Trent Fox and the Tenants and Nobunny Team Up This Saturday
Upbeat, fast and fun is how Milwaukee’s Trent Fox and the Tenants like their music; the same thing could be said about Van Halen.
Setting the record straight, Trent Fox and the Tenants sound nothing like Van Halen. Kris (drums, vox), Jason [Millies] (bass), Rudy (guitar, vox) and Mikey (vocals, percussion) subscribe more to the ‘jumpin” scruff-jangle in the In the Red or Fat Possum catalogue than the raucous, synth-laden pomp of VH’s “Jump”. Still. In the mentality of fun music, the comparison fits where getting folks worked up is concerned. TFNT, the band fond of zombies-n-girls songs, are sharing the stage this Saturday with another likely party pro, Nobunny (one Justin Champlin), who spits out party-happy bubblegum-doowop-pop while wearing a bunny head, and parties almost harder (and certainly more naked) than Andrew WK. Fan-belt talks to Mikey of Trent Fox and the Tenants about their gig with the infamous rabbit man before this particular shindig has everyone all hot and bothered.
MySpace says Trent Fox and the Tenants have been around since 6/5/09. Truth or fiction?
Mostly Truth. The long story is that Rudy and I, who had been playing in various bands since high school, wanted to start a new band that played a more stripped down and pop version of our previous bands. His younger brother had just moved back from Montreal and used to play the drums, so we asked him if he wanted to form a band with another friend of ours on bass. We had our first band practice on Christmas Eve of 2008. We named ourselves The Shoot Tickles and wrote four songs…then we didn’t play again for several months. When we all got back together again our bass player told us he was moving to Illinois. By this time Rudy and his brother were both living in the same house as me. I had another roommate, Millies, who used to play bass in high school so we asked him if he could still play. After a few months of practicing he really started to get the hang of it so we decided to start playing shows. Around June of last year we booked our first show for August 7th. Boom!
Since we all lived in the same house that hosted basement shows, we figured ‘The Tenants’ would be a perfect name. Of course, the name was taken a few times already, once by some obscure band from the ‘80s and currently by some band from Down Under. ‘Mikey and the Tenants’ sounded really lame, so an alter ego that I have when I drink too much gin is Trent Fox. Probably because the name Trent alone just invokes the idea of a huge jerk, which fits my alter ego perfectly. Trent Fox and The Tenants just sounded good together, even though long band names suck. So far we’ve been called by shorter names on fliers like just ‘Trent Fox’ or ‘The Tenants’ or ‘TFNT.’ Actually, I think I’m the only one who has ever called us ‘TFNT.’
How would you classify your own music? I hear a lot of surf rock, punk, garage and blues.
I’m a huge fan of all of those. We’ve all played in those genres with different bands before but I think what were going for with this band was more of a pop side of garage rock and roll, or at least that’s what we thought it would sound like. It developed into just writing songs that we would like if it wasn’t us playing the music. I’ve been listening to a lot of old 60’s garage albums lately. I also inherited over 1,000 country albums from my grandma so that influences the lyrics a lot, I think.
How important is reverb to you?
Hahaha. I wish I had more reverb on my vocals. Rudy uses a lot of treble and reverb to get his guitar to sound the way he wants and reverb really defined the 60’s garage movement. I don’t think we try to replicate that sound with reverb, but maybe the nostalgia. I wish I had a vocal reverb pedal like Head On Electric but I don’t enunciate well enough and I think the lyrics would be lost. No one can usually understand them as it is. Maybe that’s a good thing.
What’s a subject you seem to turn to, lyrics-wise, on a regular basis?
Really awesome things, like beer and girls and zombies and my hatred for jerks. That’s what it seems to turn out to be. I just try to mumble something the first time I hear the song or get a feeling from the other parts. After I get one good line, I usually focus the song around that idea. Most of the songs are just made up out of the blue but a couple are based on true stories, like the song “Eastsiders”. I had just put out a pumpkin I carved on the front porch and in the middle of the night some hooligans smashed it. Millies heard it going down and ran out on the porch with a baseball bat screaming “Fuck you, Eastsiders!”
What’s been your favorite show to this date and why?
Favorite show that we’ve played? I know the least favorite. We played a wedding for some good friends of ours. It was only the third or fourth show we ever had so I was pretty nervous. Then mid-set, the mother of the groom told Rudy that we should turn down because nobody wanted to hear us. Favorite though? Anytime we played with The Hussy. Those kids rip my world and always make it fun. The time we played at the Times Cinema opening for Valient Thorr, of all bands, was a lot of fun. Green Bay at the Crunchy Frog was a blast! But my personal favorite so far was probably in Winona, MN with The Bird Sounds. The place was packed and they danced up a storm without ever hearing us or knowing what we sounded like. Playing with Thomas Function a few weeks ago was rad too, but I don’t remember T-Func’s set….oops.
Any releases or plans upcoming plans to record?
We recorded ten songs in December and had a label that was really into putting out a 7” but the label had to put all new releases on hold. So hopefully that pans out sometime this year. A couple other labels showed mild interest. We’re hoping to get back into the studio and record four or five more songs so maybe they’ll catch the ear of somebody. I’d love to have something out for summer.
The first time I saw Nobunny was at The Pub and was hooked, since. Have you seen Nobunny? If yes, where and when? What’d you think?
Yes, we are all big fans of Nobunny. He played at our house a couple of times, once with Rock N Roll Adventure kids and once with Box Elders. One of the shows he played after being in a car accident and that was probably my favorite because we didn’t know if he was going to show up in time for the show. He is an ultimate performer and his recordings are so lo-fi, yet so damn catchy. I really can’t wait for his next LP. I know this weekend is going to be a blast! I haven’t seen Lover! yet, so I’m pretty excited for that and I know Gut Reactions is going to rip it up like always and then some.
Trent Fox and the Tenants open for Nobunny at Club Garibaldi’s (2501 S. Superior) on Saturday, May 15th at 9 p.m. Also playing: Lover!, Gut Reactions and the Get Drunk DJs.