Attack of the Creepy T's!
"Wow," declares Derek Hyde, squinting at the vision of Will Trev's black '66 Plymouth Barracuda, as Hyde stumbles out of the darkness of the Creepy T's rehearsal space in a Fort Lauderdale warehouse. Stooped over like some tall, walking question mark, the singer-guitarist's face breaks into a crooked smile as he ambles alongside the mean machine. A sleek white racing stripe formed by two thick lines sandwiched between two thinner ones comes up from the mouth of the hood and over the roof. "That has to go in our video," says Hyde as he walks around to appreciate the vehicle's rear, his boots crunching in the gravel. Hyde matches the Barracuda well -- he's a skinny apparition with long limbs and a shamelessly tousled comb-over.
"Yeah, maybe we could have the four of us going around robbing convenience stores in it," says Creepy guitarist Trev, with a laugh that sounds like Goofy on speed. Trev is an endearingly chubby fellow with thick-framed, '50s-rocket-scientist glasses and a perpetually hunched posture. He recently traded in his '66 citron green Barracuda with its broken air conditioner, plopping down an extra $1000 for this more wicked-looking model. While Hyde looks under the hood at the V-8's chrome valve covers and breathers, Trev retrieves Mark "Crypt" Burton from the band's small rehearsal space. "Wow," echoes the stout, longhaired bass player/ backup vocalist when he's confronted by the vision of the Barracuda.
To the members of the Creepy T's, the retro-pop world is more than part of their lives, it's the primary ingredient in their low-fi brand of garage punk. Trev's Barracuda could easily be the subject of one of the Creepy T's songs. After all, the group already has a song called "Rat Fink Machine," inspired by the '60s comic strip about hot rods and monsters.
During the band's rehearsal (the final performance with drummer Tim Putt, who would quit the band a few days later for personal reasons), the Creepy T's go through "Rat Fink Machine" and other songs with titles just as sinister and origins just as quirky. "Mummy's Curse," which Hyde says came to him while "getting stoned and watching The Mummy's Hand on AMC one night," features him singing lines like "I'm no Egyptologist, but there's one thing I can't resist, that's pulling the lid off a dead man's chest," with his vocals drenched in an echo effect against a fat, creeping, throbbing melody. "Just For the Hell of It," which Trev says is inspired by Herschell Gordon Lewis' 1968 movie of the same name "about kids on a rampage," bounces along with a drunken rockabilly flair. During "Tiki Walk" Hyde regurgitates the song's title in a long, loud, lethargic exhale and breaks into heaves and grunts, sounding like Lux Interior of the Cramps at his most exasperated. In the background Burton spews out monotone ahhhhhhhhs as the guitars play a heavy hook that would make a perfect soundtrack for a supernatural serial killer stalking his prey. The songs are often slow, sloppy numbers, influenced as much by the droning psychedelic freak-outs of the Velvet Underground as they are by the brash aggression of the Stooges.
The Creepy T's began as a nameless band with Burton, Hyde, and a keyboard player called Tread Waters last spring. The three musicians had just jumped off the sinking affair known as the Pop Skulls; the six-year-old, Fort Lauderdale-based band was suffering an identity crisis. While the other members of the Pop Skulls wanted a heavy/pop rock sound, the pre-T's guys were looking for a retro-punk vibe. The Pop Skulls didn't even have a central frontman, as three of its members, including Hyde, sang lead vocals on different songs. The band inevitably dissolved, and Burton, Hyde, and Waters took their contributions to the Pop Skulls for themselves, refining the songs with the help of one of various friends who could play drums.
Putt, a long-time friend of Hyde's, came on as permanent drummer when he grew weary of touring with his previous band, the Miami-based, avant-garde punk rockers Kreamy 'Lectric Santa. He was the one who finally christened the band the Creepy T's. Some slot-shifting ensued, resulting in the departure of Waters and the coming and going of an extra guitarist. Trev joined last fall after he, Hyde, and Putt got acquainted while taking part in the short-lived '60s-garage-rock cover band the Hive Buzzers, a recreational project that featured musicians from other local bands. Having played bass for two well-regarded, Miami-based punk bands (Cell 63 and the Holy Terrors) that had disbanded, Trev was in a lull in his career. He took up the guitar in the Hive Buzzers just for kicks.
When Hyde approached Trev about playing some original songs along the lines of the covers played in the Hive Buzzers, Trev jumped at the opportunity. "After playing with the Holy Terrors for six years and playing stuff that was just so extremely organized and seamless, it was nice going into the Creepy T's, where the music is loose, raw, and campy," says Trev. "The stuff [the Holy Terrors] did before was serious stuff about sex, death, and disillusionment, and the Creepy T's are songs about cars and Boris Karloff."
Since Trev joined, the Creepy T's have taken the stage at various clubs in the tricounty area, including the Surf Cafe in Boca Raton, Club Mojo in Hollywood, and the Hungry Sailor in Miami. During these past six months of performing in public, Hyde has developed a campy, low-key flair for theatrics. His first foray into stage gimmickry came when he decided to wear a bondage mask during "What's the Thing on Your Head?" Since then he's donned plastic glasses with cardboard slanted eyes pasted over the lenses during "Chinese Boogey Man" and has slinked about on stage, French-kissing the eye socket of a plastic skull for "Shrunken Head."
On stage Hyde projects a bad-boy, devil-may-care attitude, badgering his audience by asking them to share their acid. Off stage he's an affable fellow who likes to indulge in a little exhibitionism. "I've always wanted to do stuff like that, and this band really calls for it," he says. "It's just making an ass of yourself and being loud. I feel it adds to the music without becoming cheesy or overtaking."
Though the music is remarkably simple, with some songs consisting of no more than two or three chords, Hyde and Burton, the group's songwriters, pride themselves on creating a strange form of pop music that entertains people on a pure level. "It's just catchy guitar riffs and some kind of chorus that everyone latches onto -- that sticks in their head," says Burton about their songwriting formula. "Our songs are basic. We don't try and make them too complex. We don't want to bore anyone or ourselves, playing the same part over and over again or adding more parts to make it sound like Yes or ELO or something."
Though the band members hope to release a seven-inch single on their own, they would like to sell themselves to a record label that would help finance a full-length record. Their aspirations for a recording contract are rather modest and don't necessarily require the backing of a major label. "As long as you can make enough money to put out another record and tour one more time, what more can you ask for?" ponders Burton.
The band has already found a new drummer and is moving on as planned. The singularly named Chino, formerly of the Stimulators, is going over songs with the band in preparation for an upcoming performance at Broward County's rock 'n' roll club Home. Chino's previous band shared a sound akin to New York-style glam-punkers like Johnny Thunders and the New York Dolls, whose influences are also apparent in the music of the Creepy T's. Besides, Chino's a fan of the Creepy T's. "He saw us at a performance at Churchill's, which I thought totally sucked, but he was like, 'You were awesome!' He even called me later to mention it again," says Trev.
It's a testament that the band's music can transcend a "bad" performance. Hyde is proud of the music's integrity. He thinks all the band needs to get its due is a little work and exposure. "We seemed to have got a good response so far, so that's very encouraging," he says. "I think that we're not just some retro garage band. We're blending different kinds of sounds into it. We listen to a lot of different stuff, from exotica to garage to surf to psychedelia to punk. We're not concerned with fitting a certain kind of mold. I just want to be a rock 'n' roll band."
The Creepy T's perform with Pillmagnet and the Drug Czars Saturday, May 1, at Home, 3841 Griffin Rd. in southeast Broward. Call 954-965-0042 for showtime and admission price.
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