It's around 11 p.m. on a Thursday in July and there are nine people in the band room at Eleven, the City Heights nightclub, as Schitzophonics start their set. They're playing a simple blues-rock tune carried by a four-chord riff when, all of a sudden, frontman Pat Beers launches into the wildest guitar solo I've ever seen.
Beers thrashes around the stage, his guitar flailing as it lets out a flow of fuzzed-out moans. Soon Beers' strap flies off and it gets tangled up with the mic stand, but he doesn't bother to put it back on when he swings the guitar back into his hands to resume the song's driving riff.
For the rest of the hour-long set, the local trio gives the small crowd all it's got. Bassist James Accardi stalks across his corner of the stage. Lety Mora pounds on the drums. Beers barks into the microphone and whips his guitar around, somehow managing to hit all the right notes. Well, most of them, anyway.
Channeling the spirit of Jimi Hendrix and Iggy Pop—the “yin and yang of music,” as Beers calls them— Schitzophonics offer up some of the most fun psych-rock in San Diego. They might not be the best musicians— their riffs are simple, Beers says his lyrics are “gibberish” and his solos mostly consist of gnarled string bends. But their raw energy is downright narcotic.
“It's all about the freak-out. That's all it is. I don't even care about the songs, necessarily,” Beers says. “The rhythm guitar is all meant to be, like, played while on your back or doing a somersault.”
Beers, 27, has an easy smile, a delightful name (“A lot of people think it's a stage name,” Accardi says) and a really cool guitar—a well-worn, custom-built Fender Stratocaster with a dinosaur's open jaws carved into the headstock. Some people think Beers is just doing a shtick when he's on stage. Others think he's on drugs. But Mora, his wife-to-be—the wedding is on Sept. 3—says he's just being his crazy self.
When Beers and Mora did the Coronado Bay Bridge Run together in May, she notes, he took off and left her in the dust.
“He did a four-mile run over the bridge in 29 minutes, without even training for it,” she says.
On stage, Accardi and Mora make it a point to keep up.
“When we play, we do maybe a 45-minute, maybe an hour set at the most,” Accardi says. “We don't stop most of the time because we have to. We stop because we're all about to have a heart attack.”
The band started playing together in 2009; Mora, who knows Beers from high school in Arizona, joined the band when their old drummer quit—she didn't know how to play, so she had to teach herself.
At the time, their biggest goal was to play at Bar Pink, the North Park bar co-owned by John Reis, one of their musical heroes. But they've far surpassed that goal, partly with the help of FM 94/9's Tim Pyles, the band's biggest champion. They've played at The Casbah, they've hired a manager and they recently recorded a self-titled debut album that's solid even without the visual aid of Beers' onstage antics.
But it's still all about the live show. They used to get wasted before they played, but now they play sober— they can get crazier that way.
“I mean, if you drank a few beers before running, like, a few miles, it'd be disastrous. You'd just die,” Beers says. “So, I just want to put more and more energy into it. Because most of the time, I don't feel like I have enough. I just want to be able to put as much energy as I can.”
Apparently, it's become something of a necessity.
“You know when we haven't played a show in a while, because he acts funny,” Mora says. “He has to unleash it.”
Schitzophonics will celebrate the release of their new CD with The New Kinetics, Legz and JJCnV at Eleven on Friday, Aug. 12.