Indianapolis knows the Asylum Street Spankers primarily through their many songs featured on The Bob and Tom Show, especially the heavily-requested ditty "The Scrotum Song." What many people may not realize is that this hard-touring, hard-playing band has a sound that goes way beyond novelty songs.
Born out of a chance meeting at a house party 10 years ago, the Spankers rocketed into a music career that's brought them six full-length releases and a half dozen other EP and live recordings. They have a sound that's part jug band, part blues act and yet their live shows are filled with a kind of energy and wild abandon that speaks to the members' punk roots.
They'll be making a stop on April 8 at Radio Radio; we caught up with founding member Wammo by phone as they headed out of Little Rock on their way to another gig.
NUVO: How do you best describe your sound?
Wammo: Critics have been trying for years to describe us. I've heard us called a "post modern jug band," "punk rock vaudeville" or an "acoustic techno band."
NUVO: What's been behind your decision to shun amplification?
Wammo: Well, actually we are using amplification on this tour, so we're not really "shunning" it.
NUVO: So is that a permanent change for you?
Wammo: Depends on the venue. We just got sick of telling people to shut up. What's funny is they'll just talk even louder now that we're using microphones.
NUVO: Where do you stand on the whole downloading issue?
Wammo: I'm completely for it! If I download a song by a band that I've never heard before and I like it, then I'm going to check them out. I'm going to check out their music and buy a CD at their show.
NUVO: So do you allow taping at your shows?
Wammo: Absolutely. Yeah, our taping policy is right there on our Web site.
NUVO: Since you encourage your fans to tape is there a lot of trading amongst your fans? Do they obsessively swap shows like the Dead Heads or the Phish Heads?
Wammo: Yeah, except our fans are called "Spank Asses."
NUVO: So are you still in search of the big record deal? Or do you do it all DIY?
Wammo: We are a fully independent band. We do it all in house. It's the only way you really make any money. Hell, I used to be signed to Mercury and I didn't make a fuckin' dime off of them.
NUVO: How is it when you come through one of the towns Bob and Tom is syndicated in? Do you get tired of people immediately screaming for the "Scrotum Song"?
Wammo: Yeah it happens. Sometimes the Bob and Tom fans get a little out of hand. But we just smack 'em down. Pull their pants down and warm their little heinies with a paddle.
NUVO: So where do you see the Spankers going next?
Wammo: "To the Moon Alice!"
NUVO: You guys seem to be almost constantly touring. Is the grueling nature of the road behind all the lineup changes the Asylum Street Spankers have been through?
Wammo: Yeah, we've been through a ton of lineup changes. It happens when you're in a band that isn't making a huge amount of money. People get on the bandwagon for a little while. At first it's fun but then they fall in love, get married or join another band. It's a grind man. You got to be tough. But you also have to love what you do.