Sometimes a band's message, sound and philosophy can be strikingly simple. For the Denton-born foursome American Werewolf Academy, simplicity is more or less a standard operating procedure. When one clicks onto the Biography page of the group's website, they quickly learn so much of what they really need to know about the band before seeing them perform live:
"AMA plays jangly, distorted rock anthems."
It's only one sentence, loaded with barely a handful of syllables, yet drives their point home. Until you get a chance to see them live, that is. The group's show is packed with frenzy and singer Aaron Thedford's hamstring-testing, quick-release leg kicks. Even when the band fills a 30-minute opening slot on a Sunday night to a couple of dozen folks, which they did at Three Links this past Sunday, the group will flood the stage with a new pool of sweat after some honestly serious rocking.
Creating punchy, guitar-driven pop for just over a decade now, the Thedford-led group, which also boasts area studs Tony Harper (who also drums in Slobberbone), bassist Jake Barnhart and Jon Binford, the group's newest member, on lap steel and guitar, has been a prolific outfit. In 2011, U.K.-based label Damnably (of Shonen Knife and Come fame) signed them and as a result, the group has seen trans-Atlantic love from new fans and a slew of Yankee-loving bloggers. With seven releases (a combination of full length albums and vinyl singles) to its name, AMA hasn't been a quiet group, even if a higher local profile has eluded them over the years.
The question of why a certain group may or may not cut through to the top of the local buzz is usually an impossible one to answer, but it's certainly fun to try. Thedford certainly has a few thoughts.
"Well for starters there is our name," Thedford admits. "Most people think we're a hardcore band or we sing songs about Frankenstein. Sometimes our ridiculous name has given people the wrong impression. Local press has always been cordial but we've always gotten a bit of the stepchild treatment in Dallas."
That could be a sore point for the band, but Thedford has a different perspective. "This makes the out of town success more special," he continues. "Often people in Dallas see us and are surprised they've never heard of us. I'm not sure what local media outlets are looking for in bands these days, but I try not to think about it too much."
To be certain, local and regional press love hasn't exactly inundated the group, which opened a string of shows for Centro-matic last month upon the release of the band's latest record. But the Euro music lover has always been a curious case for us Statesiders. AMA's two most recent LPs are damn-near perfect records. One's skip button will get a well-deserved respite during the course of 2011's Everything is Alright So Far or last year's Out of Place All The Time.
Sometimes bands hit it big here and strike out over there or vice versa. Judging from reviews of the band's records across the pond, it's safe to say American Werewolf Academy's style has an American signature that doesn't scare away the Brits.
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"We've always gone for a distinctively American sound," Thedford admits. "But there is a bit of a British influence. It's funny when people compare us to Cheap Trick or Slade as a bad thing because I love those bands! I'd like to imagine if Huckleberry Finn played guitar it'd sound a bit like us. People in the U.K. respond very well to music with a rootsy American sound."
For now, the group is looking into possibly putting out a new seven-inch single or two, leading towards another proper album. As ever, they'll also be playing rowdy rock with melody-heavy hooks as loud and as often as they can. Attention from home or abroad isn't really the band's goal, though more will come if the leg-kicks and jangly jams keep rolling.
"Right now, we are the best we have ever been," says Thedford. "We play every show like it's our last. I've tried to live by that notion."
AMERICAN WEREWOLF ACADEMY performs tonight at Rubber Gloves Rehearsal Studio in Denton with Cliffs of Insanity and Satans of Soft Rock. Tickets are $7.00. More information at rubberglovesdentontx.com