The Federation of Horsepower is the crunkest band you ever dreamed of, brother.
It's got the Killa City attitude, the low-slung rock and roll, the beats to shake ass to, the noise, the punk, the blues, the metal — and, now, an endorsement deal from Lil Jon's beverage of choice.
Federation discovered Crunk Energy Drink at the notorious Sturgis, South Dakota, biker rally and music festival in August. Flavored with pomegranate juice, Crunk contains weird shit like horny goat weed (discovered circa 800 B.C.) and skullcap (part of the mint family), ashwagandha (Indian ginseng), plus the requisite caffeine and other crunkological ingredients. And, of course, it's got a hearty endorsement from the Southern rapper famous for his hoarse drawl, sparkling grill, whiplike dreadlocks, sweaty balls (cf. "Get Low") and general instructions on how to get crunk.
(Though no information is available as to the psychological effects of Crunk's "proprietary blend," The Pitch's Taste Team has concluded that it "tastes like that fruit-punch stuff our mom used to give us, and it doesn't have that vitaminy Red Bull flavor.")
Federation bassist John Ferguson, who doesn't drink booze, got crunked on Crunk at Sturgis, and a marketing concept came to him – along with a panic attack on Dinosaur National Monument. Upon returning to Kansas City, from the Saturday Sturgis gig, at around 3:30 a.m. the following Monday, the other guys in the band unloaded gear while Ferguson went home and got some sleep before reporting to the hotel where he works. A few hours later, he called Crunk LLC in Atlanta: "I said, 'Hey, we want to be a Crunk band. How do we do it?'"
Apparently, the Crunk chieftains liked not only Federation's sound – it's one of the few rock bands on a hip-hop-heavy roster – but also Ferguson's idea for a loose partnership. "They are a business that's looking to break into a few markets," Ferguson says. "We are a relevant tool in some of those."
Though there's no contract yet, the Federation of Horsepower plans to shill Crunk products at local shows and bike rallies around the Midwest while Ferguson, on an informal basis, helps the company market its drink in the Kansas City area. Crunk may also produce band merch for Federation. As Ferguson puts it, "I can't see a drawback to having cases and cases of energy drink at my house."
But there's more to this band than an energy drink.
Established five years ago by principal songwriter, singer, guitar player and big-fat-badass-of-a-frontman Gregg Todt, the Federation of Horsepower ain't for pussies. Its story began when Seattle band the Gloryholes, whose members were friends of Todt's, called him and asked if he could get a band together in two weeks to go on tour. "I took elements of the bands I love – Motorhead, the New York Dolls, the Sex Pistols, Turbonegro," Todt says.
An intense period of songwriting followed, spawning many of the songs Federation still plays, including frequent show-closer "Testify." "It's the first song I wrote for this band, and I think it stands up," Todt says.
The Southern-fried blues rattler also stands up alongside the 12 other tracks on Federation's debut full-length, Stay Down. Beginning with "Greetings from Killa City," a song with a one-minute build that climaxes with Todt yelling, Caaan yooou dig it? like a heavy-metal Mean Gene Okerlund, Stay Down gets up and stays up with pummeling punk tempos, gang vocals, swaggering blues riffs, scorching solos, and stock big-man lyrical concepts: Give your daddy some sugar/Ride my sin wagon/What you got is gonna keep me comin' back, and so forth. Produced by reputedly persnickety studio wizard Paul Malinowski, the album sounds better the louder you crank it up.
Joining Todt and Ferguson in the band are drummer Chris Fugit (soon to be replaced by ex-Last of the V8s skinsman Chris Ward) and lead guitarist Troy Van Horn. Though these guys are a lot less scary than they look, their chops are mean as hell. With long hair and a Dungeons & Dragons goatee, Van Horn is a bona fide shredder. Ask him where he learned to peel out like that on the fretboard, and he'll respond, "The '80s."
This isn't a band that takes itself seriously — at least, not offstage. Press materials describe the Federation's sound as "warehouse death punk," and the word from the horse's mouth is even weirder. "If there's a name for the bag of baby powder in Mexican restaurants that chefs use on their balls, that's what we sound like," Ferguson says.
Find out what polvo de cojones del cocinero (or what-the-fuck-ever) sounds like this weekend at the Stay Down CD release party, where, according to Ferguson, there will be "Crunk galore" available to drink.
Update: The Pitch's Taste Team has officially gone missing.