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Thursday, June 10, 2010 02:55 am

The mysterious Lazer Dudes

Springfield’s own electro-rock-sex-revival adventure

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From left to right: Josh Catalano, vocals, Rory Davis, keyboards, Jordan Laier, bass, Jay Benoit, drums, Marc Broomby, guitar.
PHOTOS BY DUANE WASHINGTON

Black leather fingerless gloves. Love Club and Stripping Glitter. Tattoos of strange designs in stranger places. Cahokia Mounds and MoonPandas. What link ties these odd and peculiar things together? Answer: the Lazer Dudes. Not much help? Maybe figuring out what possibly constitutes a Lazer Dude could aid in solving our puzzle.

First and foremost they are a five-piece rock band based in Springfield about to release Sexorcism, a full-length CD written, performed, recorded and produced by group members, collectively known as the Lazer Dudes. But knowing they make a band doesn’t enter into the essence of what these Lazer Dudes things really are or do.

Breaking down the separate words might be a solution. A dictionary definition of lasers as “a highly focused beam of synchronized single-wavelength radiation” offers a clue, but with the “z” spelling is it a different type of laser or what? The mystery continues and multiplies. The band is certainly highly focused on something, and from the album title that something would seem to be sex. If now we plop “Dudes” into the mix, a certain sense of what is going on begins to develop.

With the simplest definition of “dudes” being a male of the human race, then by adding our understanding of “Lazers” as highly focused beams of a sexual nature, the band name could be interpreted simply as a boy band centered on themes of sex important to the male gender. Perhaps lyrics might offer another clue to the Lazer Dudes quandary. A quick listen to Sexorcism is all that is required to settle the name debate. In fact, the first human voice heard is a melodic and sensual “whooooo” like a sweet howl of enticement. Then the actual opening lyrics set the mood with a “you’re full of desire” and “my heart is screaming” and “your body is steaming” and the whole album just goes on like that from one sexual connotation to another without apology or contrition but plenty of gusto and intent, full to the brim with tongue-in-and-on-cheek references to brash and brazen sexploitation.

“Electro-rock-sex-revival that’s how we describe the music. A party like a revival,” said Josh Catalano, lyricist, guitarist and lead vocalist of the Lazer Dudes. “It’s straight ahead dance rock with synth-sounds on top with no cuss words anywhere.”
So now there is verification of the sex factor and from the sketchy liner notes all band members appear to be males, but still the riddle of where the name originated remains to be solved. Perhaps the source of the appellation might shed light on the mysterious meaning of the Lazer Dudes moniker.

“Jay Benoit, our drummer, took a trip to Cahokia Mounds in southern Illinois. He likes to go there. It clears his mind,” explained Catalano, referring to the mysterious Native American city of a thousand years ago located east of present-day St. Louis. “The name came to him as an epiphany and as soon as I heard it I wanted to play in a band called the Lazer Dudes.”

Catalano, also known as the lead vocalist and songwriting guitarist of local original rockers the Damwell Betters, wasted no time in forming a side project with fellow DB’ers Marc Broomby (guitar, vocals) and Jordan Laier (bass, vocals), plus versatile keyboardist Rory Davis and inevitably, the epiphany-oriented drummer, Jay Benoit.

“Jay came up with the name in November of 2008. We had our first practices in January of 09,” said Catalano. “We played three shows and already had our first CD out. The Damwell Betters are still going, but this band is a completely different attitude.”

Marc Broomby, Josh Catalano and Jordan Laier in the control room at MoonPanda Studios.

Broomby, a native of Liverpool, England, came to town with the John Wylde Group several years ago and liked it here so much he stayed. He owns and operates MoonPanda Studios, a full-scale recording studio in downtown Springfield. The guys, or dudes if you prefer, hopped right in the studio and got to writing songs in a hurry, releasing Stimulated Emissions, a six-song CD, in May of 2009, just six months after the band’s conception. Little over a year later here comes Sexorcism with 10 new songs and the band pushing stronger than ever with a recent gig at the happening Brewhaus Prom Night and headlining other local venues. That’s fast work no matter how you look at it and no matter what mysterious forces drive the band.

“We wanted to do something different from when we recorded our Damwell Betters CD, to deconstruct the recording process and simplify it,” said Catalano. “Instead of recording so many tracks, the idea was to keep it fresh and raw. Just let it ride on the basic parts.”

“We wanted to pretty much record it so we could do it live. The last Damwell Betters stuff we recorded was orchestrated and had horns and extra vocals,” added Broomby. “We wanted to make sure we could pull this project off live with just the five of us.”

That clarifies some of the mystery behind the band, but what’s definitely not an enigma is the music of the Lazer Dudes. Every song comes on hot and danceable, big beats blasting with vocals terse and biting, plus that ever-present synthesizer lick riding somewhere on top of the rhythm to add a cagey sounding icing to the guitar-oriented song-cake. Then there are those love-to-lust-laden lyrics forcefully reminding the listener the gospel according to the Lazer Dudes seems smitten by the drive of sex for the sake of the song.

“We originally wanted to call the record Sexorcise your Demons, but shortened it to Sexorcism,” said Broomby. “But the songs are another thing that Jay did. He likes to name the songs and we do the music to fit the name.”

