Hang 'Em High With OxBlood Records as its steed, American Catastrophe prepares to spur on to wider attention. No matter what the members of American Catastrophe say, the We Pity the Kitties salmon cat treats made by Kansas City's Three Dog Bakery, while no doubt insanely delicious to felines, taste like cack.
Indeed, do not be fooled by singer-guitarist Shaun Hamontree no matter how imposing his 6-foot-5-inch frame and loud voice and tousled black hair are when he zealously points out that the only ingredient is salmon, implying that the snacks are fit for human consumption.
Don't give in, either, when the equally looming guitarist Terrence Moore chimes in that they taste like "salmon popcorn" and Amy Farrand, bassist and backup singer, agrees. Because later, you see, Moore will be eating a sandwich-sliced, long-cut Claussen pickle to kill the taste, dangling it over his mouth like a cartoon cat savoring a fish bone. Even if drummer Eric Bessenbacher bravely agrees to eat one if you will, be firm.
I obviously wasn't, but burping up salmon stench was a small price to pay to get a copy of the remastered Catastrophe record Excerpts From the Broken Bone Choir.
In the West Bottoms building where Moore and Hamontree live and the band practices, I sampled kitty food and swilled PBR with American Catastrophe on the day after our own local catastrophe, that chemical fire that filled the sky over Kansas City with soot and scared the shit out of everyone. I appreciated a little levity provided by a band whose music is sinister and intense enough to accompany a 100-foot industrial conflagration.
Excerpts first came out in 2004 and has recently been remastered and re-pressed. It contains no new songs just richer, more
refined production quality.
After being one of the biggest local draws from mid-2005 to mid-2006, the group took a few months off to work on new material. More important, during that time the quartet also signed a deal with local label OxBlood Records, which paid for the remastering of Excerpts.
The deal also comes with international distribution for the record, plus radio and press publicity, tour support, a booking agent and all that good shit. In other words: They're fuckin' profesh.
All but one of the songs on Excerpts were written by Moore and Hamontree, but now the band swears by a collaborative songwriting method that calls for spontaneous creativity on the part of all members. Once the music's done, Hamontree comes up with the lyrics based on the mood, which, traditionally, is dark and mean.
Judging by the three or four new songs I heard that night in the West Bottoms, the band is pushing deeper into its established territory: raw, ominous, pulsing rock that evokes the feel of Southern gothic literature and spaghetti-Western outlawry.
"The Baptism" began with Moore picking lines on the Slingerland May Bell banjo he got from his late father, creating a riff more Civil War ghost story than Kentucky bluegrass. Bessenbacher and Farrand fell into step, driving the rhythm but weaving individual parts.
Then, as if to subvert the intricacy of the sound around him, Hamontree began tearing at his guitar, tuned down to open C, unleashing dirty, wailing distortion as harsh as a buzz saw cutting through sheet metal. Then, in a voice that's often and accurately compared to Nick Cave's, Hamontree began moaning the story.
If you want to hear how it ends, you'll have to head to the Excerpts release party Friday at the Record Bar.
American Catastrophe has held its current lineup for the past two and a half years, but it's hard to imagine the crew of 30-somethings being more excited about their band than they clearly are now. And they've never toured before, so they're excited to finally hit the road this spring.
The band feels, acts and sounds ready to take on the national scene. And if I'm wrong, I'll eat another salmon kitty treat.