“I always say we sound like the Ramones,” Teenage Bottlerocket singer/guitarist Ray Carlisle says when asked to describe his band’s sound. Such a blunt answer is both a humble admission of influence and a brave claim to equality with one of the greatest bands in rock n’ roll history. So when the band tells you they’re going to be “Bigger Than Kiss” on their 2009’s, They Came From The Shadows, they’re both kidding and not. “Part of punk rock is being cocky,” Carslile says when I highlight the lyrics, “Ray beat the piss/out of Peter Criss.”
“A part of our personality is very arrogant and yet at the same time we don’t take ourselves too seriously,” Carlisle says. “That song is meant to be funny, but there’s also a seriousness about it. Whenever we play it live you can’t help but grit your teeth and headbang as hard as you can when you’re down-stroking [ . . . ] it’s a let’s-take-on-the-world kind of feeling. It’s not a serious song — we’ll never be bigger than Kiss — but those guys just make themselves an easy target and I’m glad we took them down.”
While happy to trash-talk superstars like Kiss, when Teenage Bottlerocket were slagged recently by Joe Queer of legendary pop-punk band The Queers, the band remained gracious. When asked why punk bands avoid publicity-generating feuds, Ray laughs, “What? Like Notorious B.I.G. versus Tupac — ‘I’ll cap you Joe Queer, you motherfucker?’ No, I’m not gonna lie and say I was born with a Mohawk. Dookie got me into punk music and from there I discovered the Lookout catalogue; I was the only kid in my high school listening to Screeching Weasel and The Queers. So there’s no bad blood. Just the fact that Joe Queer’s talking about me is flattering, because I was listening to his records before I lost my virginity.”
Maybe this down-to-Earth confidence is a result of the kind of wind-swept isolation that Manitobans are familiar with. After all, the band, including his twin brother Brandon Carlisle on drums, Miguel Chen on bass and fellow singer/guitarist Kody Templeman hail from sparsely-populated Wyoming. Ray says geography did affect their development.
“The limitations are there’s nothing to do tonight, the weather’s keeping us inside, if we go outside we’re gonna slip on a sheet of ice and breaks our arms,” Carlisle says. “So, it’s grab your sticks and your picks [ . . . ] let’s play some music.”
Despite signing with a large independent label and landing a tour with the eternally-popular NOFX, the band still have to earn a living like anybody else. So while Templeton works in a grocery store, the Carlisles’ day jobs take them far away from rock n’ roll.
“We work for this oil company [ . . . ] we go out and we’ll work for months at a time in certain areas,” Ray Carlisle explains. “For instance, in August, we were in Russia for a solid month. We measure how much oil is left in their reservoirs — I always tell people we’re dipstick guys. Not to be confused with dipshit guys.”
As for whether they’d be ready to go full-time and sign to one of the once-mighty major labels, Carlisle is doubtful.
“If I was an A and R rep for a major label, I would go after a young, attractive band — which we’re not — and one that could tour all the fucking time — which we can’t,” he says. “I don’t think majors are functioning on the ‘these guys write great songs, let’s release them’— level. So I think that proposition would never come up.”
As a final aside, I asked Carlisle how he’d feel about playing on a bill with fellow identical-twin bands: Nelson, Good Charlotte and Tegan and Sarah.
“I think we’d have to be the opening band for that show.”
Teenage Bottlerocket play The Burton Cummings Theatre on April 26 with NOFX.