Possibly more trips to Cahokia Mounds are on the itinerary. But for now Benoit did a fine job of song title selection, adding beauties such as, “Hard Particles,” “Clean and Serene,” “Rub Some Dirt On It,” “Love Club” and “Stripping Glitter.” Keyboardist Davis contributed the dance floor hit “Ride the White Pony” and sings the lead vocal which includes the memorable line, “Guitar licks like a tongue in your ear,” among other bits of lyrical sweetmeats. No particularly poetic masterpieces among these songs, but then again, they aren’t meant to be. Remember the definition of a Lazer Dude, then stack up these songs against any by glam-rock groups like Kiss or the New York Dolls or even classic rockers AC/DC or Poison and it all makes perfectly silly sense.

Perusing the new Lazer Dudes CD.

Unusual for most bands professing to express the sentiments of the 1980s, our guys concentrate on writing songs instead of performing classics of the era. Broomby, who also performs with Damwell Betters lead guitarist Joe Caladrino (who played a few bits on Sexorcism, but is not quite a full-fledged Lazer Dude) as half of Live Jukebox with Mark and Joe, knows an extraordinary number of 80s cover tunes. The Dudes though are firmly entrenched in developing an original and contemporary style using the overblown and internalized emotions of the decadent 1980s as a blueprint for aggressive and licentious self-expression.

 “We just did our first cover last Saturday at the Brewhaus Prom of Bonnie Tyler’s ‘Holding out for a Hero,’” said Broomby in his crisp Liverpudlian accent. “It was between that and Richard Marx for the 80s theme of the Prom night. We could do more tunes from other bands, but our songs are what we do.”

Another thing they do is tattoos, matching tattoos. The inside cover beneath the CD itself holds a photo of a hot dog-looking shape that forms a contiguous “L” and “D” with various bright colors emanating in a star-like pattern on a background of ash-black from behind the LD logo. Around the design is a flesh-colored area that looks like it might just be someone’s skin.

“That’s a picture of my arm with the Lazer Dudes tattoo,” said Broomby proudly. “Josh and Jay have them too. On their butt cheeks. Rory is not totally committed yet, but we may have to hold him down.”

“I already have plenty of other tattoos,” said Laier, raising his art-covered arms for all to see the proof. “I’m out of room.”

On the cover of Sexorcism is a hand wearing a fingerless black leather glove, another secret symbol of the Lazer Dudes apparently, put a possibly pointless one.

“That’s my hand with the leather glove I wear at all the Lazer Dudes’ shows. The gloves don’t come off,” said Catalano. “I’m looking for a white one. Lots of things about us have to do with white stuff, like ‘Ride the White Pony,’ but it doesn’t mean a thing.”

The performing band members on the CD are listed as Boy, Apollo, Chavez, Pegasus and Big-Baby — all with the last name of Von Lazer (there is no family connection purported or otherwise) and all credited with the music and production. Catalano claims to have already changed his Von Lazer name to Butterscotch, but it could be something else by now. Even though no one in the band claims which alias belongs to whom, the Dudes’ real names are public knowledge. Plus other facts about the real lives of the Dudes are available as the mystery continues to unfold.

Catalano worked as manager of Bar None, a nighttime downtown bar, since it opened in August 2008, just recently taking a full-time position as a graphic designer with a local firm, but still continues to book bands at the popular live music venue. Broomby works at his studio (recently recorded acts include Micah Walk, Deep Lunar Blue, Go! Tsunami and others), performs with two other bands and cares for his infant son. Laier owns and operates Sunsup Koffee Kafe, a restaurant and coffee shop at First and Calhoun with his wife Brianna, plus plays standup bass with the Jolly Cowboys and the Moonlight Rhythm Rangers. Benoit is a registered nurse at Memorial Medical Center and Davis works as an engineer for the Illinois EPA and is rumored to play keyboards with Go! Tsunami.

With the seemingly endless supply of enigmatic and suggestive song suggestions from drummer Benoit added to the genuinely creative and interesting music of the member musicians along with a recording studio available for infinite experimentation, the Dudes seem poised to continue on a path pointed out by the light of the Lazers.

What could possibly be a legitimate and desirable goal for a band determined to remain mysterious and raunchy, yet with a solid foundation of music and art to build a career upon; something tangible, but dreamy, plausible, but grand, reachable, but ambitious?

“Paris,” was Broomby’s one-word answer.

“Get a real picture taken in front of the Eiffel Tower,” chimed in Laier.

“Yeah, we really want to play Paris. Don’t care where else or what else we do,” said Catalano. “Just for the fun of it. Euro-trash party. I’m sure we can get it if we work hard enough at it or keep bugging someone long enough.”

Now how would the Lazer Dudes translate into French?

The Lazer Dudes release Sexorcism June 11 at Bar None starting with opening acts What’s Fair and Prairie State Heartache around 10pm. For more information go to www.lazerdudes.com and www.myspace.com/lazerdudes or visit the Lazer Dudes on Illinois Times’ band directory.

Contact Tom Irwin at tirwin@illinoistimes.com.

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