“We just love the roller disco,” says Tony Mengis, bassist for local quintet the Soda Pop Kids. Fittingly, the band’s playing an unofficial release show for its upcoming debut, Teen Bop Dream (out this fall), at Mount Tabor Legacy’s roller skate/dance party “Glamskate Two.” And it’s no surprise that this bubbly band would love the combination of glittery disco and slippery concrete-floor skating: These guys are all about fun.
Heavily mulleted in skintight denim, the Kids look like a cross between Mötley Crüe and the Ramones, but this is no hair band. Originally from Denver, the Kids’ lead guitarist Diet D!, vocalist Jonny P. Jewels and rhythm guitarist Zachariah Tombstone moved to Portland after playing Kelly’s Olympian while on tour with their previous band, sped-up rock-’n’-roll outfit Kill City Thrillers. “We needed a change of scenery,” says Jewels, 23. “And Portland’s a pretty cool, progressive place.”
Over the past few years, the Kids have carved out a niche for themselves among the leather-loving garage rockers who haunt bars like Mount Tabor Legacy (formerly Sabala’s) and Kelly’s. And adding ex-Riffs frontman and well-known Virginia Cafe bartender Mengis to the band only gave the Kids more hometown appeal. But Mengis, a 37-year-old veteran of Portland’s punk scene, doesn’t feel like the band’s ringleader. “They all know what they’re doing,” he says of his much-younger bandmates’ musical prowess. “They don’t really need me for anything.”
Despite being imbedded in the local scene, the Kids all admit they probably wouldn’t recognize hometown heroes the Shins “if they were playing at a bar we walked into,” says Jewels. But it makes sense: Teen Bop Dream fits the glitter-punk mold; its clap- and sing-along choruses (see the Bay City Rollers-inspired “Saturday Everyday”) and brass-laden R&B hooks emulate peers like the Nice Boys more than Portland’s indie-pop giants. And while the blues-fueled “Bloodshot Eyes” is an admirable attempt at something different, the lone slowed-down track gets lost among the trembling vocals (think Johnny Rotten) and swirling guitars of the album’s pop songs.
But make no mistake: The Kids aren’t trying to reincarnate T. Rex, either—they’re just out to have a good time. “We play the kind of music that we love,” says 22-year-old Diet D! “We’re all under the impression that [bands like T. Rex] didn’t have a very long life span. There could have been a few more, and we’re just trying to add to that.”
The Soda Pop Kids play with the Holy Ghost Revival and DJ Gregarious at Glamskate Two on Saturday, Sept. 1, at Mount Tabor Legacy. 8 pm. $6 ($5 with your own skates). 21+. Bootleg copies of Teen Bop Dream will be available for purchase.