FUCTIPHINO: live + interview!

10 04 2012

New music writing from Ignas Bautrenas!

FUCTIPHINO: 1) A mystical animal; 2) #%^&!@$?/*; 3) A punk rock trio from Brooklyn, NY.

Lee Pilgrim drives me to Brooklyn and I meet up with the rest of FUCTIPHINO around 1pm. Their practice space is located in the basement of an apartment building, on one of Bushwick’s residential streets. They’re hanging outside, sipping their morning coffee, and Babs is cursing out loud at the paper cup for being too hot. Tim Skrewd is chewing his sandwich and complaining about a headache from a party he went to a night before. It’s still just a casual Saturday morning for the three of them although the time is long past noon already. Once Tim’s sandwich is gone they go downstairs, plug in their gear, tune up, and pound through their set which takes approximately twenty minutes. The music is quick, loud, simple, with a few curse words here and there. But hey, it’s punk rock! And as opposed to many punk rock bands – you can actually hear what these guys are saying. “We don’t crank our instruments up to the max like most bands do,” Lee Pilgrim tells me during their cigarette break, “our lyrics are just as important as our music. It would be good for people to hear what we have to say.”

Who are these three guys, you ask? Fucked if I know!

No, seriously, I’m not being rude. FUCTIPHINO, pronounced “Fucked-If-I-Know” as you might have guessed, is a simple-minded and straight-forward punk rock trio from Brooklyn, New York. “Why do you spell your title this way?” I ask the lead vocalist and bassist Lee Pilgrim. “Well,” Lee tells me, “imagine, that you’re in a safari, right? You’re wearing the whole hunter gear, have a gun by your side and you’re driving around looking to kill the infamous, bloodthirsty Fuctiphino. Get it?” That pretty much sums it up, I think.

FUCTIPHINO arose from the ashes of two other projects previously fronted by Lee Pilgrim. Looking to form another band “who wouldn’t be a chore this time around, but fun and laid back instead,” Lee met the drummer Babs at the Angels & Kings bar. The duo latter jammed at Astoria Soundworks and clicked. “He had this huge blue mohawk and muttonchops at the time,” Babs recalls, “and he had all these fast-paced songs written already. We played them together and it sounded good. But now I had to get my drumset!”

Picking up Babs’ drums from a little town called Templeton, Massachusetts was a crucial event to the formation of FUCTIPHINO but neither one of the musicians knew it then.

“We picked up the drums,” Lee is telling me, “and on the way we visited one of the only two bars in an entire town called ‘Red Onion.’ On the stage there was a band called ‘Go Gadget Go’ playing all these covers and while they were taking a break I sought out their guitarist Ryan and asked him if Babs and I could go up there and play a few songs of ours. They were cool with it, but the crowd wasn’t really feeling our music. Before ‘Go Gadget Go’ went back up Ryan told me that back in New York he knows someone who could be a perfect guitarist for us. And that’s how we met Tim Skrewd! Tim hooked me up with a ticket to see NOFX and the first time we met was while fist-pumping at a punk rock show. That alone says a lot about Tim’s character, I think.”

Skrewd was a final piece that solidified the sound Lee and Babs were looking for and the trio hit it off.

Initially called Fight Against the band soon dropped the politically-charged title and switched to a phrase Skrewd likes to throw out there a lot – “We realized that a serious name didn’t really fit us anymore. We’re punk rockers and it is true that a part of punk rock is quite serious. But we also would like to write a song or two about Scott Baio, so… fucked if I know!”

