William Shakespeare once wrote, "Some men are born great, others achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them." But the Bard of Avon failed to include one more group: those who have decided to thrust themselves upon greatness, regardless of the outcome. Then again, he never would've accounted for Jesus Chris + the Beetles, the self-proclaimed "best goddamn rock 'n' roll band in the world."
Jesus Chris + the Beetles' object is simple: be more popular than the Jesus Christ and the Beatles combined. Of course, this is just bullshit posturing: These kids, all barely old enough to drink, have been a band since 2014, playing mostly house shows and integrating themselves into the Denton DIY scene. But they take the ideals behind their brash talk seriously: In their eyes, the raucous, noisy brand of punk rock they perform is simply the logical next step for the trajectory of rock music.
"When you think about it, the popular bands through the ages have slowly become more and more dissonant as time passes," says front man Rob Martin. He sees a power vacuum that was once occupied by larger-than-life rock icons, and he wants his band to fill it.
"From the Beatles, to the Ramones, and to Nirvana, you slowly see it becoming more and more noisy," he said. "In my opinion, we’re just taking it a step further, and it’s time someone did. I think the world is ready for it."
According to friend and collaborator Cesar Velasco of the band Thin Skin, the band's appeal runs deeper than tongue-in-cheek bravado.
“They are all incredibly talented musicians. They've been playing together in various bands since high school,” he says. Velasco helped design the band’s album cover, and the music video for "Slime Girl," in conjunction with Thin Skin band mate Katie Reese. “Rob has such an incredible, powerful energy that he brings to everything he does. It seems abrasive at times, but it's completely genuine. Honestly, they're a testament to the health of the Denton music scene”
Jesus Chris + the Beetles was borne from the ashes of previous projects. Initially hailing from McKinney and Frisco, the band started as a trio consisting of Martin, guitarist Adam Nelson and drummer Ethan Hope. Back then, they played under the equally tasteful name Pussy Boys.
"Really, we owe a large portion of this idea to a friend of ours named Pearson Philpot," says Nelson. "It was really him who brought Rob and me together for the first time. Then he moved, and we’re just reaping the benefits of his idea."
After moving to Denton, Hope and Nelson moved in with a synth-toting Eric Schneider. "Honestly, I was the only one with synths, so I don’t think they really had a choice," Schneider says with a laugh, of his recruitment into the band. "It could have been anyone." Martin concurs: "Yeah, there wasn’t really a try-out or anything. We just kind of said, 'Hey, come play with us,' and it really worked out for the best."
After a few months with this line-up, Martin arrived in Denton, moving in with now-bassist Taylor Ketchum. Braden Burleson, a second guitarist, joined the other three. With the line-up cemented, the band could focus on their primary objective: changing the very course of rock 'n' roll.
Their first record, entitled Love Songs From the Slime World, shows a band that's unafraid to make risky decisions. From top to bottom, it is simultaneously aggressive and self aware, even jarring at times. Perhaps, its most interesting inclusion is the closing track, titled simply "*."
It is easily the most accessible song on the record, but is potentially also the grimmest. "I think it’s really great, because it’s fun to sing along to but it’s also really sad and honest with itself," says Burleson. "Being aware of the fact that a relationship has reached the ceiling of its potential is really depressing, and in a way that makes it the most relatable song on the album because everyone has been there."
The band has a unique confidence in itself that informs everything they do, to the point that some may perceive it as arrogance, but Martin disagrees. "I can’t stand it when people on stage present their own music as bad, for the sake of self-deprecation. That’s not what rock 'n' roll is. I believe in myself and my music, so of course I am going to act like it," he says.
They point to scientists' studies of bird calls, and how they've changed in the industrial world, as evidence: "Before these rapid changes in technology, birds had much more melodic tones, and now they have a more dissonant one to reflect the world we live in," Ketchum says. "It should be the same way with music."
JESUS CHRIS + THE BEETLES play on Saturday, Sept. 10 at Crown & Harp, 1914 Greenville Ave.