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Vibrator dependent

With his guitar dangling from his shoulders, Andy Martin approaches the edge of the Galaxy Club stage and begins launching projectiles into the crowd--vibrators, actually, ones that work. And the crowd greets the shower of party favors with expected glee: found among the mass fashion of hard-core apparel are several folks sporting T-shirts emblazoned with the motto "Will Work For Pornography," the creed by which the band on stage lives and dies.

Such is a typical night at a Voyeurs show. Theirs is an image and a sound best described by the cherubic naked cartoon women that adorn fliers advertising upcoming shows--a little dirty, a little hard-core, but ultimately exaggerated till it all becomes so harmless. If you were to mute the sound at one of their shows, it would likely resemble a puppet show performed by sugar-fueled 8-year-olds more than the stone-faced glaring or super-speed slamming that typically accompanies hard-core performances. The music may be intense, manic, energetic, but the attitude is user-friendly and safe--like, you know, watching but not doing.

"The image we have is because of our name," mumbles bassist Chris Dille. "We picked the name Voyeurs, and it's a gimmick, right? Something you'll remember us by, and our gimmick is being obsessed with porn."

"We play on people's stupidity," says Andy Martin. "Nobody realizes the true meaning of a voyeur isn't necessarily someone who gets off on watching other people have sex, it's a person who gets off on the human animal in general. But the only definition that people know, that people can identify with, is the sex one."

"Freud was right, man is driven by the unconscious desire for sex," deadpans G.P. Cole, the sheepish drummer of the band. "But I disagree, it's very conscious."

At this moment, the band is hanging out in their new Lower Greenville digs. Martin, the band's eldest member at 22 and also its most tattooed, sits confidently atop an amplifier. A good chunk of his body art hides underneath a Nirvana T-shirt, though he explains the shirt is "kind of a joke." Saying this, he points to a "Smells Like Dead Cobain" bumper sticker on the wall.

"G.P. has the talent, Chris has the facial expressions, and I have the tattoos," Martin says, breaking down the band into its three distinct personalities. When the band first got together a year ago--born from the ashes of Snaggletooth, a good band in which Cole and Martin got a taste of "that go-nowhere super-mega-fast punk," and Dille's long-defunct band Today's Forecast--they were originally a foursome, but on-and-off guitarist Chris Zoys left not long after inception.

The Voyeurs trace their birthplace to Common Ground, the location-hopping punk refuge that finally ran out of venues a couple of years ago, and where Cole and Dille, both of whom are 19, often could be found hanging out or performing. Cole and Martin had decided to leave Snaggletooth, and asked Dille if he could recommend someone to fill the bass player's position.

"The only thing I told Andy was that all I knew how to play was Michael Jackson's 'Beat It,'" Dille says. Which clinched the deal: after their first practice together, Martin boasts, they had already completed several songs. Zoys, who came and went like an apparition, booked early Voyeurs shows and wrote songs at a maniacal pace, but when he departed for good the trio became a tighter and more interesting entity.

The Voyeurs' brand of music closely follows their stage presence--a hodgepodge of catchy-tune talent, goofy grins, and semi-synchronized pogo hops. Dille vehemently insists "power-trio" isn't an accurate label to pin on the band, but Martin concedes that the Voyeurs happen to be, quite reluctantly, "power pop"--as though there's a difference to be found in the distinction. And, indeed, their songs--which are either about "girlfriends" or "buddies," as Martin explains--are as stimulating as the autoerotic devices that take flight into the crowd at their shows, though some are hardly the simple-minded stuff of gimmicks and sex-toys and soft-core porn.

"We've got one song about Jeff Phillips," Martin says, referring to the 30-year-old skateboard champ who shot himself in the head last Christmas. "We can all remember being 13 and 14 years old, seeing this guy at Bachman [Lake] when we were trying to learn how to skate vert. He's given me a lot. You think, 'How can a guy be this bad-ass, and be a skateboarding god like that?' The guy didn't hate anything. That's what's really impressive: He just had absolutely no hatred. He was a bad-ass guy that just happened to be able to skate really cool."

The song, "JSP," describes the feeling of seeing a guy in a magazine, idolizing him, and then realizing he is accessible--that he is real, and surprisingly friendly. Before he killed himself, Phillips had gone from being a good childhood role model to even a better friend.

For such a young band, the Voyeurs have landed a fair amount of "good breaks," as they describe it, even opening for breakthrough punk-pop-rockers the Offspring. At the very most, it's an acknowledgement that the Voyeurs' talent transcends mere gimmick; at the very least (and perhaps most reasonable), it's proof that the gimmick works undeniably well.

So well, in fact, that the band has received its share of flak and allegations of sexism from fans and acquaintances who make up the anarcho-syndicalist punk-rock collective Durruti Column, a bastion of righteous indignation. The Voyeurs were recently scheduled to perform at the Column, but when a handful of the collective's 30-plus membership found out about the show, they expressed their vehement disgust with the band's allegedly misogynist image. Finally, after heated debate between the offended camps and those who didn't much care, the band was permitted to grace the Column's carpet. After all, it's only punk rock, for Che's sake.

"Some of the people at the Durruti Column are really kind of hypocritical toward us," says Dille, who's often given to molding his face into a thousand silly shapes during performances. "They like for us to play, they like that we bring in money, but they put us down, talk shit about us all the time. We get a lot of crap playing there." (The Durruti folks couldn't be reached because they're in the process of moving from Lower Greenville, near Chez Voyeur, to Deep Ellum.)

"They turned off my microphone at one point that night because I made a joke about my penis being animal tested," Martin adds. "I mean, he literally unplugged my microphone and was trying to tell the sound guy the show was over."

All three guys, however, don't have too many hard feelings toward most of the folks at the Durruti Column, for whom they have honest affection. And besides, Martin says, they don't really care who thinks they're sexist, because, well, they aren't.

"I am not an 'ist' of any sort," he says, "except an atheist."
As the night grows darker, the Voyeurs grow more and more restless in their humble, quilt-walled "studio"--actually, a room in the house they share--and each member of the band begins playing his instrument as though on the set of some nightmarish, out-of-tune "Unplugged" episode.

Over the noise of their own strumming and Cole's fidgety drum patter, Dille and Martin say they have been approached a few times by kids seeking autographs--an experience they appreciate, but one they nonetheless find disconcerting.

"We all want that kind of stuff to happen, just because it's the neatest thing," Martin shrugs. "It just makes you feel like you're in KISS or something."

The Voyeurs will open for the UK Subs December 16 at the Galaxy Club.


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