Eine Kleine Nightmusic 

Black Cat Music's Lookout! Debut

or a while in Lake Merritt, they were finding torsos," says Brady, the Baltezore singer for Black Cat Music, taking a bite of his soy scramble at Mama's on Broadway. Although he has a sweet demeanor, a boyish face, and freckles, he's also dark, tattooed, and likes some creepy shit. "They find bodies in Lake Merritt like three times a year," he says. The original question asked of him was why the band named its new album Hands in the Estuary, Torso in the Lake. To this, he is a bit cagey, preferring to discuss the particulars of the John Does. So then the real query becomes, If so many bodies are being found, then why don't we read about it in the papers?

"Because," he laughs, "they want to sell paddleboat rides! A while ago they found a guy in the lake with his pockets full of money. Apparently it's like this gang thing, to show that he was murdered not for reasons of cash, but for other reasons like disrespect. I think it was some scary Mafioso people. I work downtown, and you hear about weird stuff from the cops."

This still doesn't answer the question about how they named their record, and on this Brady remains quiet. That's why this band is interesting, though -- Black Cat Music is not going to tell you everything.

The band consists of Brady, Omar Perez on bass, Daniel M. on drums, and Travis Dutton on guitar. Depending on which bandmember you ask, the group started between two and three years ago, and put out two other records before its Lookout debut (released August 21). Black Cat doesn't sound like any other band on the label, certainly not like it sprang from the loins of any East Bay scene. The press kit describes the music as sexy punk reminiscent of Alice Cooper, the Gun Club, and Social Distortion. This baffles Brady, who has never even heard the Gun Club, hates Alice Cooper, and, well, yeah, he does like Social Distortion. "The only thing that bugs me is when people say we sound like the Murder City Devils," he says. "I don't think we sound like them at all. We wanted to do this thing on our Web site, where there would be a section 'for lazy reviewers.' It would have a biography and information about the band if you wanted to write a review, but if you were too lazy to write your own review or you were a hack reporter, you could download a generic 'good review' or a 'bad review' (as in, I either A: don't understand this band, or B: think this band sounds like the Murder City Devils...)."

In truth, the band has a spooky edge long absent from independent music (not counting Dirty Three-ish stuff). Black Cat Music is more in line with good '80s goth music than Black Heart Procession. The bass provided by Omar Perez is definitely Cure-influenced, and the whole vibe of the band is more Joy Division-meets-stoner-rock. Then there are the vocals, which make the band: Brady pleads and strains in desperation, but melodically enough that his singing becomes another essential instrument in the work.

"I never intended to sing," says Brady. "I've always written a lot [of music], though. I'm sort of weird and self-conscious about singing. I try the best I can, but I still feel like I don't sing that well." Most of the time you can't tell what the fuck he's singing about, but the songs seem to be drunken odes to lost love. "We are making love and we are doomed." Heck, we can even use the word "epic" here, because the songs, while at times dramatic, are honest enough to pull it off convincingly. Brady's vocals also reflect the influences of his youth. "Jane's Addiction was one of my favorite bands," he says. "I saw them as our version of the Rolling Stones at at time when the world was overrun with funk rock."

At the cautious suggestion that Black Cat might have some goth bass goin' on, Brady says, "I kinda like that, 'cause none of us are really into that. Omar, who plays bass, does Bordello [Friday nights at the Covered Wagon]. He's sort of new to the band, and he brings that stuff in. In his heart somewhere is that Nick Cave attitude. I like that stuff too, but we get together and try our best not to sound like anyone else."

Brady wrote most of the songs for Hands on the Estuary, Torso in the Lake in New York City, sending tapes back and forth with the band, then flying out here a few times to try the stuff out. The band really had no idea what the songs were going to sound like until they got everything down in the studio and sequenced it. (The resulting disjointedness works well for the album.) "Do you remember that band Vain from the '80s?" Brady asks. "They used to tour with Skid Row. Davy Vain was the engineer on our album. He's very talented. As far as rock 'n' roll goes, for him nothing has ever happened after '93. His heyday was the Guns N' Roses era."

On the subject of how the band got the name Black Cat Music, Brady is more forthcoming.

"Before I started the band," says Brady, "I used to spray-paint it around. It wasn't so much a tag, but I would spray it around with a stencil." He points to a black tattoo on his arm. "This cat is still on the sidewalks of New York, from before I started the band. It's not anything specific; it's sort of about, like, nighttime wanderings or something like that. A lot of my friends and I work in bars. When you are only working at night it becomes this thing where you are up at six and go home at four. The nightshift."

An interest in the dark 'n' morbid? No kidding.

"I'm not preoccupied with death or anything, but what's fascinating about it is, there's not really any good way to go," says Brady. "You always think, 'Man, what a terrible way to go,' when you hear about someone's horrible demise. If you get sick and are in pain and die in a hospital, that's one thing. But imagine getting killed by some sort of a predator."

Oooh. A crocodile!

"Yeah, getting you, taking control of you and killing you, then dumping you somewhere. I mean, can you imagine being eaten by a shark? We live in a world where we're pretty much masters of our domain. You don't think on a daily basis that you could be mauled by some huge creature. The scent of the creature's breath mixed with your blood..." He shudders. "I just can't fathom something like that happening." Well Brady, you can stay away from Lake Merritt, for one thing. (This dude is goth and just doesn't know it yet.)

The number of pre-orders for Hands in the Estuary, Torso in the Lake is already higher than the band and its promoters had anticipated. And the band is leaving California to play in Seattle under the Space Needle (not that they haven't been asked to tour before; they're just self-described as "lazy"). "We hope that word spreads about the record without us having to play out," says Brady. "We either don't have the time or aren't around. Hopefully the music will speak for itself."

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