High Hopes: Biters

Disaffected small-town punk gets kicked out of high school, moves to the city, his band promptly get signed but implode in a cacophony of drugs and rock’n’roll excess. His second band meet the same fate. Said punk might have subsequently crawled into a bottle/Xbox/bag of crack for the rest of his life.

Or, if you’re Tuk Smith, you get it together and form Biters – one of the sparkiest power-pop-charged rock’n’roll acts to have emerged of late, having completed a mighty debut, Electric Blood. If Cheap Trick teamed up with Thin Lizzy and dressed like the Ramones, this could be the result.

“It was a non-stop shit show,” the singer/guitarist says of his first band The Heart Attacks, who teamed up with Joan Jett at their high point. “We wanted to live like our idols, and it’s hard to sustain that lifestyle without a big budget and people looking after you. And in [second band] Poison Arrows, there were circumstances involving drugs and other band members… So this time I wanted to assemble a really focused group.”

And so he did in 2010, even reaching out to Baltimore, 11 hours’ drive away, for a guitarist (Matt Gabs) when he couldn’t find one in Atlanta. “He’d save money for tickets to get here to record and play shows, and once we started getting a band fund, we were able to fly him down,” Smith says.

The resulting band made a 70s-charged addition to Atlanta’s rock landscape, currently spanning contrasts from Blackberry Smoke to Mastodon. “There’s a lot of garage here, and a huge punk scene,” Smith says of the sounds that have stirred into his grounding loves of AC/DC and 70s glam rock. “The economic climate and the big city, mixed with the southern morals of the Bible Belt, creates this melting pot of music.”

The band’s outlook has continued to broaden as they’ve graduated to bigger, crazier stages, supporting Wednesday 13 and Ace Frehley.

“Kiss fans are rabid,” Smith says, “and of course Ace is the biggest fuck-up, but he’s the coolest guy. I did a DJ set one night and played stuff off the Ace solo record.”

It’s not all DJ sets and Kiss fans, though. Armed with an acoustic, Smith likes to hop off the bus and jam with homeless guys hanging around that night’s venue. “There’s so many good singers and charismatic motherfuckers on the street,” he enthuses. “And really, I’m two steps away from being homeless. A couple of turns of events and I could be out there, so I don’t judge them at all.”

Having experienced the collapse of two bands, Smith is vehemently set on ensuring Biters won’t fail as well. “I love doing this, and believe me it’s fucked up a lot of relationships – I’ve fucked up a lot of opportunities for the sake of playing rock’n’roll,” he says earnestly. “It’s not a joke to me. People can think my haircut is campy, but when it comes to this, I’m deadly serious.”

FOR FANS OF… Cheap Trick

“We covered He’s A Whore. I love Cheap Trick. Robin Zander has one of the coolest voices ever. We got to play with them a couple of years ago. They were so cool, my amp blew up! Rick Nielson came out with his guitar tech and I got to plug straight into Rick Nielson’swall of Marshalls. It sounded so good!”

Classic Rock 212: News & Regulars

Polly Glass
Deputy Editor, Classic Rock

Polly is deputy editor at Classic Rock magazine, where she writes and commissions regular pieces and longer reads (including new band coverage), and has interviewed rock's biggest and newest names. She also contributes to Louder, Prog and Metal Hammer and talks about songs on the 20 Minute Club podcast. Elsewhere she's had work published in The Musician, delicious. magazine and others, and written biographies for various album campaigns. In a previous life as a women's magazine junior she interviewed Tracey Emin and Lily James – and wangled Rival Sons into the arts pages. In her spare time she writes fiction and cooks.