Remember your first bike? Whether it was a black BMX complete with a handlebar shield and the number 9 or a pseudo-Huffy with a pink banana seat and handlebar tassels, it was still freedom on two wheels. After destroying it by jumping over wood ramps and pulling friends on skateboards at breakneck speeds, or crashing into your neighbor's car pedaling from the cops with a stolen six-pack of Coors Light, you graduated to a more mature bike. Maybe it was one with a demure bell and a basket for your mini-pinscher, or something funkier, like a 1953 Schwinn Red Phantom.
Same goes for Broward's the Bikes, a band that could hop on a 1980 Mongoose as easily as one of those olde penny farthing bicycles and still tear up your neighbor's lawn.
Three years ago, from the ashes of infamous local bands the Ex-Cretins, Postface, the Holy Terrors, and the Human Beings, arose a power trio dubbed the Bikes. This was not your older brother's West Palm Beach alt punk band from back in the day; this was a souped-up, fat-forked monster of a power-pop band. Yes, power pop! And fuck you if you don't agree, but somewhere between Dan Hosker's prog rock-meets-Motown bass lines; Paul Voulte's steady, foot-to-the-floor beats; the satisfying crunch of Rick Ambrose's tube-amped guitars; and, more recently, the mandolin of Robin Roslund sits pop music in all its maligned glory. What's that? You say pop is a dirty word uttered only by porky Orlando-based pedophiles posing as promoters of prepubescent popistry? "Oh yeah, there's a pop element," bassist Hosker says. "Rick brings that."
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But that is simply a single aspect of the band, which has started to take itself seriously, abandoning joke names like Larry U.S.A. for a more concise moniker. Its oeuvre, much like the mysterious continent of Atlantis, does not appear on any musical map. This isn't surprising, considering its roots within the eclectic family tree of Ant Lunch Musick (home of such varied acts as the Fantods, Baby Robots, Mr. Entertainment, and the Gruntled). Singer/guitarist Ambrose brings his post-punk sensibilities to the mix, but it's Roslund's deft, minor-key additions via mandolin, guitar, and violin that make it impossible to stuff these guys into a pigeon's feathered hole. "He brings more textures to the band," Hosker says of Roslund. "It frees up Rick, being the main singer, letting Robin handle the other sounds. Not that he's slacking; there's just less pressure."
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No one in the band is slacking. Made up of some of the hardest-working musicians this side of Macon County, the group has done work at the recording studio of Frank "Rat Bastard" Falestra, a local luminary and all-around enigma wrapped in a theremin. "We're about halfway through," Hosker says of the recording. "I'll be playing bass, some guitar... maybe trumpet and cello." When asked what the Bikes intend to do with the record, Hosker was less-than-forthcoming. "We're not sure," he offers. "We just want to finish it and make it the best recording possible. Then we'll go from there."
Which brings us to here. The Bikes' music is challenging to say the least, saddled with dark pop melodies that dive headfirst into gritty harmonies. But isn't the best music like that? Did you like Dinosaur Jr. the first time you heard the group? Did you instantly love Sebadoh's Smash Your Head On the Punk Rock, Pavement's Wowee Zowee, or Guided by Voices' Vampire on Titus? While some South Florida scenesters may be sopping up the gravy of club glam, the Bikes are dragging dissonant, old-school indie rock behind them at breakneck speed and heading right for those mod kids on their white scooters. It's gonna be fun to watch.
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