Four clicks of drumsticks. Bass and drums, pumping insistently, followed by a nasty, fuzzy guitar riff. The actual video part of the YouTube video didn't matter. Not when you have texts to return. This was just an exploratory listen to see if Portland band Summer Cannibals warranted a measly concert preview blurb. But those clicks, that rhythm, that fuzz.
Look up in time to see singer-guitarist Jessica Boudreaux sing, "What do you do when you just don't know?/ What was real and what was just show?" To her right, guitarist Marc Swart shakes his head to the beat. At Boudreaux's left, bass player Jenny Logan bounces. To the rear, drummer Devon Shirley propels the tune on his spare Slingerland kit.
Boudreaux plays it cool—or tries to. A smile flickers here and there until the chorus—"I've been lookin' for somethin' new/ to keep my head busy while I get over you." She takes a wider stance and wrings a super-fuzzed solo out of red Fender Mustang. After repeating this, she's all smiles, rocking out like her bandmates. So are you, almost stupidly. It's great.
The song is "Something New," from Summer Cannibals' second album Show Us Your Mind (New Moss). Reached while practicing for the band's upcoming tour, City Weekly asked Boudreaux to relate a similar experience, an instance where she got caught up in a rock & roll song like that. "Oh, gosh," she says. "I always hate when people ask me that. My childhood memories of music are N'Sync, Britney Spears and the Backstreet Boys."
Music wasn't big in her household, Boudreaux explains. Her parents weren't into music. Not because it's of the devil; they just didn't listen to it. "But when I started playing, my parents loved it. They come to every show we play [in Portland, Ore.]. My mom says it makes her feel like she's young again. It's pretty cool."
Boudreaux says she started listening to rock & roll in high school, probably age 15, but "only a couple of bands." One of those bands was The Thermals, from her hometown, who are now friends and fans. But when Boudreaux became a musician, she played electronic music and pop. One day, though, she was "over it," realizing, "If it wasn't my band, I would never listen to that."
When Swart won passes to a local music festival, Boudreaux happened to see all-around rock wizard Ty Segall play. "I had a moment," she says. "I thought, Why am I not doing that every day of my life?" She started listening to punk rockers Wipers, post-punks Mission of Burma and "lots" of Black Sabbath. "I've been playing catch-up," she says. "But the fact that it's all new to me makes it more exciting."
It's astonishing, hearing that Boudreaux is such a rock & roll neophyte. Listening to Show Us Your Mind, you think you know the contents of Boudreaux's record collection. That particular fuzz must come from a steady diet of garage and surf rock from labels like Estrus, Dionysus and Get Hip. Album closer "TV" does loud-quiet-loud so well that she must own the Pixies catalog. Nope. "People always assumed I'm a big Breeders (Kim Deal's post-Pixies band) fan, but I wasn't until those comparisons."
Now that she is a bona fide rock fan—and rocker—Boudreaux and her bandmates are doing it right. Summer Cannibals recorded Show with recording engineer Larry Crane [Sleater-Kinney, Elliott Smith], who's also the publisher of the respected music production publication Tape Op. And her priorities are definitely in order. "I'm all about the live show," she says. "That's what I connect with. I love people who perform and have fun and let loose. There's really nothing like a rock show. And good guitar tones. I keep fuzz on my guitar at all times, and I turn on a second fuzz pedal when I'm soloing.
"Maybe it's not the coolest thing that I wasn't into rock music my whole life, but I'm pretty stoked that I found it."