FUCTIPHINO’s structure is as simplistic as punk could possibly get, but that’s precisely where the gem of these guys lies. The obvious simplicity doesn’t leave much room for neglect, and each member needs to contribute an equal amount of work, songwriting included. Their lyrics range from humorous anecdotes to poking fun at United States presidency and commenting on social problems the troubled youth of America is facing. “We’re pissed off at everything and we put the ideas and anger of the three of us together. Neither one of us is ever left out when writing songs, but that’s the only way to get our music to sound like FUCTIPHINO and nobody else,” Skrewd tells me. He is straight-forward about his love for music. “Punk rock is my heartbeat!” he says. “Slow my songs down and they are country songs, but ha! We play them fast!” Lee expresses his feelings towards the current situation in the punk scene with frustration in his voice. He says that “people seem to have lost sight of what punk is. It really doesn’t matter anymore if you have a mohawk, how tight your pants are, how many pairs of Doc Martens you own, and how big the studs are on your fuckin’ leather jacket! It’s not an image, it’s a mentality! There are bands out there that will decide to play punk rock because it’s cool, and there are also bands that play punk rock because they feel totally alienated from everything and everyone and punk is the only way to express themselves. It’s always so easy to tell the two apart! As for me – punk is all I have. It has been by my side through everything that I’ve been through.” And the drummer Babs… Well, according to Lee Pilgrim, Babs has been going through his educational punk rock history and appreciation course ever since joining the band. “I’ve been getting into The Queers lately,” Babs tells me. ”Seeing The Queers live was badass! They pounded through thirty-plus songs in forty minutes. It was awesome!”

So what exactly does a FUCTIPHINO show look like?

As the band puts it – “If you’re trying to find some good looking musicians, then you’re at the wrong show!” For starters, there’s a big dude behind the drums beating them in total nonchalance. And also there’s a guy in a superhero t-shirt playing guitar and singing about how he cancelled Christmas (and he may seem like a dick, but he feels pretty good about it!). A mysterious masked bassist sports tattooed arms and a Scott Pilgrim grin. And the three of them harmonize their vocals. It already sounds like they are having fun, doesn’t it? ”That’s what it really is all about,” Lee tells me. “When playing with other bands it was always difficult to get everyone to focus and practice enough. And there were always scheduling conflicts. I grew tired of that. Maintaining a band means a lot of discipline and no pay. Playing underground music doesn’t pay much, but some people don’t understand that. We are a small band and don’t have a big fan base. Punk is not that big of a scene in general and it will take time for us to get recognized, if it even happens at all. Look at the Bouncing Souls from New Jersey! They are among the biggest names in the scene right now and always sell out venues, as do NOFX, Bad Religion and Rancid. But it took the Bouncing Souls over fifteen years to get there! And some people want it all now or never. It doesn’t work that way.” Tim Skrewd ensures that the FUCTIPHINO guys are not looking to get rich. “For now, we are doing this because it’s fun for us, and if others are having fun too – then that’s even better! We recently played an acoustic gig at the Angels & Kings which is unusual for us. People were sitting down before we came on stage, but we immediately got everyone to stand up and move closer. This way we created a more intimate atmosphere and got a lot of positive feedback. If we continue to play shows and have at least one new person seeing us live each time, eventually the time will come when we will play for more people in bigger venues along with bigger bands. That would be sweet.”

Within the next couple of months or so we should be hearing more about FUCTIPHINO – these guys are making plans for a record. “We practice a lot and already have a pretty big number of songs ready to be recorded,” Lee tells me, “and we will mix, master, and press the record ourselves. It’s the twenty-first century – musicians don’t need the big corporations anymore to get their music out there for people to hear.” In the meantime [at the time of this writing] – the band is on “March Madness,” playing a show every week in New York, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire. “Once we have the record out and can pass it around – we hope to get recognized more and eventually play bigger venues, such as the Gramercy and Irving Plaza. One brick at a time.”

So there you have it… but one question has still been left unanswered.

Why is the bassist wearing a mask all the time?

…Fucked if I know! :)

* photos by ignas bautrenas

Ignas Bautrenas is a short story writer and journalist born in Vilnius, Lithuania who currently lives in Astoria, NY. He attended Hunter College from 2004-2009 and graduated with a BA in English. Ignas currently writes for sugarnthunder.com, manomuzika.lt, 15min.lt and other publications.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s