[OFF-KILTER PUNK] Looks can be deceiving, and the members of Nasalrod are some deceptive motherfuckers. Gathered together in the fastidiously beige North Portland living room of bassist Kat Knows, you’d think the band was about to pose for a family Christmas photo rather than go into the garage and rehearse a set of twisted, convulsive art-punk. Individually, the musicians defy superficial judgments. Knows’ bright, dimpled smile hides a history of growling her guts out in local grindcore bands. Guitarist Justin Stimson has the warm demeanor and prodigious facial hair of a placid folk singer, which probably explains why he wears a mask while warbling like a psychotic Muppet in prog-y weirdos Marmits. And the older guy in the recliner, who looks like the friendly next-door neighbor from a TV sitcom? That’s Tim Leitch, aka Spit Stix, the longest-tenured drummer for infamous L.A. hardcore mongrels Fear.
It’s little surprise, then, that when the group talks about the reaction it hopes to draw from audiences through its furious, confrontational live shows, the answer is not what you’d expect.
“We played up in Olympia, and I remember people coming up to us and saying, ‘You guys exude joy and love.’ And I thought, wow, that’s a great compliment,” Leitch says. “That’s such a great thing to have achieved. Because that’s what we are between the lines: We’re all really good people.”
Truly, Nasalrod is a group of four convivial nutcases who can’t seem to get enough of each other. Two of them first met right here, four years ago, in the home the band refers to as “the Crazy Cat Lady House.” (Knows once lived with three roommates who each owned a cat.) At a house party, singer Jeffrey “Chairman” Couch, frontman for the bizarre rock ensemble DRATS!!!, ventured into the basement and lent his distinctive voice—part Jello Biafra, part Cheap Trick’s Robin Zander—to a jam session between Knows and then-drummer Matt Ashman. The chemistry was immediate. “Some people thought it was a band already,” Knows says, “so it made sense to start a band.”
Weeks later, the newly formed trio played its first official show, where it recruited Stimson to play guitar. At the time, Stimson had been playing with Leitch in his synth-driven Lickity project. When he saw the four-piece Nasalrod for the first time, Leitch was blown away. He oversaw the production of On a Trainset, the band’s self-released debut, and when Ashman moved to Seattle last year, Leitch practically begged to be his replacement.
Steward, Nasalrod’s new EP, is the group’s first recording with Leitch, and it continues expanding the band’s off-center concoction of contorted guitar figures, shape-shifting rhythms and Couch’s sneering, bellowing vocals. But Nasalrod is an act that comes alive onstage—or, perhaps more accurately, offstage. Live, Couch often goes flying into the crowd, throwing high kicks in the audience’s face and trying to incite a frenzy. True to the band’s congenial nature, though, the human-tornado routine isn’t meant to antagonize, but to whip up a sense of communal abandon.
“If you can get comfortable with being the first ass in the room to act like a wild fool, everyone else very quickly gets wild, too,” Stimson says. “It’s such an awesome, contagious phenomenon.”
“This is sort of a
pie-in-the-face business anyway,” Couch adds. “You have to be OK with
getting the pie in the face. That’s the deal.”