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Escape Velocity

A Huge Dollop Of Fun: The Fabulous Penetrators Interviewed
Julian Marszalek , July 27th, 2010 12:12

Julian Marszalek talks to bastions of rock & roll The Fabulous Penetrators about work ethic, standing out from the crowd and serenading girls

"I suppose rock & roll has become something of a devalued currency," sighs Crispin Weir as he sets his pint glass down in one of Soho’s finer drinking establishments. As one of The Fabulous Penetrators’ two guitarists, Crispin knows better than most what rock & roll is, what it’s capable of and why the majority of two-bit schmindie nonsense that purports to be rock & roll wouldn’t know what it was even if it was beaten into them with a vintage fuzzbox and toasty valves rammed into their eyes.

Yet The Fabulous Penetrators are not your usual rock & roll proposition. Sure, Weir and fellow guitarist Steven James Lowe – formerly of the parish of Tokyo Dragons – sport delightfully slick quiffs and a nice line in Hawaiian shirts, but situated between them is bassist Clement C-Coulom, a man who could easily have walked off the set of Blow-Up while drummer Joao Felizardo resembles nothing less than Rob Lowe’s long-lost brother. And that’s before we even stop to consider singer Liam Casey: sporting sideburns so huge they should be given their own passport, Casey is given to extremes of eye make-up, outlandish sartorial tastes and an onstage persona that’s as thrilling as it is garish. Yet from such disparate characters comes music that’s informed by a variety of influences that coalesce into a sound that’s very much their own and one that helps them stand apart from the crowd. In addition to their crunchy riffs are dashes of funk, elements of punk and a huge dollop of fun. A heady brew, to be sure, but one that ensures a very distinct flavour.

"A lot of bands try to sound a certain way but we follow our instincts," says Crispin. "People say we don’t have our own sound but we do. There are a lot of influences and a lot of crossover ground that we all agree on but we’ve never wanted to go straight with one scene."

Clement nods in agreement: "We make the music that we would want to hear but we’re not part of a scene."

What soon becomes apparent about The Fabulous Penetrators is that this is a band and not a case of one mastermind and four drones. The workload – be it songwriting, presentation or self-management – is shared between the five members and watching them bounce off each other as beers are quaffed is to see people who clearly enjoy each others’ company whilst understanding the impact their relationship with each other has on the music they make.

"The dynamic within the band is special," reveals Crispin. "We worry about things together, we work on things together and together we get it right. We get on really well and that’s a special thing."

"Yeah, we all have something to offer whether it’s sorting out a gig or something like that," says Clement, warming to theme. "Even if one person writes a song you know it’s going to change because everyone has something to contribute. We wouldn’t sound the way we do otherwise and that’s why we share the song writing credits. The band is about sharing everything."

"We have that balance that a lot of bands don’t. Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses," continues Crispin. Then, taking another sip of his beer, he adds: "The main strengths are drinking!"

Fiercely independent, The Fabulous Penetrators believe that if something needs to be done then do it yourself. Rather than hawking themselves around to any number of London’s two-bit promoters more interested in cramming a number of bands together with no thought of music policy except to take the money and run, the quintet took matters into their own hands with the launch of their Saturday Night Beaver soiree at the Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club.

"We put on our own nights and get bands that we want to play and that we respect and they respect us too," explains Liam. "There are too many promoters who ram a bill with as many bands as they can and rip the bands off. We put on a really good night and get a really good crowd; we get to listen to the music we love and everyone has a good time."

It’s that sense of independence that has driven The Fabulous Penetrators to record and produce their first album, With Love. A collision of styles that does well to capture the live experience, it can at times sound a little erratic and it’s not a fact that lost on the band.

"The second album’s going to sound different," says Liam proudly. "The first album was written over a period of three years or so.”

Crispin is more circumspect. "The problem with the first album is that we didn’t have any money and we didn’t have any label support so we recorded the album in stages and in different studios trying out different things. The next album we want to do quickly and as soon as possible."

That, of course, relies very much on the band finding time out from their relentless touring schedule. Clearly at home on the stage, it’s difficult not to sense irritation on the part of the band when they realise that they’re not going to be playing within the next five minutes. Moreover, The Fabulous Penetrators are as much at home onstage abroad as they are here in the UK and the culmination of the band’s 2009 tour of Spain wound up with the lads playing a set in the somewhat outré environs of an Iberian bordello.

"We drove about seven hours to play there and the promoter told us he’d gotten us a gig in a girls club," laughs Liam as he recalls the memory.

"It was kind of like a ballroom with bedrooms upstairs and we played to the girls," elaborates Crispin. "I guess we weren’t the usual kind of guys that they get there! It was just bizarre!"

And yet strangely appropriate. The Fabulous Penetrators, with their mix of styles and love of costume and performance, are indeed something out of the ordinary and a world away from the self-regarding bands that feel that staring at the floor is performance enough. It’s a crazy party that they’re inviting you to. The only question that remains is the one concerning your attendance.

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