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A spoonful of sugar: (l-r) Matt Clute, Nick Social and Fellatio Jones-Lepine of Sugar Eater pose with a fan (who’s looking over Social’s shoulder).

photo: Chris Shields

A Little Bit Punk . . .
By Kirsten Ferguson

Take a pinch of anger, a dollop of humor, and some good old-fashioned songs about girls, and you’ve got Saratoga Springs pop-punk band Sugar Eater

In just a few words, the tag- line on Sugar Eater’s MySpace Web page manages to sum up the Saratoga punk band’s repertoire: “songs about girls, mullets and hatin stuff.”

“She Loves Him,” from the band’s 9 Songs album, which came out in June on Sugar Eater’s own Eyephat record label, is a good example of the first category of Sugar Eater song: a true-to-life tale of misplaced or mishandled romance wrapped up in a pop-punk blast. With a catchy chorus that recalls shades of Green Day, the narrator tells of a bittersweet day spent at Saratoga’s Congress Park feeding bread to the ducks with a girl he loves despite being just her “good friend.”

At the opposite end of the emotional spectrum, anger has been fueling punk bands since the genre’s inception. Sugar Eater draw upon a near endless number of subjects that can inspire healthy hatred, or at least snotty disdain. What is there to hate? Let’s see, age-restricted shows that keep the underage kids from being able to rock out, for instance. “People in bars don’t really want to hear music anyway; you’re just cock-blocking them from listening to Journey on the juke box,” explains guitarist and singer Nick Social, who books monthly all-ages shows at the Saratoga YMCA. Before Sugar Eater, Social helmed the Saratoga band Razors Never Die.

Social is joined in Sugar Eater by bassist Fellatio Jones-Lepine, who has dyed-red hair and a tattoo on his calf that name-checks his former band the Annoying Customers. Drummer Matt Clute, who taught himself to play drums by playing along to CDs in his basement, first met Social while both were working “crappy mall jobs.” Clute and Jones- Lepine both grew up in Saratoga’s Geyser Crest, a large suburban development that seems to spawn a particular kind of local angst. All three band members attended Saratoga High School, although they didn’t know each other at the time.

Sugar Eater’s vitriolic song “American Idle” has been getting some airplay on Albany’s Channel 103.1 lately, thanks to Jason Keller’s local music show Big Break, somehow making it into rotation despite containing the obscenity “star fucker” (granted, the lyrics are indecipherable at points). Although the name of the song shares an unfortunate similarity to the title of Green Day’s most recent album, American Idiot, despite being penned well before that album’s release, the Sugar Eater song bristles with an indignation that has direct parallels to Green Day’s sprawling ire-ridden opus.

“It’s about Razors Never Die talking to someone in the music industry,” Social says of “American Idle,” which also manages to slag the no-talent hacks on the reality television show American Idol. “The music manager was saying he could make us the next Good Charlotte,” Social adds, referring to the mall punk band who have a disturbing penchant for the sorts of ballads typically preferred by mainstream corporate rock bands. “I didn’t want to be the next Good Charlotte, because they suck. And the guy seemed shady.”

Like the best bands who populated the ’90s West Coast pop-punk scene, as exemplified by certain Lookout Records bands, Sugar Eater temper their anger with a healthy dose of humor. That’s where the mullet songs come in. The band’s song “Your Dad’s Got a Mullet” is a high-speed thrasher that ends not long after it kicks off. “My dad had a mullet at the time we started the band,” Clute admits, as he flashes camera-phone pics of mullet-donning men, taken, of course, at the local mall. Another of the band’s songs, “Even Karen the Douchebag Falls in Love,” directly quotes from a comedy routine by the up-and-coming cult comic Dane Cook.

So between the romantic songs and the humorous songs and the pissed-off songs, one wonders just where and how Sugar Eater, who have been known to cover the Undertones, the Circle Jerks and the Ramones, fit in with the punk scene. “I don’t think we do,” Social says. “We don’t smell bad or shoot dope. The normal kids are like, ‘You’re good, but you swear too much.’ It’s kind of refreshing that punk rock’s still offensive in some circles. All the kids that are into our band are girls or kids that get picked last at kickball. Nobody at all muscular is into our band. We don’t do heroin, so the real punk kids aren’t into us.”

Jones-Lepine quips, “You don’t do heroin?”

Interestingly, Social is the only band member with any sort of allegiance to the punk sound. Jones-Lepine proudly proclaims himself a metalhead, into various forms of thrash metal and “metal core,” as he cites the death-metal band Lamb of God as a particular favorite. “Nick’s the punk kid, I’m the metal kid and Matt just likes [Smashing Pumpkins and Zwan frontman] Billy Corgan,” Jones-Lepine says.

“I like average rock,” Clute admits.

“That whole ’90s Lookout Records sound is pretty influential to me,” Social says, name-checking Operation Ivy and Crimpshrine. “I always wanted to do a band that sounded like Screeching Weasel. It never happened until now.”

At this point, Jones-Lepine leans across the table at Saratoga’s Uncommon Grounds coffee shop and mock whispers to Clute: “I’ve never heard of Screeching Weasel.”

“Neither have I,” Clute whispers back. “Is that a punk band?”

Sugar Eater will play Valentine’s on Nov. 4 for Metroland’s Feedback local-music showcase.


-no rough mix this week-

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