[GIRL-GROUP PUNK] Before the band even truly existed, the Suicide Notes staged a photo shoot. It was the idea of Jessi Garver, one of the group's three female singers and, other than fellow vocalist Anna Andersen, the only member of the six-person ensemble with no previous experience being in a band. For some of the band's surlier vets, the notion of putting a focus on image—especially an image involving color-coordinated outfits—was a bit foreign.
"No band I'd been in had ever done anything like that," says guitarist Patrick Foss, formerly of Portland blooze-punk two-piece Pure Country Gold, tucked into a booth at the B-Side Tavern on East Burnside Street with four-sixths of the other Notes. "I might have been vocally resistant a little bit at the beginning, but that was me just being grumpy."
Taking promo pictures before playing a show might seem like the mark of a band that doesn't take itself too seriously, but it's right in line with the Suicide Notes' unofficial raison d'être: having fun. Certainly, that's apparent in its music. Combining gory lyrics (the Cramps would approve) with a peppy mix of garage punk and girl-group pop that the band (accurately) describes as Shangri-Las meets Ramones, it's hard to listen to and not smile—even as the songs discuss lupine love triangles and bashing a cheating boyfriend's head in with a spade.
Appropriately for its deceptively effervescent and easygoing sound, the band came about on a whim. Asked by pranksters the Punk Group to contribute a song to its "self-tribute" album, Tim Connolly—known as Ray Cathode when drumming for New Wavers the Epoxies—called upon Garver, Andersen and Bugs of Lightning bassist Josephine Jones to provide backing harmonies. It wasn't supposed to be much more than a recording project, but reaction to the band's early songs was positive enough for Connolly to try bringing it to the stage last August. That's when he called upon Foss and Howie Hotknife of Mean Jeans to fill out the lineup, making the Notes something of a local punk supergroup.
Even though it's evolved into more than a pure studio act, keeping things loose and open is still Connolly's primary goal.
"There are no expectations for this band. There's a certain style and sound we all want to adhere to, but the parameters are set way wider for Suicide Notes," he says. "It was hard to write songs for [the Epoxies] because you had this way songs have to be written. For this band, there's no way songs have to be written."
The band's other veterans agree.
"It's not that it's not serious. We take it all seriously, but it's fun. Singing a really sweet ballad about chopping people up is fun," Jones says. "We all had different issues with our previous experiences, and for me, anyway, it's like, this is the fun band."
Adds Connolly: "There's nothing we have to do. It's nice."
SEE IT: The Suicide Notes play the Know on Friday, Jan. 27, with the Flip Tops and the Cry. 8 pm. Cover. 21+.