Longform

Itchy-O Plots World Domination With Jello Biafra

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It is not easy to overwhelm Jello Biafra. Co-founder of the Dead Kennedys, he currently runs the influential Alternative Tentacles label and maintains an active career as a spoken-word artist and general supporter of the strange and populist.

But Itchy-O stayed with him, and Biafra signed the band to Alternative Tentacles this past May. Itchy-O's debut full-length, Burn the Navigator, was released earlier this week.

"I'm one of these crazy people who still keeps my label going in order to release music I like, no matter what that music is," says Biafra. "Sometimes I go on hunches, and then the band keeps on growing and growing, both artistically and in terms of the audience.

"I'm hoping that's what's going to happen with Itchy-O. It's one of the most unclassifiable things we've ever put out. It's one of the most of the most exciting projects that's come our way in years."

The partnership marks an important development for the band, too. "We are so proud to be on this label, as it represents to us the destiny of age and a fervent conviction to march to one's own drum, as weird and alien as it may sound to the rest of the world," says Itchy-O, which will only give interviews as an anonymous collective. Founded more than four years ago as Itchy-O Marching Band, the group has since been a constant presence in Denver and beyond, crashing shows more often than formally appearing at them, causing confusion that usually turns to delight. But the band's unusual approach presents challenges. "Jello, in some respects, has taken a chance by signing us," says the band. "On the surface, we are different than many of the bands on AT's roster, but when you take a closer look, Itchy-O fits perfectly on the list, with acts like Zena Geva, LARD, Slim Cessna's Auto Club, the Butthole Surfers and a slew of other bands."

Itchy-O operates as something resembling a well-disciplined musical cult, with its members hiding their true identities in order to preserve a sense of mystique. That's rare in an era when little remains hidden and even the smallest expression of ego is encouraged. Its size has also prevented Itchy-O from touring as frequently as other bands might, though it has managed to travel some in the past. And the magnitude and spectacle of the operation isn't an easy thing to record.

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Tom Murphy is a writer, visual artist and musician from Aurora, Colorado. He was a prolific music writer for Westword and a documenter of the Denver music scene.