The annual X-96 BASH has always done a good job of filling the early time slots of the daylong festival with promising up-and-coming bands. And many times they have given some of the most inspired sets of the day.
This year promises to be no exception as those who arrive early will get the chance to see Schoolyard Heroes from Seattle.
The horror rock, prog-punk quartet bases its music and image on the classic B-horror movies of the 1960s and follows in the footsteps of such bands as the Misfits and Pretty Girls Make Graves.
Songs off Schoolyard Heroes' new album, "Abominations" include "Dude, Where's My Skin?" "The Plastic Surgery Hall Of Fame," "Violence Is All the Rage," "Cemetery Girls" and "All the Pretty Corpses."
The band offers driving guitar riffs and melodic choruses, but what sets it apart
from others of its genre are the standout vocals of Ryann Donnelly. Her sound is a mix of Debbie Harry, Gwen Stefani (during the No Doubt years) and Dale Bozzio (Missing Persons).
Her style and attitude is very much like Harry, something that may not be an accident. "I've always been fascinated by her," said Donnelly. "She's incredibly beautiful, cool, strange and gutsy."
Despite the band's apparent slasher persona, Schoolyard Heroes isn't just a group of morbid people singing about death. "It's not supposed to be this thing that encourages violence," Donnelly said.
The horror-movie backdrop is used as a way to paint imagery and themes for bigger issues. The only horror on the new album comes from mankind, as the band looks at the horrific side of people and of human nature.
Calling it both grotesque and beautiful at the same time, Donnelly says the new album is set against an apocalyptic background showing how people might live and sort things out during the end of the world.
The band's genesis can be traced to when Donnelly, guitarist Steve Bonnell, bassist Jonah Bergman and drummer Brian Turner were in high school. Donnelly, the youngest of the group, was just 14. Her singing backgroundincluded musical theater and opera studies in high school. But Bergman was the horror movie fan of the group.
The band's first show was in February 2001, followed by two independent label releases, "The Funeral Sciences" in 2003 and "Fantastic Wounds" in 2005. Schoolyard Heroes hit it big in the band members' hometown of Seattle and then began touring nationally. Still, it hasn't quite graduated to full tour-bus status yet.
Speaking by phone from just outside of Detroit, Donnelly said they were all piled into one van, making their way to the next show."We're just really happy to tour as much as possible," she said. "We're all right with the van for now. We're not banking on the tour bus anytime soon."