Rocket From The Crypt frontman John ‘Speedo’ Reis has been making music for almost three decades. Speedo, as we’ll refer to him from now on, has fronted the likes of The Night Marchers and Sultans, as well as play guitar for Pitchfork, Drive Like Jehu, Hot Snakes and, most recently, with the Blind Shake. Here’s the eight definitive moments from his prolific career…
PITCHFORK – Sinking (Saturn Outhouse, 1989) After finding his feet in high school bands like Conservative Itch, Speedo’s first notable band featured future Drive Like Jehu and Hot Snakes frontman Rick Froberg. His slowburning, intricate guitar style and quiet/loud dynamics would later provide the blueprint for many post-hardcore bands. The San Diego quartet would release one full-length album, Eucalyptus in 1990, but our attention turns to Sinking, taken from the Saturn Outhouse EP released one year earlier.
**DRIVE LIKE JEHU – Bullet Train To Vegas **(Yank Crime, 1994) Formed from the ashes of Pitchfork, Speedo and Froberg were joined by bassist Mike Kennedy and drummer Mark Trombino. Drive Like Jehu is where the magic really started to happen. Named after a king in the Bible, the band’s two albums – their self-titled 1991 debut and the 1994 follow-up, Yank Crime – yielded a frenetic, progressive take on twisting hardcore, topped off with Froberg’s rasping howl. This album highlight is often performed during Hot Snakes’ shows.
BACK OFF CUPIDS – Trivial Pursuit (Back Off Cupids, 2000) Back Off Cupids was the result of a solo project recorded sporadically during the mid-90s. Largely compromised of instrumental tracks, this self-titled release features guest appearances from RFTC’s horn section, Jason Crane and Paul O’ Beirne. Check out Trivial Pursuit, which takes its name from the popular Parker Brothers board game.
HOT SNAKES – If Credit’s What Matters I’ll Take Credit (Automatic Midnight, 2000) Speedo reunited with Froberg and enlisted The Delta 72 drummer Jason Kourkounis for Hot Snakes’ debut album, Automatic Midnight, which was released at the turn of the millennium. They later enlisted Tanner frontman Gar Wood to assume bass duties on tour. Picking up where Drive Like Jehu left off, Hot Snakes simplified their previous sound to create a more direct, yet similarly powerful proposition, represented best with this searing cut from that album.
SULTANS – Just A Fool (Ghost Ship, 2000) Sultans released two albums during their seven-year career. Initially, Speedo played bass alongside RFTC guitarist Andy ‘ND’ Stamets, to offer fans a raucous, stripped back take on traditional rock n’ roll. For this album, he assumed the name of Slasher. No idea why.
THE NIGHT MARCHERS – All Hits (Allez! Allez!, 2013) For his next band, Speedo combined the distinctive sounds of his other bands to create The Night Marchers’ ominous bursts of rock n’ roll. Check out All Hits, the third song from their 2013 album, Allez! Allez! presumably named to appeal to the fickle Gallic market.
SWAMI JOHN REIS AND THE BLIND SHAKE – Wet Greek (Modern Surf Classics, 2015) The latest addition to Reis’ house of music, Swami John Reis – one of Speedo’s many aliases – joined forces with the Minneapolis trio earlier this year for an album of baleful surf rock. Check out Wet Greek, which takes the traditional music of the financially troubled country and firmly hits the accelerator pedal.
ROCKET FROM THE CRYPT – On A Rope (Scream, Dracula!, Scream, 1995) Where to begin with this band is a whole other feature. Formed around the same time as Drive Like Jehu, Rocket From The Crypt was a very different beast. The result of a head-on collision between punk and Motown, the band – who wore matching outfits and inspired fans to ink themselves with their Pushead-designed logo – gradually expanded to a sextet, including a two-piece horn section. They disbanded in 2007, only to reform in late 2011 for a surprise appearance on the US children’s TV show, Yo Gabba Gabba (Speedo appears on the show as ‘The Music Swami’). The band were something of a mainstream attraction in 1996 on the strength of their classic On A Rope, which peaked at number 12 in the UK singles chart. Check out this vintage Top Of The Pops performance. “Take it away, Teddy men…”
Rocket From The Crypt play Heavy Montreal 2015 on August 8 and Festival Supreme, Los Angeles on October 10. For more information, visit their official Facebook page.