The members of Denver's Brethren Fast are more than mere instrumentalists. They're showmen, damn it, and they'd like everyone to know it. "To be a successful band, you've got to have more than just music," states bassist Mik Messina. "If you're going to see a band, it should be something that turns you on. There should be something cool to look at, as well as good music."
Brethren Fast--which also features Mik's brother, guitarist Don, and drummer Ordy Garrison--provides plenty of both. From mod, Speed Racer-style outfits to sideburns that would put Thurman Munson to shame, the players look every inch the part of rockabilly madmen. "I'm way into old music, old cars and old clothes," explains Mik, who admits to being the act's fashion consultant. "If you look cool, it just adds to the overall effect of your show."
The members' sound is in tune with their attire. While Brethren Fast relies heavily on rockabilly, the genre is merely the first in a seemingly endless series of influences. As a result of tight transitions and Don's solid, sometimes frenzied guitar work, the group recalls everything from squawky Seventies rock to surf music to the theme from CHiPs, often within the same song.
The combo formed last July, when Mik and Don grew weary of their previous bands. "I played out in L.A. for ten years, and me and Don used to bitch about each other's bands and the stuff we had to play," Mik notes. "We just got sick of bitching at each other and figured it was cheaper and easier to start a new band up here." After picking up drummer Garrison, the Messinas began playing the kind of music they had wanted to play all along: rockabilly infused with a large dose of funk.
"Our music is definitely more funk-oriented than what most people consider rockabilly. It's more like funkabilly," Don claims. "We love rockabilly, and some of our songs are in a rockabilly style, but the meat behind it is more of a groove."
"Groove!" echoes Mik, a vociferous Reverend Horton Heat fan. "The way I describe it is just groovin', right out groovin'. We just dig it. To me, probably my favorite guitar player is Brian Setzer from the Stray Cats. That whole scene and vibe is just cool and fast and fun and rockin'. To me, that's the only way to go."
By taking this philosophy to clubs throughout the Denver area, Mik, Don and Ordy have promptly made names for themselves among scenesters. "We're just stoked to have a following in Denver," Mik reports. "We bust our ass for our audience, no matter how big or small."
"Our goal is to be able to support ourselves musically and quit the day gigs," Don interjects. "We'd play seven nights a week. Hell, we do play seven nights a week, whether we get paid or not."
Sideburns From Hell, the first Brethren Fast long-player, is a step toward achieving financial independence. "We put out the CD on our own record label that me and Don are proud owners of, called Knock Ya on Your Ass Records," Mik announces. "The first band we signed was the Brethren Fast Racing Team.
"We did it on our own, funded it, and the entire CD--no bullshit--was recorded in 45 minutes," he continues. "Done. From start to finish. Everything was one take, one time, and that's the way we wanted it. No overdubbed guitar--just straight, raw rock, because that's our sound."
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"We hate getting CDs that sound great and then you go see the band and they just can't pull it off," Don complains. The Brethren needn't worry that Sideburns will suffer from the same weakness; it's as true to the threesome's live approach as anything you can imagine. So, too, is the band's video for "Galaxy 500," one of the platter's featured selections. "My sister works on movie sets in L.A., and she flew out here with a crew and filmed it," Don reveals. "It was a pro situation with grips doing the lighting and the whole nine yards."
For its upcoming CD-release party, the performers have "thrown down" $300 for a giant screen and projector to screen their opus. "We're going to have the screen right in front of the stage and then drop it when the video ends and just start playing," Mik says. "Everybody'll like the video. It's cool, and it's funny as hell."
Fortunately, the same can be said of Brethren Fast.
Brethren Fast, with Dead City Radio. 9:30 p.m. Saturday, October 14, Herman's Hideaway, 1578 South Broadway, $5, 777-5840.