Sin Like You Mean It

The Flametrick Subs & Satan's Cheerleaders

I had a dream the other night: There were fuzzy bunnies leaping over a thumbnail crescent moon in a beautiful, azure sky. The bunnies were being chased willy-nilly through fields of pink daffodils, where little blue smurfs bantered about little blue smurf-things and a golden unicorn grazed in a dappled, sunlit field. In the background, I could hear children giggling and the most gorgeous music I'd ever heard wafted in on a cool ocean breeze, redolent with the scent of honeysuckle and Aunt Bea's steaming apple pies.

And then the dream began to change: I heard someone yell "Pull!" and fuzzy bunny number one exploded in a shower of bone fragments and singed fur. A gentle rain pattered down around me, bright, bright red and when I caught some on my tongue, it tasted like a mouthful of dirty pennies.

The smurfs were no longer blue. In fact they weren't really smurfs after all. They looked more like Elvis' evil twins, white-trash sex dwarves manhandling guitars and doing unspeakable things to the unicorn, who grunted soundlessly in pain and dismay (although those watery equine eyes told a different story). The children were screaming now, and the air smelled like Pine-Sol and sweaty vinyl upholstery with funny little stains on it. The crust of Aunt Bea's pie was roiling like a miniature stormfront. Those weren't apples in there. No way. Uh-uh.

Abruptly I woke up. I have these sorts of dreams a lot these days. I blame them entirely on the Flametrick Subs and their cohorts in sin, Satan's Cheerleaders. I can't wait for bedtime these days, lemme tell ya....

Every Wednesday night now, for going on a full year, local psychobilly graverobbers from hell, the Flametrick Subs, have been taking Paul Sessums's Black Cat lounge and turning it into a combination of White Trash Deluxe and Russ Meyer's secret fantasy playground. Fronted by rhythm guitarist/songwriter Buster Crash, lead guitarist Clem Hoot's insanely tight, six-stringed flailings, and rounded out by a thundering, whiplash rhythm section in the form of Peggy Suicide's upright bass stylings and Johnny Cat's busted-soul standup drumwork, the Subs have managed to parlay some of the sickest, meanest, nastiest psychobilly swamp-rock into a working near-legend. Austin is a town that loves to sin, and the Subs and their shimmying backup dancers, Satan's Cheerleaders, sin like they mean it.

"It's difficult to come up with a working definition of what we sound like," says Crash, "but a good one is -- if the Cramps were from Texas." Adds lead guitarist Clem Hoot, "It's a hoedown. More than that, really. We're definitely a live act, although we've just cut a CD."

The CD in question, Amaze Your Friends With X-Ray Glasses, came about as a result of the band's incendiary Emo's performance at this year's SXSW. Set for a November release on Teen Rebel Records out of Miami, Florida, the CD is crammed with sick and wrong tales of white-trash debauchery and Bad Girls Gone Worse. "The term psychobilly has been bandied about so much lately," says Crash, "that it seems to encompass a very broad range of things. If you're not traditional rockabilly, like High Noon, and you're not a grunge band, if you fall somewhere in between that, then you're psychobilly. Not that we consider ourselves a grunge band. I hate those guys. I break 'em like fucking twigs."

Crash continues: "What I've discerned about it, the rockabilly scene here in Austin, and probably in other places too, is that's there's a division. You've got your traditional rockabilly cats and then there [are] the people who are really more open to permutations on that theme. To some people, like, say High Noon, if it's not 1954 or earlier, it doesn't bear listening to. They think we're speed metal. And that's a quote.

"I personally like the whole shebang. I listen to and absorb everything -- at least in modern rockabilly music -- from the Cramps to High Noon. I like it all, but unfortunately, there seems to be some sort of rift between the crowds."

