Hill tonight, the aforementioned Pretty Girls Make Graves who have been really touring, as in Japan and Australia headline a music-art show at the Capitol Hill Arts Center. Cobra High, the New Mexicans and various DJ’s will also perform (8 p.m., $15) at the CHAC, 1621 12th Ave. E.
Shocking news, for fans of the above-mentioned Visqueen: Kim Warnick is apparently leaving the band in the near future. Says the band’s Web site (www.visqueenonline.com):
“After three years of making music, picking out road trinkets, stealing hotel covers, laughing along mileposts, and causing heart attacks, the coolest and most hilarious present to rock and roll, Ms. Kimberly Ann Warnick, has decided to rest her head in one place and retire from music and the aches of being in a traveling band.”
Rachel Flotard and Ben Hooker will continue as Visqueen, with Warnick who played with the Fastbacks for years continuing for another month or so, then to be replaced by guest bass players until a permanent replacement is found.
It’s a toothy week of shows at the good old Crocodile. John Roderick (of the Long Winters), local neo-disco heroes United State of Electronica, the poppy Divorce and others jam at alt-weekly the Stranger’s holiday party at the Croc at 10 tonight ($7). Harvey Danger, the ghost of Seattle rock past, shares the bill with Kane Hodder, the ghost of Seattle rock future, at the Belltown rock club at 10 p.m. Saturday ($12).
Deep in the heart of Ballard, freaky sax man Skerik and the rest of Critters Buggin bugs out a jazz-funk set at the Tractor Tavern at 9:30 p.m. Sunday ($12). Opening act Thruster features CB drummer Matt Chamberlain (he also tours with Tori Amos) and hyper-creative guitarist Tim Young.
A few nights later, Scott McCaughey a touring member of R.E.M. rides into the Tractor. McCaughey leads a Minus 5 show at 10 p.m. Thursday ($10). Also on the bill is the excellent Jesse Sykes and the Sweet Hereafter.
Tom Scanlon: email@example.com