Walking into Mad Anthony’s practice space, the stench is the first thing that hits you. A smelly concoction of musty boxes, stale beer and good, old-fashioned B.O. swirl together to instantly assault your sinuses.
But when the shirts come off and the first chords are struck, you quickly realize that the gritty Rock & Roll perfectly fits the odor. It’s dirty music, written by three dirty guys, for fans of dirty music.
Since forming in 2007, Mad Anthony has been recording and touring almost non-stop. The Cincinnati band has also pared down to a trio. For guitarists/vocalists Ringo Jones and Adam Flaig, along with drummer Marc Sherlock, doing more with less and going back to basics are mantras that they’ve applied to all aspects of the band.
Touring and performing without a bass might seem odd to some music fans, but for Mad Anthony it helped them grow as musicians.
Jones and Flaig explain, “The more cooks in the kitchen, the less food you get.”
“We’re a Rock & Roll band,” Flaig continues. “We don’t need a bass player. And it made us tighter, in a personal sense as friends and also in a musical sense. When the three of us are together, it feels different; it feels a lot more congealed.”
The members of Mad Anthony, christened The Unit by a friend, have had plenty of time to congeal prior to the recording of their new, self-titled album, due to their rigorous touring schedule.
Jones says, “When you play that much with somebody, you anticipate what they’re going to do, you know how people are going to do things and it not only makes you a better musician, as a group you’re more in tune with what’s going on.”
When you compare Mad Anthony to the boys’ previous LP, I Spent All My Money on Speed Metal, the connection between the guys is immediately noticeable.
No bass on the recording means the songs are more a kick to the teeth than a kick to the gut. That isn’t to say the low end is neglected — it’s just been filled out by dirty guitar tones and Sherlock’s scalpel-sharp drumming. Flaig’s leads have added a bluesy quality to his established Punk roots.
But perhaps the biggest change comes from Jones’ vocal delivery. Namely, it’s stronger and more dynamic. If Danzig is known as evil Elvis, then Jones could be called sleazy Elvis.
“The biggest thing is I got more confident with my voice and, after a couple of records, I got more comfortable telling people how I want my voice to sound like,” Jones says. “I want to capture my voice the way I hear it in my head.”
The time spent on perfecting the sound has paid off in spades: Jones’ vocals now set the tone for the tracks, whether it is the full-on auditory assault on “City” or the Bluegrass-twinged “BOOB.”
Mad Anthony is an album that hearkens back to Rock & Roll’s birth. But far from being one-dimensional, the album celebrates much of what makes Rock & Roll so dynamic. Jones’ lyrics sprinkle the 12 tracks with tales from the road, stories of the blue-collar worker and one cleverly disguised middle finger to crappy shows in small towns. The trio then brought in elements of Metal, Rock, Punk, Blues, Funk and (believe it or not) Pop to give each song its own identity.
Jones says, “My personal goal for the record was to make it more listener-friendly. I want a Pop record, but I want it to hit you so hard that you fall over. I don’t want you to have to find the melody; I want it to hit you in the face.”
While Flaig and Sherlock balk a bit at the use of the P-word, they share Jones’ sentiment. Sherlock says, “It definitely feels good when it’s all over and you realize that you did write something that everybody’s going to love.”
Jones sums it all up, saying, “The biggest difference between (Mad Anthony) and Speed Metal is we know who we are and the songs are better, that’s really all it is. Each of us knows who we are as a musician and we wrote better songs.”
In the years between the LPs, Mad Anthony has shrunk in number but the individuals have grown as musicians and writers. They’ve narrowed their scope, focusing on their Rock & Roll roots. In doing so, they’ve broadened their sound exponentially.
With all the work put into crafting the leanest, meanest music possible, it’s fitting for Flaig to wrap up several years of writing and months of recording with one sentence: “At the end of the day, the music has to sound good, it doesn’t matter what it sounds like.”
MAD ANTHONY plays Saturday at Mainstay Rock Bar with The Sundresses, The Lions Rampant, The Harlequins and Banderas.
Photo: Desiree Grigsby/Erocdrah Flash Photography