The Hot Snakes owe me some new speakers.
"Sometimes a record doesn't sound good loud," says guitarist John Reis, "but this one sounds like it's loud even when it's quiet."
The album's opener, "Braintrust" detonates like a grenade out of my feeble car speakers, pushing them past the factory-tested limits and into audio-component oblivion.
"We tried to make a record that would do that," chuckles Reis. "That's a cool way to hear a record. You're not really expecting it."
Not really true. Music fans have been patiently waiting for the return of the "downstroke enthusiasts." It's been two years since their last album, Suicide Invoice, and Reis-along with vocalist-guitarist Rick Froeberg, bassist Gar Wood and new drummer Mario Rubalcaba-is preparing for the release of a third long-player, Audit in Progress, and an extensive tour.
With Froeberg working as a graphic artist in New York City, Wood enrolled in school and Reis running his own label, Swami Records, time is scarce for the Hot Snakes. This isn't lost on Reis or other members of the band.
"We wanted to play more the last time around, but the schedules wouldn't permit it. We had so much fun that we were a bit bummed when it was over, 'cause we were just getting going, hitting a stride and then it was over," Reis says.
Maybe that's why more and more fans are getting hooked on the Hot Snakes-low supply, high demand. Or it could be pedigree. The members' CVs read like an almanac of underground rock. Reis is the vocalist of Rocket From the Crypt; Froeberg was in Drive Like Jehu and Pitchfork (along with Reis); Wood fronted Tanner and currently plays in Beehive and the Barracudas; and Rubalcaba drummed brutally for Clikitat Ikatowi, beautifully for Black Heart Procession and now soulfully for RFTC.
All this juggling has allowed the Hot Snakes to maintain a loose and creative approach to things, which has led to three albums of fun, brutal punk rock.
"There are certain things we all want to do musically that we probably couldn't achieve in our other bands. That chemistry is irreplaceable," Reis says. "The Hot Snakes kind of feels like the sum of everything that Rick, myself, Gar and Mario have done in our past."
Audit in Progress merges the best elements of the previous two albums, albeit a bit more wound up. The songs were rehearsed for two weeks and then recorded in four days by Ben Moore at Big Fish studios.
"No matter how good your recording is, you are not going to make a bad song better," Reis says of their approach to recording. "All of our favorite music is recorded... pretty poorly, but it really doesn't matter to us."
For the first time in Hot Snakes history, the band will embark on a tour covering both coasts, with additional dates in 2005. For Reis, it's a bit like going to Ralphs on an empty stomach.
"I don't know if you've ever been grocery shopping when you're hungry and you end up spending 200 bucks," he says, "but it's kinda like that."The Hot Snakes play with The Husbands and Trouble Everyday at the Epicentre, 7 p.m. on Oct. 1. $13-$14. 858-271-4000.