What happens when your marginally successful punk-revivalist group winds down? If you are Steve E. Nix (!), you just start another one.
Nix’s original group, The Briefs, lost steam when members lusted for lives not dictated by tour schedules. With the few still interested in the road, he formed The Cute Lepers, which functions quite differently than the band from which it was born.
“I wanted to start up a band that I could do no matter what. This would be my group, not a democracy,” Nix said. “It’s pretty much my vehicle, but in the last few years, it’s turned into a pretty badass band with a solid cast I hope sticks around.”
It helps that all the Lepers share such an open disdain for today’s popular music and all those making it. The Lepers’ brand of ’70s-era pop punk — à la Buzzcocks — leaves no room for Auto-Tune. They fittingly memorialized that sentiment in their debut album, “Can’t Stand Modern Music.”
“As a huge fan of music since childhood, I always had my ear to the radio, but I can’t do that anymore, because the music is so awful,” Nix said. “There’s great underground music and some solid major-label acts, but in general, music is factory-assembled, catering to the lowest common denominator to sell Big Macs.”
That sentiment has carried through each of the Lepers’ first three full-lengths, including the current “Adventure Time.” The album originally was titled “Make the Girls Cry” until a stubborn toddler proved to derail that signifier.
“The photo shoot for the album cover didn’t work out the way we wanted. The idea was that the whole band would be circled around a little girl crying while we were pointing and laughing, but that little girl there wouldn’t cry, no matter how hard we tried,” Nix said. “Her dad was like, ‘If you really want, I could probably make her cry.’ We were like, ‘No, don’t hit her.’” The young-at-heart crew still approaches music with the enthusiasm and vigor of acts half their age, making sure each day brings about fresh discoveries and fun. That outlook is fostered through raucous live shows, hard partying and detours that include dropping off band members on the sides of interstates and in the middle of the woods to kill time during 10-hour car rides.
What’s the point of being in a punk band if all the time isn’t “Adventure Time?” “It’s reflective of being 16 and into punk rock, hopping on the bus to head over to the skate shop or punk-rock record store,” Nix said. “We try to maintain that in everything in life. Every new city we come into, it’s just a new adventure.”
Photo by Victoria VanBruinsse