Ventura County’s music scene may be showing no signs of getting off life support any time soon, but original music independently produced is not entirely comatose. Somewhere above Ventura College in a small garage, flanked by old exercise equipment and tubs of holiday decorations, punk rock is being made.
Legend has it that Tow Knee Chavez was formed when its two members, Dr. Stryker and the Nemesis, met in a juvenile detention facility, coincidentally for crimes so heinous the details were withheld from the public. Sources close to the band, however, say the only thing Stryker was ever guilty of was growing up in Fresno. What the Nemesis did, other than being a nerd, is anyone’s guess.
Truth is, when they’re not being slackers or working on their Web site, Chainsaw Comics, Nathan “Doctor” Stryker and Aaron “The Nemesis” Brassea are creating music that would make their punk forefathers proud. Started in the late 1990s as a four-piece, the two were forced to proceed as a duo after the unexplained simultaneous departures of their drummer and guitarist. Since then, Tow Knee Chavez has released two full-length CDs and a small handful of rare singles. The duo’s first stab at a full-length record was, for reasons still unknown, “destroyed by God,” according to Stryker. Their next recording, which was also their first official release, was a pastiche of their earliest work, a four-piece titled, Greatest Hits: That’ll Larn ’Em. Their most effort, Prospiscience, is an ambitious attempt to reconcile their punk rock sensibilities with adult responsibility.
“It’s about being a punk and growing up and asking if that’s hypocrisy. Nobody really chooses to grow up,” Stryker says.
With a sound that’s as fast and loud as it is melodic, Tow Knee Chavez may evoke the Ramones, but it’s not derivative, it’s organic. The first time they heard the Ramones it validated the music they were already writing. Stryker says he realized,
“It’s OK to write short songs with three chords.”
Stryker and Brassea are rarely in the same state, which makes collaboration challenging but not impossible; true do-it-yourselfers, they rely heavily on technology. The process begins with instant messaging online, then Stryker records the guitars and vocals in his home studio. Next, the recording goes to Brassea who adds drum and bass, and eventually they settle on a final mix. When asked how they would create together without technology, Brassea answers, “the Pony Express.” Stryker says every detail is mulled thoroughly before it is finalized. “We try to have a lot of meaning in what we do. We thoroughly discuss every thought that goes into a song.”
The result is a flavorful soup of hardcore, indie, punk and metal with a subtle hint of hip-hop accented by Stryker’s alternately screamy, talky and Billy Corganesque breathy vocals.
Live performance may not be in TKC’s near future but, their music is available online and a video for the song, “Rock ‘n’ Roll Dreams” can be viewed at www.towkneechavez.com and myspace.com/twokneechavez.