The Fleshtones bring back raucousness
The Fleshtones' frontman Peter Zaremba seems perfectly at ease when explaining that since forming the group in 1976, the members have always held strong Southern ties despite their New York roots.
"We're Yankees who are very comfortable in the South," he offers with a thick, Queens accent. From there he tells stories of passing through Georgia in the band's early days and buddying up with the "boys" in Athens who later became R.E.M. "We played there a lot back in those days, and were a good influence on them."
The Fleshtones 1981 debut Roman Gods put the group on the map as purveyors of what they call "super rock." It's an intense merger of punk and alternative meshed with '60s soul, surf and garage. In the beginning, the press called them garage rock revivalists, but their songs transcend simple nostalgia.
Through acquaintances with such bands as the Cramps and Boston's proto punks the Real Kids, the Fleshtones encountered various approaches to wistful rebellion and developed their own raucous sound. "When we saw the Real Kids it was an important moment for us," Zaremba explains. "We said, 'Alright, let's not just love this music, let's make this music."
The group has remained remarkably consistent since 1990. Zaremba and original drummer Bill Milhizer, along with guitarist Keith Streng and bassist Ken Fox, round-out the Fleshtones' line-up. After releasing scores of albums, such songs as "First Date (Are You Coming on to Me)," "Shiny Heinie" and the rollicking "Jet-Set Fleshtones" from last year's Take A Good Look, reel with more energy and spontaneity than, frankly, anything throughout the Fleshtones' catalogue. "We tortured ourselves when we made albums like Roman Gods," Zaremba laughs. "It's not like we're in a studio trying to communicate ideas to an engineer who doesn't understand; which was the case back then. Their lives were dedicated to taking raucousness out of recordings. Nowadays we just have fun."