As one of the groups which came to prominence this year from the Punk Rock Night scene, Drunko has benefited from the attention and publicity given all the bands who"ve headlined the Saturday night Melody Inn shows
Drunko, from left: Jim Jennings, Steve Pratt, Jason Cavan and Sam Clevenger. Photo by Shanna Lejeune
But Drunko - comprised of Sam Clevenger, Steve Pratt, Jason Cavan and Jim Jennings - isn"t very much like the other PRN bands
They"re not as garage-y and angry as The Slurs; they"re not as poppy and sarcastic as America Owns The Moon; and they don"t have the puppy-dog freneticism of The Hooligans.
And, despite their name, Drunko is not a bunch of intoxicated punks taking the stage and playing sloppy, three-chord music. The title describes the flailing and unpredictable nature of their music.
What Drunko has to offer is an energetic, powerful style of rock punctuated by the over-the-top drumming of Pratt and the unassuming vocals of Jennings. They"ve been known to play almost 20 songs in a 30-minute set.
"We"re basically guitar-oriented rock," Pratt says. "No more, no less. I don"t necessarily even see ourselves as being punk rock." Whatever it is, punk, rock or some strange new hybrid, the music of Drunko will be on display this Friday night at the Patio, when they"ll be joined by their friends The Slurs and America Owns The Moon.
The Slurs have received a lot of media and crowd attention over the last year, and America Owns The Moon has become a cult favorite, but Drunko is just now coming into its own as a headlining band.
"All three of these bands come from the same place physically, but we"re all in different places musically right now," Pratt says.
Being friends and collaborators with The Slurs, AOTM and each other has helped develop their music, as well as helping each band gain access to the others" fan bases. It"s a symbiotic relationship not often seen in the Indianapolis music scene.
"We"ve all grown up together and intermingled over the past decade," Clevenger says. "The sounds are very different from each other but we all have the same vibe."
"It"s great to have known all of those people for so long and to see where they are all now," Jennings says. "I remember seeing Justin [Allen, from The Slurs] years ago at shows. And now all of us have our own sound. It"s a cool thing to see."
While the genesis of The Slurs goes back several years, and America Owns The Moon"s roots go back about as far, Drunko is a relatively recent creation, having been formed just a little over a year ago.
At the time, other bands Drunko"s members played in had either broken up or gone on hiatus, so the musicians congregated at the Melody Inn Monday night open stage shows, where they would hang out and jam. The jams were so much fun, they said, that putting together a group seemed like a logical next move.
Originally called The Wallys, they had to abandon the name when they discovered a Texas band had already claimed it.
Their name came out of its appropriateness and because they were running out of time. "It was the day before our first show at the Melody and we couldn"t think of a name, and we were all drunk, so Steve said we should call ourselves Drunko," Jennings recalls.
"We tried so hard to think of something clever, but everything clever had already been taken," Pratt says.
The title is not completely unwarranted; various members of the band have been banned from the Alley Cat and the Melody Inn for loutish, destructive behavior fueled by alcohol. But they"ve calmed down considerably and concentrate on their music.
"It"s ironic, because I joined the band right about the time I stopped drinking," says Clevenger, who came to Drunko from the now-defunct quasi-emo band Pillars to Pieces. He also performs in the new band About the Fire.
His joining the band gives it some additional firepower on guitar and also added strength in vocals and songwriting.
Getting together as a musical unit inspired Drunko to write their first 11 songs in the first four days they were together. "We were all unemployed and didn"t have anything better to do," Pratt says. In that first batch of tunes was their signature song, "Biscuits and Gravy," an ode to a good Hoosier-style breakfast.
Around that time, Jennings" band, DV, reunited, and Pratt joined The Mighty John Waynes, which was receiving some national publicity at that point, and so Drunko temporarily went on the back burner.
After a well-publicized series of mishaps, the Waynes broke up for good in June 2002, freeing Pratt, and Drunko once again became a priority. They advanced to the second round of the Patio"s Battle of the Bands, losing to Loretta, the eventual champions. "A bunch of other stuff happened around the time the Waynes broke up that made us think that this is what we wanted to do," Pratt explains. "Around that time, we began writing a lot more Drunko material." "One of us will have an idea and all of the others will say it sucks and change it around," Cavan laughs.
"On most of our songs, Jim will come with a basic idea. We"ll build the song and work on the lyrics after that," Pratt adds.
Drunko recently entered the studio with The Slurs" Jim Kuczkowski at the production helm. A single is expected sometime early next year, possibly followed by a split-album with Pizzle or another band in the spring.
At some point, a Mighty John Waynes album, collecting the group"s EPs with live recordings from their June farewell show, may also be released. Although Kuczkowski is known as a perfectionist in the studio, often revamping groups" sounds on the fly, that wasn"t the case with Drunko.
"Jim surprisingly left our sound alone," Pratt says. "It"s great that he produced all of those Rip-Off Records by the Problematics and such. Even The Hooligans album he did kind of had that blown-out sound. But, for the most part, he didn"t change our sound. He pushed us to be the best we could be, but he didn"t change our sound." One of the group"s trademarks is Pratt"s ultra-fast, ultra-heavy drumming, which gives their songs added horsepower. "I think I have a definite way that I sound now, but I think a lot of that comes from playing with these guys. My drumming has evolved. I may have more limitations on myself now than when I was 21," Pratt observes. "But my role comes from the way these guys build the sound."
The members see a bright future ahead for the style of music they favor. They point to the large number of teen-agers who post to the punkrocknight.com forums, wishing they were 21 so they could come to the shows.
The Friday show at the Patio will be a test for all of the bands involved to see if they have Broad Ripple weekend drawing power. Clubs in Broad Ripple have historically been reluctant to book Punk Rock Night bands, thinking their audiences may not show up.
But The Slurs have packed the Patio for their Battle of the Bands appearances. In the midst of various recording projects, The Slurs will be returning from New York in time for Friday night"s gig. Published reports have claimed they"re negotiating a record deal at the moment.
America Owns The Moon is a low-key, unassuming band that mixes twisted pop with a hint of classic rock. "I think America Owns The Moon is the best band out there right now," says Drunko"s Clevenger.
The show Friday night will begin at 10 p.m. Admission will be $5 at the door. For more information, visit www.punkrocknight.com.