"I hate the '70s," says Vincent Lawhon, bassist of Bleach Bloodz. "The '70s sucked."
But this is a band whose sound owes a sonic debt to some secret cache of Rolling Stones outtakes and looks ripped from a 1978 Polaroid taken at CBGB. Why would these messy-mopped, leather-jacketed, sticky-fingered guys hate on the '70s?
The sunglasses-shielded musicians stay silent for a minute. "I don't know," Lawhon says, pondering, "they just sucked."
So this is a fledgling bar band with attitude to burn — and an agenda. Bleach Bloodz has cast aside the comfortable obscurity of subgenres, instead sharpening its teeth in hopes of snagging a bigger sound. Its prey: monolithic rock and roll.
"It's the best music," frontman Troy Geoghegan says. "What is there better than that? Nothing."
He and his bandmates long ago lost patience with all things softer and friendlier. "When we were 18 and in high school, we were into indie rock and shit," Geoghegan says. "It's just a waste of energy. You can accomplish the same thing by doing so much less."
That's the aim of the band's debut full-length, Pure Rock N Roll, an album that serves as a testament to its makers' raw candor. "It's the simplest and the nastiest," Geoghegan says. "Once you get into rock and roll and you feel that vibe — that have-a-good-time, very guttural, emotional, simple, raw [vibe] — once you do that, it's like nothing else compares."
The band's frank sound reflects Bleach Bloodz' homespun roots. "If we didn't grow up in Smithville, I don't think we would have any angst," Geoghegan explains. The band's members all live and record in the same house in their Northland hometown. Bleach Bloodz can also be found shaking up the locals at Smithville dives such as On the Rocks — a "little hole-in-the-wall bar," says drummer Jerad Meadows — where the band plays as much as four hours at a stretch the first Saturday of the month. "We get paid to practice and we drink for free," he says. "That's when we get to play all the songs we never play."
Sometimes, it makes for a better gig than one in midtown. "The locals are chillin' — they're wasted, they're hangin' out, they're dancing," Meadows says. "There's no pretension."
And Bleach Bloodz has no patience for pretense. Just ask any of them about their name.
"We were tripping with this Indian in the desert, and that's what he named us," Lawhon says.
"It's seriously just made up," Geoghegan says.
"The 'z' is Troy's favorite part," Lawhon adds.
That joking, don't-give-a-fuck attitude is key to its testosterone-driven rock and roll. "We all kind of embody that," Meadows says. "Every one of us, in our own way, doesn't give a fuck." Despite the band's cool façade, though, Bleach Bloodz keeps carelessness and concern in delicate balance — creating the illusion of effortlessness takes hard work.
The audience sees a drunk, sweaty band ("shitty in a good way," as Geoghegan puts it), but recording, promotion and practice are all ticking away in the background of every raucous song. "Of course we care," Lawhon says.
"We have a ridiculous amount of songs," Lawhon adds. "Just mounds of songs," Meadows echoes. The guys are the first to talk the band up, too. "We're a great band," Meadows says. "We should be getting paid."
Sometimes, Bleach Bloodz stumbles into success, as at its recent gig opening for hard-rocking Cincinnati band Heartless Bastards. "We had no idea," Lawhon says. "We're like, 'another night at the RecordBar,' and we show up and it's packed."
A full club is just the beginning of Geoghegan's vision for Bleach Bloodz. "We want to fucking play a different bar every night," he says. "It doesn't seem that unattainable. As long as we get our 150 bucks a night, we would stay alive."
"Especially if the drinks are free," Lawhon adds.
Geoghegan revises his statement: "a hundred fifty bucks and free drinks. We'll do whatever you want."
But in a music world diluted by subgenres and sub-subgenres, straight-ahead rock is a tough sell. Geoghegan knows it: "I wish there was some way to turn more people on to rock and roll," he says. A lo-fi craze in garage rock, punk rock and indie rock makes a straight-up rock band harder to find — and, for most audiences, harder to swallow. But Bleach Bloodz has a plan to counteract fleeting trends.
"We're constantly working and we're constantly recording shit," Lawhon says. "We already have all of the next songs ready to record and put out." The band recently released a live album — the aptly titled Live and Raw — that it recorded at Midwest Music Company in early February. Another record is on the way — one called Pure Garage, if you buy the joke. "We just keep it simple," Meadows says. "To the point: This is what you're going to hear."
The band's goals also seem simple: Bleach Bloodz wants to play music. More specifically, Bleach Bloodz wants to play music all the fucking time. "I don't know if we're chasing a dream or whatever, but all we wanna do is play," Geoghegan says. "I don't care if I'm poor, as long as I get to play every day."
"That's what we want our jobs to be," guitarist Steven Mack says. "Just a little rock and roll, some drugs and good times."
"Seriously, dude," Geoghegan says. He pauses, smiling. "Satisfaction."