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Aug.15 Cover - Biters
Written by Jeff Clark   

ImageMystical Shit
Can the Biters Keep 1975 Alive?


Rock ‘n’ roll ain’t what it used to be. Nobody knows that better than the Biters. For going on six years, the Atlanta quartet has been kickin’ out the sort of fist-pumpin’, razor-riffin’, unabashedly catchy rock-candy anthems that ignite the young and the reckless into dangerous action on these long, hot summer nights. How many clichés did I just unload on you right there? Doesn’t matter, because the Biters employ twice as many in every one of their songs. Their looks, hooks, licks and tricks are appropriated if not snatched outright from nearly any and every worthwhile classic rock act you could name. But the Biters stand out because of their obvious hunger, wit, drive and dedication, and because they’re so fucking good at what they do. I find it impossible to not adore them. And, dammit, we need them.

But does the world want them? A lot of people seem to dismiss the Biters as a some sort of put-on or parody because they seem so obviously out of time, from a retro era long passed. Their style of simple, straightforward rock, with its generous doses of glam and powerpop, largely faded from favor amid the rising popularity of grunge and alternative rock in the early ‘90s. There are absolutely no traces of rap or industrial or techno or any other unnecessary pollutant in the Biters’ world. They do not attempt to squeeze themselves into whatever tiny, pretentious, supercool sub-genre someone conjured on the spot, nor is there a single hint of irony in anything they do. The Biters play rock ‘n’ roll, and they are the real deal.

For a band that so clearly wants to be rock stars, the Biters have worked tremendously hard, gotten onto some good tours and amassed a solid network of die-hard fans, but a record deal has evaded them, because nobody really signs bands like this anymore. But that all changed last fall when the gents at UK-based Earache Records – an independent label whose reputation has been built primarily on blood-and-guts grindcore and death metal – heard the Biters’ single “Indigo” through Spotify, loved it and got in touch with the band, as fans. That last fact alone bodes well for Electric Blood, the band’s debut album, which Earache will release on August 7th.

So it ain’t grindcore, but Electric Blood definitely cranks up the nasty riffage and wailing geetars on rockers like “Heart Fulla Rock ‘n’ Roll” and “Loose From the Noose,” whose titles alone could’ve been pilfered from any given AC/DC album. But the Biters are an increasingly far-ranging gang, and those partial to their more bubblegum/powerpop tendencies will find plenty to appreciate. On the other hand, “Dreams Don’t Die” has the urgent heartland feel of an early Petty single, and “Restless Hearts,” the opening anthem and first video, encompasses everything I love about the Biters in three and a half minutes of utter perfection. In 1975, it would’ve been blasting from the dashboard of every Camaro in every town in America on every Saturday night. In 2015? Well, it’s a different world, which makes the Electric Blood cut “1975” so telling. In it, lead singer, songwriter and guitarist Tuk Smith longs for the clear-cut culture, freedoms and values of that time period, “when all the kids were cool.” “Fast times get me high… take me back in time,” he sings, “I wasn’t meant for this place.”

Tuk is one of my all-time favorite people in Atlanta music. Dude’s a total trip. He’s a character, and he’s hilarious, talking a mile-a-minute and veering off into tangents that sometimes leave my head spinning. But he is genuine. He’s passionate. And he’s sharp. He knows exactly what he wants and what he’s doing.

I met up with Tuk, Biters drummer Joey O’Brien and new-ish bassist Philip Kross (formerly of Atlanta band Steadlur, LA-based goth-metal band Vampires Everywhere and others) for beers at the EARL. Guitarist Matt Gabs was at home in Baltimore and unable to join. What follows is a mere fraction of the trajectory…

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