Music News

Shot to the Heart

The first time Pam Puente, the front-woman/vocalist/guitarist of Denver's Double-Barrelled Slingshots, had the pleasure of meeting her future bassist, Amy Davis, there was more than a little tension in the room. Their predisposition toward one another was antagonistic. Had the introduction snowballed into a full-fledged tussle, few in the room would have been completely shocked.

"We didn't like each other before we met," Davis recalls. "It was gossip. It was a catfight over boy trouble, and there were things that were said about one another that weren't very nice."

"I thought she was taking something that was mine," clarifies Puente.

For all their differences, however, each knew the other harbored an appreciation for power riffs and the fury of electric guitars. So rather than resort to hand-to-hand combat, Puente and Davis opted to attack the misunderstanding in another way: "Instead of beating each other up," Davis says, "We said, 'Hey, you want to start a band?'"

While it may sound as if Davis and Puente started with the wrong foot forward, they regard the Slingshots' genesis as an appropriate precursor to their sound. After all, explosive emotions are the bedrock of some of the grittiest, gnarliest rock in history. Two years after their meeting, the initial hostility is long gone: Davis and Puente are still jamming together and have yet to come to blows. After a few lineup mutations that took place during the Slingshots' first year of existence, Puente and Davis picked up lead guitarist J.D. and drummer Matt Barclay to round out the band's confrontational punk-rock sound. Today the Slingshots serve up unpretentious, scorching songs that draw from early punk and riff rock with the occasional hint of deviant rockabilly. Taking cues from the kingpins of both snarl and glam, these are tunes that are simultaneously uncompromising and melodic, minus the usual masculine posturing.

With alternately snaky and chunky guitar licks hammered atop relentless rhythms, the Slingshots' music serves as a backdrop against which Puente vents her personal point of view as a lyricist. One theme stands front and center: vengeance against romantic and social wrongdoers. She doesn't mince many words as she lashes out against unfaithful ex-lovers, members of exclusionary cliques and a seemingly endless stream of other manipulators. In the characteristically pissed off "Submit or Be Destroyed," Puente bellows, "Heart-stealin' son of a bitch/Your blood-sucking ways/Have reserved you a spot/At the foot of my bed." Likewise, on "Lookin' Out for #1," Puente rails against yet another selfish jerk: "Takin' care of you and not yours/Your expensive taste in cheap whores/You can fake it all you want to, son/But you're too busy lookin' out for number one."

"I write about a lot of the mistakes I've made," says Puente.

Barclay, a transplant from northeastern Iowa, puts it another way. The Slingshots' music, he says, is about "dumbass boys and dumbass girls."

"I've always said it is girls-on-top rock and roll." (Interjects a snickering Puente, "As opposed to what? Missionary rock?")

"It's upbeat sadness," comments J.D., a Denver native and onetime member of the city's now-defunct hardcore outfit Cunnilingus, as well as Infestation, a Swedish death-metal act he played in during a two-year stint in Scandinavia. His evolving distaste for the latter style eventually prodded him in the direction of the Double-Barrelled Slingshots. "We [Infestation] had the long hair and the death growls and all that," he says. "I got sick of playing all that stuff. It just started sounding way too repetitive, so I went back into the old rock-and-roll, punk-rock style."

"Rock and assembly required," Davis says. Puente's description is similarly apt: "[We're] a band with chick vocals that can rock with the big boys."

Despite this self-described "chick" factor, both Davis and Puente keep the feminism to a minimum while doing duty with the Slingshots. Though their band's themes could easily endear them to fans of more vocal womyn-centric artists, Davis and Puente resist the association. "I don't want to be put in the angry girl rock thing," Puente says adamantly. "We don't want to be riot grrl, we don't want to be angry female rock, or any of that shit." Luckily, the balance of X and Y chromosomes within the Slingshots' lineup -- neatly composed of two boys and two girls -- provides less of an opportunity for onlookers to pigeonhole the Slingshots as a girl band, for which its members are grateful. (The moniker, however, isn't exactly gender-neutral: It's a reference to an episode of The Beverly Hillbillies in which Elly May Clampett finds a bra in her pre-stocked dresser and proclaims, "Gee, Pa, look! They got me a double-barreled slingshot! I'm going to go fetch me some critters!")

The guiding "Ramones-ish" musical philosophy underlying the Slingshots approach is this: Get in, get to the point, and get the hell out. To this end, the band's shows are high-octane affairs that generally involve reeling off thirteen songs over the course of thirty minutes.