It sounds like a dumb frat joke. A band called Fartbarf? It all seems devised to make drunk teen boys snicker while the girls they're trying to impress roll their eyes. It could also be a side project featuring members of Limp Bizkit and the Bloodhound Gang. The music that Fartbarf creates has to be dumb-as-shit, puerile nonsense, right?
The sharper tools among you may have guessed by the way we deftly tried to lead you down that path that, in fact, such assumptions would be incorrect. Rather, Fartbarf have spent the last decade blending punk with proto-electronica, playing masses of shows and allowing an impressive local fan base to blossom.
“Early on, we were playing somewhere around 130, 140 shows [a year],” says Josh McLeod. “Just to let people know that a band called Fartbarf could take themselves seriously and try to make a name for themselves. More recently, we've been trying to take a step back and write some new material, which we're long overdue for. We're now roughly averaging one or two shows a month. Our last album was released in 2014, so we're working on a 7-inch right now that's going to be going into production pretty soon as a single.”
The same three guys — McLeod, Dan Burley and Brian Brunac — have comprised Fartbarf since its formation in 2008. One has to assume that's partly because a band called Fartbarf is always going to be a bit niche.
“The name to us is so commonplace now that we don't laugh or blink at it,” McLeod says. “After 10 years, we've finally become numb to the absurd quality of it. But I think at the end of the day, it's served a purpose, which has gone beyond what we anticipated. It's really good for Google searches, obviously. There's only one group of people in the world that would want to call themselves this, and work hard as a band. Make it happen. A lot of times early on, venues didn't want to put our name anywhere, let alone on the marquee at the front of their establishment. It was refreshing the first time we saw our name on the side of a building — we're actually accepted now.”
It's not only the venues that have an issue with the polarizing moniker; their own fans have voiced dissenting opinions.
“We've had a ton of hardcore fans who hate the fact that we chose that name, because they think it's stifling us from going anywhere,” McLeod says. “Not that that was our main agenda — we just wanted to do something that was absurd and have a good time doing it. But we do take the music really seriously. I don't know if it's a way of weeding people out, or giving them a pleasant surprise when they anticipate something really terrible and seeing us for the first time it catches them off guard when they see us. When you think about it, a lot of bands have terrible names.”
The name isn't the only thing that has drawn wide attention; the three men of Fartbarf wear rubber masks onstage, taking on the personas of “space neanderthals.” McLeod says Devo were the inspiration for those shenanigans.
“We thought it would be fun to mesh future and primitive,” he says. “We're these space neanderthals playing futuristic instruments, even though they're kinda dated at this point. We came upon these masks from the '40s at an old costume shop in Arizona that was closing, and I bought a lot of them. We wore them for hundreds and hundreds of shows until they started rotting off of our faces. Our current masks that we've had for a few years now, they've been custom-made by a Hollywood exec. We have a couple of spares, so hopefully we won't lose them. It's always on the back of our mind, though.”
So the name and the masks make for good fun and games. The band's music, however, is far tougher to pin down, and it's certainly no laughing matter. The electronic sounds played through equipment most EDM artists wouldn't consider state-of-the-art, blended with a healthy post-punk vibe, are a thrill. Clearly, Fartbarf are big Devo fans. But there are also elements of Suicide here, as well as Daft Punk and Quintron & Miss Pussycat. There's a lot going on.
“I think we consider ourselves a live, aggressive dance band,” McLeod says. “If I sum it up in a sentence, it's if Hot Chip met Devo met Slayer. Going back to the early days when we started playing shows, dubstep was huge and a lot of promoters tried to bill us with DJs like that, and we were like, 'Nah, you don't really get it.' We think of ourselves as more of a punk band than something that could go hand in hand with dubstep and that genre of music. All of us in the group grew up listening to punk and metal. So we never considered ourselves to fall into the deep house DJs genre, even though we're playing electronic music.”
The band members are all based in the South Bay area, specifically Redondo Beach and San Pedro, though they've recently made Long Beach a sort of home base.
“There are some interesting things coming out — it seems like there was a lull for a while there,” McLeod says. “It seems like there's a cool garage-rock thing going on. We play a lot of shows in Long Beach, and they always surprise us with different fun bands we'd never heard of. The city has really embraced art and culture, no one has a chip on their shoulder, and the whole vibe is thriving right now.”
This week, Fartbarf indeed play Long Beach, at Alex's Bar. They have some new material they've been working into the set, and they have a new 7-inch single on the way too.”We at least want to get a single out there for people to listen to,” McLeod says. “From there, we're just trying to get this album written and recorded, hopefully by the end of the year.”
That's Fartbarf then. Not at all silent, but deadly serious.
Fartbarf play with Bella Novella and NewEvil at 8 p.m. on Saturday, April 6, at Alex's Bar.