Rickshaw Billie's Burger Patrol Stays Hungry

A serious band with a silly name and an all-in mentality

Rickshaw Billie’s Burger Patrol: (l-r) Leo Lydon, Aaron Metzdorf, and Sean St. Germain (Photos by David Brendan Hall)

"It's like Andrew W.K., but less party."

That characterization, by singer, guitarist, and lyricist Leo Lydon, comes as a surprise to me. Given his band's ludicrous name, Rickshaw Billie's Burger Patrol, and campy record titles like Grease Beast, BEEF, and Burger Babes…From Outer Space!, I expected a fun, playful, carefree aesthetic – possibly including some deep, imaginative lore: a Rickshaw Billie's extended universe with colorful characters, distant planets, and buxom babes being saved by hunky hamburger men.

"The lyrics are pretty serious," elucidates Lydon with a half smile. "They're pretty metal."

As it turns out, RBBP is a serious band with a silly name.

By now, if you pay any measure of attention to the local rock scene, you've probably seen their name festooning flyers, spotted one of their myriad shirt designs sported around town, or, like me, heard their ridiculously long name and immediately became unable to forget it.

The trio's local recognition has grown steadily, especially over the past couple years, which – if you haven't heard – were kind of rough on bands whose calling card is their live show. Between city shutdowns, venue closures, and widespread financial strain, the live music capital of the world had to hit hold on that title for a while. Some musician friends even reported not getting on a stage for over two years. Rickshaw Billie's Burger Patrol, however, never let the fire go out.

"You have to keep moving," Lydon reflects of the Great Pause. "I couldn't just sit around and wait for everything."

This attitude was, and still is, reflected in the Patrol's indefatigable work ethic. Their seemingly constant in-town gigging and steady stream of releases appear to be a game plan that works for them.

"It's like baseball," explains bassist Aaron Metzdorf. "Just get on base. Make a good product."

Simple enough. However, that "good product" he speaks of isn't so simple to pin down, labelistically. You see, in a genre that abounds in subclassifications, one is challenged to sum up these cheeseburger guys and their sound with just a word or two.

"It's metal you can dance to," explains Lydon. "It's pop metal. Doom-wop."

"Groove metal," adds Metzdorf.

"When booking out-of-town shows, I usually have to say 'heavy groove rock trio,'" chimes in drummer Sean St. Germain. "Bookers have told me that when they hear groove metal, they think Pantera."

Between Lydon's high-kicking antics, Metzdorf's back-bending physical feats, and St. Germain's often-shirtless, always-smiling energy, their live show's a maelstrom of good vibes and loud noise. This groovy brand of loud guitar rock stands in stark contrast to the sea of serious, scowling metal bands that populate the majority of heavy music circles. Lovingly layering their sonic sandwich with a patty of properass metal riffs made extra crunchy by Lydon's eight-string guitar (see the opening to "Baby Man" and "Sister Militia") spread with some tastefully timed metal screaming (check out the end of "Death Wagon"), they add in a pinch of classic prog rock (refer to "Maniac," which sounds straight-up like Rush) and nestle it all between the warm buns of Lydon's post-grunge singing voice that lands somewhere between Ozzy, Mike Patton, and Perry Farrell, bridging a refreshingly contemporary style of rock with a nostalgic Nineties zeitgeist.

What all these ingredients add up to is an approachable, accessible heavy metal Happy Meal that's easy to love.

Recipe for Success

Things are good for the Patrol these days with solid streaming numbers, encouraging record and merch sales, and a profitable gigging schedule. The band is already 66.6% on the way to being professional musicians, as the string players focus entirely on the band and recently were able to quit the crummy-day-job part of the local rock star life. And all this came about since the pandemic, when many bands have been on unspecified hiatus and struggling.

But the story of Rickshaw Billie's Burger Patrol begins in the Before Times, pre-pandemmy, in a place many Austinites (this interviewer included) have inhabited: a sprawling, colorful apartment complex at the corner of East Riverside and Pleasant Valley known affectionately as "the Met." For the uninitiated, the Metropolis Apartments are like a hard-partying fraternity for arty weirdos in suspended adolescence and innumerable stray cats. Cheap and social, it's a great launching point for young new-to-towners – especially musicians, since they allow residents to practice in their apartments until 10pm-ish. Many of us met lifelong friends and future bandmates there … and some of us met future cellmates.

It was there that next-door neighbors (well, upstairs/downstairs, anyway) St. Germain and Lydon became acquainted at a party in 2015. Both were Boston-area transplants and musicians. St. Germain had moved here from New England with a self-described dad-rock band, while Lydon had been prompted by Austin friends to come to town to take part in the filming of a music video. Hitting it off, they soon began playing together under the name Chuck Bucket, but in March of 2017, they played a show with new material and a new, fast-food name.

The Metropolis has a pool, the viscosity of which hints toward equal parts water, spilled booze, and urine. And next to this swimmable septic tank there's a stage … like, an actual, full-sized stage for performances … in the middle of an apartment complex. And on top of some pretty mediocre DJ sets and some downright terrible singer-songwriters, I saw performances by German psych rockers Kadavar and even Greg fucking Ginn of Black Flag transpire poolside. It was also here that Rickshaw Billie's Burger Patrol first, truly, broke bread.

"It was a joke," remembers St. Germain. "For our first show, we had burger nicknames. We were playing the pool at the Metropolis, and someone was grilling burgers next to the stage."

While the boys were lukewarm on the hamburger-intensive premise, they liked what they played.

"The music felt great, but the schtick didn't fit," says St. Germain.

