When I met the Banshee Bones crew my interest was immediately sparked. They looked like 1970s rock stars that had joined a funky motorcycle gang, freshly beamed from a time machine into 2014. So when they invited me to their gig at Bar Sinister I couldn’t refuse, even though I had never heard their music.
I was excited and a little nervous for the show, especially since the locale seemed to be part music venue and part fetish bar. Needless to say I was glad I wore black. The stage was set up on the back patio, already drawing a peculiar crowd of apathetic Goths, old-fashioned punk rockers and possible witch doctors. Banshee Bones’ lead singer Eugene Rice wore a bright white pantsuit (bell bottoms included), in stark contrast with the black clothing and creative makeup of the band’s fans. A fountain of candles glimmered near the red-lit stage, reflected off of the disco ball hanging over the band. It was Banshee Bones second time at Bar Sinister and the cheering of the crowd proved that they were happy to have the band back.
In addition to Rice, Banshee Bones consists of his brother Ryan on drums, Salem Romo on bass and Joe Perez on guitar. The Rice brothers hail from Vermont, and met Joe at Hollywood’s Musicians Institute when Joe complimented Ryan’s Aerosmith tee. Joe, originally from Indiana, began jamming with the pair, and their search for the last member began. As if by an act of fate, Ryan sat next to Salem at a free mastering clinic. They started talking about music, specifically Salem’s interest in playing bass, then ended up going their separate ways, but throughout the next month Ryan continuously bumped into Salem, who’d spent most of his life in the L.A. scene. Eventually, Ryan’s bandmates encouraged him to invite Salem to join the group for a jam session; his playing rounded out the overall sound and the band was at last complete.
Over the last three years Banshee Bones have toured throughout the West in a Coachmen trailer, further proof they came (almost literally) out of a time machine. They’ve also released Life & Limb, a self-produced EP, and their debut album Birds of Prey, with no plans to stop touring or recording. At their shows, they often wear Venetian style “plague doctor” masks, half black and half white, to represent the dualities in personal identity. They believe that every person can choose good or evil but they must know what lies underneath their mask to discover their true nature.
As midnight rolled around the ensemble took the stage. Banshee Bones’ ever-shifting sound and energetic set kept the attention of the audience piqued. Eugene’s serious pipes gave the performance an air of pure rock opera with some metal-style screams mixed in. They moved seamlessly from head-banging rock with haunting undertones to grimy, almost punkish abandon. Billing themselves as “experimental heavy rock,” the band’s style is at times a bit hard to pin down. A more descriptive phrase from their Twitter bio that reads “Rock and Roll married your dark progressive side” goes a little further in accurately assessing their whole vibe. In the grand tradition of hard rock performers, almost all of the band’s members had stripped to just their pants by the middle of the set, but none could seem to truly keep their cool – when their hair wasn’t covering their faces the wide smiles they all wore were obvious to the crowd.
Banshee Bones a scheduled to play a handful of dates in local Los Angeles clubs over the next month. The video below is a few years old but still gives a sense of their showmanship, though you’ll want to catch them live for the full effect; you can keep tabs on Banshee Bones via Facebook.