By Rob van Alstyne
By Zach McCormick
By Emily Eveland
By Jack Spencer
By Michael Madden
By Reed Fischer
By Emily Weiss
By Emily Weiss
Keeping up with Fuck Knights is a tall task for even the most observant reporter. The lead guitarist, glowering from under a stocking cap that futilely attempts to conceal a head of unruly thatch, introduces himself quite plainly as Sir Getsalottapuss, and no one at the table objects. In a wink, he's off on an associative leap.
"I lived in the ambulance outside their building," he says, gesturing to his bandmates, Lord Ballahag and Sir Fuxalot. "I lived in it for a whole year. It was fucking terrible." Then, as if the two thoughts were conjoined twins, he says, "I feel very connected to the pencil." He's referring to the strumming instrument he prefers over pick or bare fingers. "I'm long and thin. And yellow. All American, number 2."
Beside him, bassist Ballahag hides his face in his hand. "The name is a joke," he implores. Fuxalot, drummer and lead vocalist, laughs sharply from across the table.
"No," insists Getsalottapuss. "It's definitive truth."
Bunkered behind Palmer's Bar, drinking bottled beer, they act in a manner that's a whitewater of gags and false histories, engineered to test the gullible and the easily rankled. Following their goose chase is the conversational equivalent of a Figure 8 demolition derby, where the truth, just one car in a field of dozens, is liable to be gruesomely blindsided at any moment.
Their dossier is slim, but here's what we know: Those aren't birth names. The Fuck Knights—GD Mills (Fuxalot), Joe Holland (Ballahag), and Joe Hastings (Getsalottapuss)—were all born at a time when Travolta was sporting shoulder-length locks and zinging Kotter in prime time. Formed in 2008, when Mills became Holland's unwitting neighbor in a Whittier apartment house, Fuck Knights spent eight short months whittling the garage rock that informed their youth down to its knotted bone, spoon-cooking vinyl platters of Them and the Gruesomes into a bitter syrup. On mere bass, guitar, and a three-piece drum kit, they are a band that has selflessly flayed away its own excess flesh. What remains is sinew and lean muscle mass.
"If you have any questions about it," explains Mills, "'immediacy' covers it." An upright drummer of the most basic makeup, Mills might as well be defining his band when he describes his kit. "It comes out of necessity," says the New York import. "It's primal. It's easy to move. It's easy to set up. And it's immediacy. Immediacy of being able to throw our shit in a rental car. Immediacy of setting up. Immediacy of energy."
They are a model machine, as efficient as a pocket watch, losing no kinetic energy to the friction of unnecessary gears and sprockets. Urgency drenches them. From their streamlined configuration to their exhaustive on-the-spot recording regimens (every show and every practice is set to tape on their trusty Panasonic portable), they are the very form of function, and though their lo-fi, hi-end scrap has become a stylistic boon, Mills insists that every part of the band was conceived out of the strictest necessity.
"We're not doing this to be different," says Mills matter-of-factly. "We're in a recession, and it affects everybody. No one has any money, and it strips everyone down to basics. If that's vogue, then I guess it's vogue. But whether we were in the internet boom of the '90s, or the roaring '20s, this is our aesthetic."
Don't be dubious—the story checks out. Mills's full kit? He sold it to relocate. The pencil that Hastings uses to batter his guitar strings? It's to save his thumb—he's a guitar teacher whose daily workload includes 10 or more hours of playing. The single-take, live material that makes up their outstanding 7-inch, which finds Mills in a redlined yelp and the entire mix in a tangled snarl? A matter of the shoestring budget that doesn't allow for a retail version of ProTools. Even the band name, which creates a healthy amount of promotional drag, has its purpose.
"If someone's going to be bummed out by that," says Mills, "then they're not people we're going to be interested in playing with, or for."
"It saves a lot of time," agrees Holland.
Despite the gauche gilding slathered upon it in the 21st century, rock 'n' roll is a simple form, and Fuck Knights are a rare find. Their 7-inch is stone-pounded to gravel, their live show an exaltation of the lawlessness that's often professed but rarely practiced. Their feet are planted in the widest of stances, a posture that straddles the concussiveness of American garage rock at its most over-amplified and noise crescendos that test the very limits of listenability. The result is rock 'n' roll of an uncommonly pure execution that approaches ugly perfection, and the thrill is that of an old contraption rebuilt beyond recognition.
But, as in all else, starry-eyed idealism displeases Fuck Knights. Such a conceit would only prove to be an encumbrance upon them. As with a bass drum that would only needlessly clutter the bed of his pickup, Mills is quick to cast the notion aside for a more useful attitude. "Sometimes people want to pigeonhole us as a back-from-the-grave band," he says. "A Nuggets throwback. But anything that claims to be new is really just a pastiche of something that already existed. We're not acting like we're making anything new. And if anyone is, they're fooling themselves."
FUCK KNIGHTS play a 7-inch release show with Erik & the Savages, Strut and Shock, and the Anonymus on WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 26, at the HEXAGON BAR; 612.722.3454