“It’s metal you can dance to. It’s pop metal. Doom-wop.” – Leo Lydon, Rickshaw Billie’s Burger Patrol

What did stick was the Rickshaw name and musical partnership. That same year they released the cheekily titled debut EP, Burger Time Classics, along with a music video, featuring a fourpiece Burger Patrol.

"We used to have a second guitarist. He couldn't make a show that we couldn't cancel, and we couldn't find another eight-string guitar player, so we just played with the three of us … and afterwards, we were just like, 'This works,'" St. Germain says with an approving gesture.

EPs would follow annually over the next two years as they trimmed the fat down to the working power trio format. And as their discography steadily grew, so did their fan base. More and more, the burger band moniker was spotted on flyers, increasingly headlining and also touring the Southeast. But it was late 2018 that brought the Burger Patrol into its final form. Georgia native Aaron Metzdorf, based on a coin toss, had decided to move to Austin.

"It was loud," laughs Metzdorf about his new home. "I didn't know anyone in the state of Texas and Burger Patrol was some of the first music I saw."

Leo Lydon with his eight-string guitar and dual amps, during a recent RBBP show at Stubb’s

Befriending the band, he began to help them sell merch and move gear, eventually going out on tour with them as a roadie. Then, on Halloween of 2019, he graduated from band friend to bassist.

"I'm still the band's No. 1 fan and now I have the most front-row seat to it every night," he smiles. "I'll never get over that."

"Since he joined, the band is like it should have been since day one," comments Lydon of the personnel change. "That's when everything clicked into gear."

Shortly after the final lineup coagulated like grease at the bottom of a cardboard clamshell container, the band set out to stake their claim with a busy 2020.

"2020 was going to be a big national touring year," says St. Germain, who handles most of the band's booking. "And then that all went to shit. We had almost the entire year booked and then," he snapped his fingers, "we lost it all in a day."

But COVID-19 did nothing but further solidify the band's dedication.

"We just didn't take our foot off the gas. Just kept rolling with the punches," explains Metzdorf.

"It didn't even cross our minds to not [keep our foot on the gas]," adds St Germain.

"It was fight or flight," agrees Lydon.

They poured themselves headlong into the writing and recording of their first full-length, Burger Babes…From Outer Space!, which was released in November of that year and has since sold out of physical copy – with a second pressing arriving this fall.

"A lot of bands didn't want to put records out at the time because they couldn't play and tour," remembers St. Germain. "We said, 'Fuck that shit, we're writing music. Our people wanna hear it.'"

With the loss of national tours, they kept fighting the good fight, releasing a deluge of merch, doing fire-sales on shirts to finance the band while gigging wasn't an option, and even hand-delivering packages around town. With these earnings and their own do-or-die ethos, they filmed music videos for Burger Babes cuts "Baby Man" and "Death Wagon" on a budget to keep the ball rolling through the shutdown. The hard work paid off; the Far Out Lounge was able to start hosting live shows in the fall of 2020, and the Patrol got early calls to cook up some of their sweet meat onstage for hungry fans. And when live music came back citywide, RBBP began a relentless campaign of gigging that has remained constant to this day.

The Secret Sauce

"The goal is to sound like one instrument," explains Metzdorf of the Rickshaw Billie's Burger Patrol live experience.

The wall of Worshiper speaker cabinets emits a clarity of tone that unifies a setup that's pretty unconventional for their genre. On bass, Metzdorf plays mostly full chords to fill out Lydon's largely single-note style. Lydon fell in love with the eight-string guitar years ago after acquiring one for an audition with well-known mathcore unit the Tony Danza Tapdance Extravaganza. That thick, red axe – counting two extra strings (B and F sharp) that stretch its lower register (additionally, the top string is also tuned down a whole step) – runs into dual amps: a Sunn Model T and an Orange Terror Bass. Altogether, its uniquely booming blast blurs the lines between a bass and a guitar, which allows Metzdorf to actually carry the higher end. No wonder audience members are often rubbernecking at their gear, attempting to understand how exactly they're making this unique brand of heaviosity.

Simply put by Lydon, "You have to see it live."

With that in mind, the band is planning a tour this summer and a new album this fall, with hopes for a distribution deal to accompany it. But these hamburglars remain defiantly independent and they don't want some suit with a big cigar coming around to pitch the "I'll make you a star!" bullshit.

"We don't want a label, we'd rather do it ourselves," says Metzdorf in no uncertain terms.

"We want to be out playing, eventually headlining. A label won't help with that. If we can do it ourselves, we'll do it ourselves," agrees St. Germain.

"If we don't know how to do something, then we can figure it out," adds Metzdorf. "Rule No. 1: Don't get fucked. Rule No. 2: Make a quality product and work your ass off."

When asked about the future they do want for themselves, they all agree that it's not in big arenas: "When you can't shake [fans'] hands, that's too big," Lydon says earnestly, then laughs. "We want to play Saint Vitus, not MSG."

As far as their musical hometown? Rickshaw Billie and the boys have nothing but love for the fans, double cheeseburgers from Dan's, and the music scene that helped birth them.

"Who's helping you and how are you helping out other people? And how are you helping grow this whole thing that you're a part of?" Lydon ponders. "Austin has that. A lot of people here want to help each other out."

St Germain agrees: "That's something I still love about this city. It's not about awards or recognition, but about building that family, because that's going to last longer. And it's unreal how kind people have been to us over these past few years."

Rickshaw Billie’s Burger Patrol plays Saturday at the Far Out for the Lonestar Unleashed mini-fest headlined by Dallas doom-psych heroes Wo Fat, and Monday at Sagebrush with Greenbeard, before kicking off their Midwest tour with a performance at Mohawk on July 6.

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Rickshaw Billie's Burger Patrol, Leo Lydon, Sean St Germaine, Aaron Metzdorf

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