Throughout history, some of the most remarkable inventions have been some of the simplest creations, a merging of two concepts that, in retrospect, surprise us in their obviousness. Electro-magnetism. Energy and matter. Peanut butter and jelly. Rock and sex.
That last one is what Chicago’s newly beloved band Bang! Bang! does best.
“Sex is, and always should be, a part of rock ‘n’ roll,” explains Jack Flash, guitarist and vocalist for Bang! Bang! “‘Sex rock’ is really just our way of saying ‘rock ‘n’ roll.’ For a while there, it was almost unfashionable to acknowledge sex unless you were an R&B or hip-hop artist. Hip-hop has been more rock ‘n’ roll than rock ‘n’ roll lately, and indie rock has been very un-sexy. Plus, ‘sex rock’ just sounds good, doesn’t it? I mean, why not? If you can have stoner rock…”
Despite Bang! Bang!’s belief that all rock involves sexual aspects, the extra twist is that Bang! Bang! is truly different than the average band – not just in name, but also in their jerky beats, sultry stage shows and wild, unabashed image. Gretta Fine (bass, vocals) and Nick Kraska (drummer), along with Flash, know how to work a crowd.
“Seeing a band live should be more than people simply playing music for you,” says Flash. “It’s not jazz, or opera; its rock ‘n’ roll music, and in my mind, it’s supposed to be a visceral, energetic thing and a visual thing. I’ve always enjoyed being an entertainer, and the bands I love the most are able to combine that type of stage show without sacrificing music to do it.”
From their first full-length release, Decked Out, it sounds like they have what it takes to be the best of both. Due to two ravishing precursor EPs and a couple years of touring, the album was long awaited by a large fan base.
“Our first EP, Do You Like It?, was us figuring out what our style was and learning to play together,” says Flash. “It set the basis for what Bang! Bang! is all about, although it has a bit more of a ‘70s rock influence than our stuff now. Plus, this CD had a nice picture of Gretta’s ass on the cover, which immediately established our image in a not-too-subtle way.
“Electric Sex is obviously very rooted in the ‘80s, playful and a bit dancier. It is mostly just a fun, party EP. The song ‘Electric Sex’ is a bit more punk (although we are not really a punk band, just more punk-influenced than some) and has a very ‘Ballroom Blitz’ kind of vibe with an almost Contortions-like noise deconstruction part in the middle.”
Despite deviations from earlier EPs, Decked Out still gives listeners something to dance to, albeit in a darker, seedier form of sex rock.
“On Decked Out, we tried to give listeners a bit more to chew on,” says Flash. “It is a full-length, and we felt an entire album of ‘party’ songs would get real tiring, real quick. So we’ve introduced more sides to us, without ignoring the fun that will always be a part of us. A song like ‘Peeper,’ which is almost like a gothy-Pixies song, would have been out of place on our other EPs. Here, we have more room to grow, which was always the intent of our band from the beginning.”
In fact, the origins of Bang! Bang! may have sealed the fate of this sex rock band from the beginning. Their genesis occurred with a “big bang” between Flash and Fine one summer’s night in 2003.
“Gretta and I have an interesting relationship, in the sense that we are together in so many ways,” says Flash. “Gretta is very talented and uninhibited when she plays. She is not just some girl bass player that plays in her underwear – she is a talented, creative person that presents herself on her own terms. So the relationship between us also adds to the ‘sex rock.’”
Comic books, which not only inspired the background and name of the band, also provide stimuli for the artistic aspirations of the band in all kinds of cosmetic, creative and supernatural ways.
“Aside from music, comics are my favorite art form,” says Flash. “I don’t really watch many movies and almost no T.V. Comics are my second love – from ‘arty’ independent, alternative types to good old Batman and Robin. Even my look, with the lightning bolt tie and whatnot, is comic book-inspired. I think of Jack Flash as more of a comic book thing than a Rolling Stones reference. It’s a little nod to my love of a very underappreciated art form.”
Flash explains that the mentality of Bang! Bang! also emerged from the technical learning and constructive backlash of former musical experiences.
“My first band, called Fever Hot! was like a poppy Misfits,” says Flash. “We weren’t very good, but I learned how to write catchy melodies. My second band, The South Of No North, ended up sounding kind of screamo.
“Y’see, when I first moved to Chicago, I didn’t have many friends, and the ones I did have wanted to play completely different music than I was interested in. I was made fun of for liking things like Cheap Trick, Kiss, or Blondie, but playing in that band did teach me technical skills that I might never have developed if I hadn’t played with such talented musicians, namely Nick Kraska and Liam Kimball (New Black).”
Although Kraska is already the young band’s third drummer, he’s in a unique position in that he’s been in the periphery of Bang! Bang!’s entire career.
“I’ve known Jack and Gretta as people completely apart from the music for a while now, and know they’re both good, solid individuals, which is probably the most important criteria for band mates at this point in my life,” says Kraska. “When playing the old songs, I’m trying to keep the original intent with the drum parts, but I’m still taking a few liberties to make it a hybrid of our styles so I have more emotional investment in the songs. However, the days of the polka dot blouse and Max Headroom-style glasses are now dead with me in the band. That was one of my terms of joining! That and a million-dollar advance. They have postdated that check to the year 2029.”
“…But I’m keeping my polka dot blouse for sure,” says Flash.