[DRUGGED-OUT METAL] “The last time I was in [Willamette Week
] was because I got beat up by the police,” Neutria frontman Sunny D tells me, grinning beneath dark-rimmed glasses and a trucker cap (see “Return of the Naked Pole Katz,” WW
, May 9, 2001). We're both at work and on the clock at a local arts college, but that's OK because our boss is Neutria's bass player. It's a scenario that could only happen in Portland: You land a day job, and your boss hands you a flier for a band—his band—that's named after a greasy rat you're supposed to shoot on sight in 38 states.
Neutria's particular brand of music—muscular, jazzy metal with odd time signatures and double bass drums—embodies a similarly unique and disturbing aesthetic. And it serves as the cacophonous backdrop for Sunny D's spazzed-out delivery of lyrics like, “I've been thinking about Dick Cheney/ A pedophile/ He'll fuck your child/ And he'll eat your baby.” “That one always goes over pretty well,” he says with a wry smile.
Started by guitarist MC and bassist Robert Firman (who writes and arranges most of the songs), Neutria truly came to fruition when D tried out for the band. “Fronting a band was my dream come true,” explains 40-year-old D. “I grew up on the Butthole Surfers, Laughing Hyenas, Jesus Lizard—the triad of the greatest frontmen ever. Someone handed me a Beefheart record when I was 10 and that was it, man.” Drummer Dave War (of MC's former band Black Brown) joined after the first drummer quit. Now, after 18 months of making weird music together, the members have become a tightknit group of friends.
A wise man once told me that live music should be either danceable or scary, and you can't dance to Neutria. “All the women and 80 percent of the men will be gone by the time we get through the first song,” D says cheerfully. “So we're an actual rock band.” From the driver's seat of a van, D continues: “People line the walls because they're uncomfortable and won't leave until I'm not looking because they're engaged enough to worry about my reaction. People clear out, and I say that's a good sign.”
Neutria plays Wednesday, Sept. 12, with Eat Skull and Mora Tau at Berbati's Pan. 9 pm. $7. 21+. Photo: by Erik Bader.