Gamera Crowns: Tucson's Bad Boy Band

By Loy Fankbonner with help from Mark Reynolds
Arizona Daily Wildcat
February 29, 1996

Karen C. Tully
Arizona Daily Wildcat

Justin, Josh and Josh


The Gamera Crowns first caught my

attention when they started circulat-

ing fliers for their shows last summer. Dealing clever, vitriolic jabs at some of Tucson's most "respected" local bands, they soon garnered a reputation as a bunch of hateful "fucks" who take pride in thumbing their noses at everyone from Al Perry to Zia Records.

The other side of the coin is that they've been mostly ignored on a musical level, which is unfortunate because this is a band that has successfully evolved into an amalgam of British post-punk (in the vein of Joy Division and Gang of Four), mid-'80s American indie-rock and various non-guitar-based musics. As a three-piece consisting of bass (Josh Bone), guitar (Josh Lavene) and thrift-store drums (Justin), they translate these influences into a form that on the surface comes across as indie-rock but ignores the lyrical and musical trappings of the genre.

We met them last week at Sub-Space Studios, where they had just finished recording the basic tracks for an upcoming single. Justin was inside producing the hell out of his drum tracks, so we settled for prying some insight out of the two Joshes. Gamera Crowns: they're young, they're hateful, they wanna be your band.

Mutato: What are some of your influences? How would you define your sound at this point?

Josh Bone: We're leaning towards a dance sound, but we try to keep the influences kind of ambiguous. We're not paying tribute to anybody.

M: "Dance" in what sense?

Josh Lavene: We really like Joy Division but I don't think we sound like them at all.

JJB: We're influenced by hip-hop but we don't want to sound like that trip-hop crap that's coming out now. We like a lot of stuff that bands today like, but we don't want to sound like any bands of today.

JJL: Yeah, we like stuff like Kraftwerk a lot, yet we don't have a keyboard player. We try to go to odder choices than our band configuration would allow.

M: When I first heard you guys practicing, it sounded to me like straightforward rock with "psychedelic" guitar not at all like hip-hop.

JJB: [The move] happened more gradually. If you listen to our first and second tapes it sounds like that. The stuff we're recording for this single is almost like a full realization [of the drift towards hip-hop].

JJL: We want [the songs] to be memorable and catchy but not necessarily in a "pop" way.

M: How do you guys feel about most music that comes out today?

JJB: I think it's pretty obvious that we're dissatisfied with a lot of stuff that's coming out today ... I think it's better now than it has been, but it seems like a lot of things are going downhill now. Even hip-hop's going downhill. To be honest I don't pay any attention to rock anymore; I don't even know what's going on.

M: Have you guys felt any backlash in response to the fliers?

JJB: Some. The Zia on Oracle kicked Josh and Justin out. They weren't starting anything, they were just there to shop.

M: What kind of response were you guys aiming for?

JJL: I always took it as a joke, actually. We got the reaction we wanted.

JJB: We wanted to be ambiguous and confuse people. We also wanted to, quite frankly, draw attention to ourselves ... we wanted to spark interest in the scene by creating drama.

M: Any retribution from bands?

JJB: The Social Outcasts got really angry at us. One guy called me out at a show, and later he was friendly. I think they're quite confused, actually. It's called "nothing better to do."

M: I think with the menu one you guys really hit your stride. With the other fliers it seemed like you guys were off the mark on a lot of bands.

JJB: Just being universally hateful.

JJL: Yeah, the old ones were just throwing names around. We'd only heard like, 10 percent of the bands on there we didn't even know what FUCT sounded like.

M: I think that's needed, though. The local scene is a little too friendly and welcoming of any band that happens to be local.

JJB: There was a review of the Dog And Pony Show in the 'Starlight' [section of the Arizona Daily Star], and it said that 'there's a lot of good [local] stuff coming out along with [them], like the Gamera Crowns and Brenda's Never Been,' and we just don't want to be a part of that crap.

JJL: We didn't want to be your normal band that just "rises up" and becomes part of the whole scene. We felt that we deserved to stand apart.

JJB: And it's worked for us, because a lot of people are paying attention to us and that's forced us to get better.

JJL: To avoid more backlash.

JJB: But it seems like anybody who's ever tried to counter out moves has been disappointing to us. Nobody's ever hit us back.

M: What have people done to you?

JB: Well, like the Jolly Rancher and Zia never quite hit the mark with us.

M: Not quite. You guys are elusive.

JL: We'd like for people to come to more shows, any shows, and we'd like for people to be more creative. The whole punk-rock thing is really old.

M: Do you think that's why people aren't coming out to see bands, because there's nothing to see?

JL: Perhaps. This town is just like an old-folks' home really.

M: You know, this paper is going out to, like, 30,000 college students.

JL: Yeah, but what do they do? They all go to the Wildcat House and go see Dave's Big Deluxe once a month.

JB: The thing is, people need to look the people in this town in the eye and challenge them. They're all so lethargic they go drink beer, and then they go date-rape somebody ... You can put that in your paper!

(much laughter)

JB: If people are sleepwalking, you need to scream to wake them up. If you have to get nasty to [challenge people], then sometimes it's necessary. That's something that punk did in the late '70s and early '80s, but that is as old now as any of our ages, you know? I mean, I was born around the time the Stooges' records came out.

JL: The Sex Pistols album came out the year I was born.

JB: Yeah, so something new needs to happen. There's a lot of bands in this town that we do fundamentally have a serious problem with, that we're not trying to be funny with, like Dog And Pony Show. I hate them so much.

M: You're not alone. Everybody hates Dog And Pony Show.

JB: Shovel, too.

JL: You can write that Josh Lavene said that Shovel is in the same category as Dog And Pony Show. All those bands are.

JB: All these heavy-metal guys ...

JL: Who, like, came on when grunge broke ...

JB: And then just floated over into the Pavement-"indie-rock" thing.

About a week later, I hung out with the Crowns at their practice space under more relaxed circumstances. They were bruised and bloodied from rumbling with some hessians from the metal band that practices down the hall. They played me the two songs they recorded at Sub-Space, and they sounded spectacular. The production was excellent, I was especially taken by the second tune, which makes more sense if you know they were aiming for hip-hop this time around. Josh Bone sort of raps on it, there's a killer drum-and guitar break, and some stellar sax bleating.

They have a killer sense of humor, their cold hearts are in the right place, and their devotion to the band is almost obsessive. They impressed me even further when they played their Sub-Space tape for me.