Writer's note: The following short story was originally written for the Los Angeles-based DIY zine Kung Fu Breakfast. It's actually one of the reasons I moved forward with starting this blog, so for that I absolutely thank Jay Kantor, Editor in Chief over at KFB.
They sound like a band of serial murderers, crazed from late-stage syphilis, being flogged by a sleepless executioner with a cat o’ nine tales studded with crushed bong glass and the splintered, yellowed teeth of deceased meth-heads. And they play the best punk you’ve never heard.
Stitched together from the remains of three Midwestern crust bands, Vicious Little Boners is an underground supergroup designed by a perverted mad scientist to rip everything polite and sympathetic in this world to shreds. Their three song self-titled EP, hand-numbered and limited to 100 copies on red vinyl, is a blistering assault on subtlety, peace, and love that needs to be heard before you’re too old and jaded to recognize the art behind a song called “Catheter Juice.”
“Vicious Little Boners is the closest thing you can come to a soul abortion. You’ll never get our shirt at Hot Topic, never hear us in a car commercial. We play anti-music bred to incite violence and please no one. We’re not your friend and we barely tolerate each other,” spits VLB lead shrieker Trip McCaskill.
If you’ve been to a single punk show near Indianapolis in the past thirty years you’ve probably seen McCaskill at work in the mosh pit, whipping his arms like slinging weapons and kicking like there’s an endless procession of ribcages to cave in. He participates in our interview because I promise him a pack of cigarettes and even then looks like he might blast a bullet into my heart and vomit tarantulas into the hole. He wears the same leather vest he stitched at home as a teenager, a stained Discharge patch stretched shoulder to shoulder, smoke curling around spikes of black hair, stiff with Elmer’s glue. His face looks like he’s been hung from a gallows pole in the middle of a tornado and metallic debris carved their signatures as wrinkles and scars.
“I’ve been in about forty-three bands through the years, and most played a single show and just farted their way into obscurity,” McCaskill recounts. “I can easily say that VLB is the most intense, and personal, music I have ever helped create.”
Lead guitarist Elvis R. Coswell agrees. “Trip really stepped up to the plate with his lyrics on this album,” he says while flossing dollar pizza from his teeth with a guitar string. “You look at a song like “Jizz Biscuit” and just think to yourself, man, is this guy in my head or what?”
“Jizz Biscuit” describes the diet of a self-enslaved male servant who personally cleans the rectum of a high-ranking politician and eagerly awaits the “spunky” reward for his loyalty. Discussing the song seems to upset Trip, who puts his cigarette out on his thumbnail and leans forward to clarify their purpose.
“I was hesitant to put that song on the record, because when people think punk they think anti-government, anti-establishment, etcetera. I’m anti-everything. There’s this great moment in the old Brando movie The Wild One where some douche asks him, “What are you rebelling against?” And Brando sizes him up and shoots back, “What d’ya got?” The future for humanity is bleak and whatever idea you have about making the world a better place for your shitty kids to grow up in, it won’t work.”
The first time I listened to this album I felt like I was punch-drunk and close to puking. The band lacks a bass player and the treble on the guitar is at just the right register to cut its way into your stomach and thrash wildly about until nausea rages in. After multiple listens, with frothy puke bubbling at the top of my throat, I realized that listening to the album on loop was desensitizing me to the bludgeoning nature of the music. Vicious Little Boners were preparing me for the harshness of the world.
After the interview, Coswell and their silent drummer shook my hand and gave me free stickers. McCaskill stomped by me without a word, heading into the light mist of rain that had started to fall on the parking lot where his station wagon moped with the front tire duct-taped multiple times.
It would likely enrage him to hear it, but apart from giving us the most blistering punk album in recent history, I also think McCaskill and the Vicious Little Boners are less withdrawn from humanity than they claim. If humanity is not worth time, if life is such a smear of blood-clotted shit, why share your reflections on life with those humans through one of the oldest forms of art in existence? Neanderthals may have crushed each other’s skulls for the last mammoth steak at the dining table, but they also played music with drums and rattles crafted from skin and bone in communal celebration. To record music and share it, even with a modest hundred albums in circulation, lends importance to the listener and even makes them an accomplice.
Before the interview, and after negotiating for the cigarettes, Trip was explaining the origins of his scars proudly, but without ever making eye contact. “That’s from a Michigan rumble. Venue owner promised an open bar and cut us off after one well drink each. Fuckin’ cheapskate. That’s from fixing the ol’ Taurus. Word from the wise, don’t try to change a tire in pitch-blackness when you’ve just huffed gasoline for an hour and a half.”
Just like a Neanderthal leader may sport the most scars, proof of battles survived and enemies conquered, Trip is a breathing, screaming reminder of hardship and adversity. He may not be the classic mentor, a wise monk with his seasoned philosophies listed in scrolls and leather-bound manuscripts, but he’s the closest thing punk music has.
He unbuttons his studded vest to show off his only tattoo: A solid black circle about the size of the nickel next to his clavicle.
“When I first got it I was inspired by the black spot from Treasure Island, like I had been marked by death. But every few years I get to change what it is, what it means. Right now I look at it as the period at the end of a sentence. The last thing you read before it’s all over.”
His band mates slithered into the back of his Ford Taurus and slammed the doors shut. The plastic wrapper from Trip’s pack of cigarettes uncoiled slowly next to a steaming ashtray. Before peeling off into the rain Trip lifted a hand to wave goodbye and flashed a warm, yellow smirk.
- By Sean Frasier
This story first appeared in Kung Fu Breakfast, Issue #3:. All issues of this awesome DIY zine are available for FREE here: http://kungfubreakfast.magcloud.com/
And like the zine here, they have an amazing roster of talent and were polite enough to let me mingle: https://www.facebook.com/KungFuBreakfast