After Five Years of Touring And Demolition, Rock 'n' Roll is Killing the Charm City Suicides
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It's an archetypal punk-rock image. Evelyn Apichella, a pleasant woman with white hair and pictures of cats on her gray sweatshirt, sits calmly in her kitchen in her idyllic house in Glen Arm reading the newspaper on a rainy Saturday afternoon. She graciously ignores the deafening blasts of noise coming from the basement beneath her, where her son Mike and his band, the Charm City Suicides, are practicing.
In fact, the Charm City Suicides refer to their style of music as "basement violence." "It's 'basement' because we record and play in a lot of basements, and they're usually really small so you end up bumping into people a lot," explains Mike Apichella, the band's singer since it formed in 1997.
The Charm City Suicides have gained a strong reputation locally and elsewhere for its sound--a messy, frenetic fusion of punk, hardcore, garage, and noise--and its unpredictable, charismatic live shows. CCS manages to retain a basic forward momentum without sacrificing shrieks of feedback and Apichella's desperate, dissonant screams. Live they are just as chaotic and powerful: Apichella and bassist Walker Stump-Coale throw their bodies around like dodge balls. And they spent the summer doing that around the country at, Apichella says, "clubs, people's houses, halls, a pizza place, [and] two skate parks."
But drummer Brendan McLaughlin is not happy. He's not happy that CCS had a new album come out this month. He's not happy that CCS plays a record-release show this weekend celebrating that new album. He's going to miss it--the basements, the skate parks, the houses, the band.
This weekend, the Charm City Suicides play their final show ever at the Ottobar. The band is breaking up at a point when it is playing better and is known by more people than ever before. "It's kind of disappointing," says McLaughlin, who jokes about hoping to form another band just like CCS. "I just thought we had so much potential."
The breakup was the decision of Apichella, who wants to move on. "I got bored with the music," he says. "We feel like it's as good as it's going to get right now." Apichella believes that CCS--known for singing about pizza, girls, and bicycles--would not be the ideal vehicle for his current ideas.
Even so, Apichella realize that CCS are breaking up just as they have started to break out of the basement. "We played more shows and more big shows this past year than we ever have before," he says. "I'm just not that into this music anymore."
The band's second album, Charm City Suicides 2, came out Nov. 19 on Baths of Power, the record label run by Apichella and his friend Corey Davolos. The final show also serves as 2's release party, as well as the 13th-birthday party of Fells Point punk superstore Reptilian Records.
It promises to be a good send-off, but McLaughlin isn't happy with the timing of it all. A CD-release show that's also a final concert ever? Who does that? "Nobody's going to buy the fucking record," he says. "The only way to sell the record is to play shows."
"I always thought the band was more about friendship than making it," counters Stump-Coale. "When the other two people left, it took something away." Stump-Coale is referring to last year's departure of drummer Damir Marusic and founding guitarist Josh Marchant.
"I started losing interest when Josh left," Apichella agrees. "We'll all miss it, but anything we go on to do will surely be better."
Though many of the members of the band may be ready to move on, it's plain that Baltimore's music scene will be missing something without the primal punk-rock energy that CCS provided. "Charm City's about getting your message out in the simplest way possible," McLaughlin says. "We intentionally play simple stuff, not because that's all we can play, but because that's what we like. If you love us or hate us, it's over in 20 minutes."
"We had this original sound without being too experimental," Apichella says. "That made us unique."
Most of the members of the Charm City Suicides have new projects already in the works or underway. Guitarist Brian Dubin makes up one-third of art-punk provocateurs Double Dagger, while McLaughlin and CCS touring bassist Brad Smith are both members of Night Over Calgary. McLaughlin also speaks of wanting to form "either a Led Zeppelin or a Black Flag cover band."
Apichella plans to release posthumous CCS recordings on Baths of Power and has his own new musical directions in mind. "The new band I'm in, Human Host, is going to be primarily keyboards," he says. Human Host also includes original CCS guitarist Josh Marchant. Marchant also plays as a solo artist and writes the zine Supplemental Code Information, which is distributed by Baths of Power. "[Mike and I] were playing in bands together for six and a half years, and I can get stuff done with Mike that I can't get done with anyone else," Marchant says.
Meanwhile, CCS are busy preparing for their final show at the Ottobar. "I look at [the show] as a way of saying thank you to the people that have supported us," Apichella says. "Our biggest support has been in Baltimore." Marchant is rejoining the band for the last show, and it will be the first and only time that he will perform with the current lineup.
"I care about the band a lot," Marchant says. "Anything that you'd do for four years, except probably high school, you'd have to have some attachment to."
Stump-Coale, who was replaced by Smith for the recent tour and the recording of the new album, also rejoins the band. He has been an inactive member of the band for the past several months because of his job as a campaign worker for Kathleen Kennedy Townsend. "Just for the record, I really wish I'd gone on tour instead of working for [Townsend]," he says. "I'll probably start delivering pizzas or something now if I'm lucky."
With the end of CCS and the recent onstage breakup of Stars of the Dogon, Baltimore is losing two of its most unpredictable and entertaining bands. Local music fans can only hope that the former members of these bands will go on to equal their past successes. "The loudness of [Charm City Suicides] and the theatrical performance of it are really valuable things," Apichella says. "And I hope they're things that'll stay with us whatever we do."
The Charm City Suicides play the Ottobar Nov. 30 with the Means, Mannequin, and Clancy 6. For information, call (410) 662-0069 or visit www.theottobar.com.