In the year since the Subs have been slotted as regulars at the Black Cat, the hump-day crowds (test your white-trash I.Q. on that one why dontcha?) have mushroomed from a few starving psychobilly fanatics to a huge, swollen Sin-O-Rama free for all, frequently spilling out onto the street and sucking in unsuspecting passers-by like maggots to a dead raccoon. (And I mean that in the very best sense of the phrase.) Much of this groundswell in popularity falls squarely on the heads of Satan's Cheerleaders, a beyond-sexy triumvirate of the devil's own backup squad. They shimmy, they grind, they ooze giggly evil in such quantities that rumor has it Paul Sessums had to hire someone just to mop up the sticky little puddles of lust left over after every gig. Forget about lipstick on your collar -- you've got sin-juice on your shoes.

Currently made up of Shayne Wallis, Brandi Soules, and Nicole Labry, the Cheerleaders act as a visual stimulant to the band's snakeskin melodics. "I went home one night and said a prayer that maybe we'd have Satanic cheerleaders at our next show," says Crash, "and lo and behold, there they were, Halloween Night, 1995. If you can't dazzle them with your musical abilities, throw some tits and ass on the stage and they'll stick around."

Shayne Wallis and Brandi Soules
photograph by Johnny Medina
Clad in fetchingly creepy black and red PVC cheerleading outfits (what else?) complete with "666" emblazoned on their, um, "robust chestal regions," horns on their heads, and black and red pom-poms, the Cheerleaders are juicy, squirmy eye candy for the Damned Generation.

Wallis: "When an audience comes to see us, I want them to be confused. I want them to feel like somebody tied them up and gave them that date-rape drug. They should wonder if we're serious or not. If they leave scratching their heads and sweating a lot, then we've done our job."

While not officially part of the band, the Cheerleaders remain integral to the lascivious, unholy, decidedly un-Christian nature of the Flametrick Subs Experience. "The band stands on its own, really," asserts Wallis. "They're great by themselves, and they certainly don't have to have us there, but we're just sort of a dark little bonus you get when you pay your cover charge and walk in."

Imagine what Jerry Lee Lewis would have done had he had Satan's Cheerleaders behind him in his glory daze. Well, okay, it's probably easier to imagine what The Killer would have done to Satan's Cheerleaders, but that's a whole other line of debauchery. Suffice to say, on any given night, the Subs are mind-numbingly bizarre, the Cheerleaders are drop-dead gorgeous, but put 'em together on the same stage and you're going to hell satisfied. Lip-licking, blood-drinking good fun, boring Christians be damned.

"As I told my mom," says Wallis, "in this day and age, people like Bad Girls, and by no means are they going to come and see `Jesus's Cheerleaders.' If you want to be a Bad Girl onstage and you want to be a cheerleader, what better than Satan's Cheerleaders? And if we were going to be backing the Devil's football team, what would his number be? 666, of course. See, it all makes sense if you just stop to think about it...."

Buster Crash: "In my humble opinion, rock & roll and Satan have always kind of gone hand in hand. You take the two apart and you get music without the `rock & roll,' and then if you try to throw God into the mix, you end up with crap. Every time. Just ask Amy Grant. I mean, even Chuck Berry, that old shit-eater, or the Rolling Stones.... We just advertise it a little more."

Which begs the question: How does Austin's local Southern Baptist community feel about all this hell-raising?

"We haven't really had much trouble from the Christians yet," says Crash, "but boy, we can't wait 'til we do. My buddy John wants to dress up in sackclothes and Birkenstocks and head down to the Drag to round up a bunch of those Pentecostals and tell 'em, `Boys, I'm with you 100 percent! Have you seen what's going down at the Black Cat on Wednesday nights? They've got nubile young girls cheering for Satan himself!" Hell, we could get a bunch of people protesting out front. Good for business. It worked for Malcolm McLaren, anyway." n

The Flametrick Subs celebrate their one-year anniversary Halloween night at the Black Cat.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More by Marc Savlov
The Dead Don't Die
After the vampiric bite of Only Lovers Left Alive, Jim Jarmusch shambles through this zombie flick

June 14, 2019

Godzilla: King of the Monsters
Who will win this epic new battle royal as Godzilla faces King Ghidorah?

May 31, 2019

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle