What a couple of punks

Local musical duo the Americas experiment with change

RED BLOODED Exploring the Americas: Drummer Casey Deitz (left), and guitarist/vocalist Travis Wuerthner

RED BLOODED Exploring the Americas: Drummer Casey Deitz (left), and guitarist/vocalist Travis Wuerthner

Courtesy Of the Americas

Preview: The Americas Thursday, Oct. 16, 8pm Moxie’s Café/Gallery,with 31 Knots (from Portland, OR)

When you ask a rock band what its intentions are, you’ll likely get one of three responses: “We’re just playing as many shows as possible and trying to get our name out there,” or “We’re really into (insert artistic intention or genre-loyalty),” or “Uuuuh, what was the question again?” The first two are the standard music “pro” and rock star responses, respectively. The third comes from Chico duo the Americas.

That isn’t to say that drummer Casey Deitz and guitarist/vocalist Travis Wuerthner don’t play a lot of shows, or that they don’t have an idea about what their music is all about, or that they’re too dull to respond to a writer’s question. In fact, often the best bands are simply uncomfortable with being asked questions, wired as they are to do nothing but play their music and not much else.

The Americas are one of those “best bands,” or at least one of the better bands in town these days. Before combining forces, Wuerthner, 21, and Deitz, 20, established themselves locally in bands that originated from their days at Pleasant Valley High School, with Wuerthner fronting the noisy pop unit Micro Magnesia and Deitz playing drums in three of this decade’s more respected Chico bands, Bliss, Either and North Magnetic.

“Both of our musical situations were looking pretty down,” said Deitz of the dry time that brought them together, “and we just decided to practice together.” Citing the fact that the both of them were tired of the typical band routine and didn’t want to “just play the same thing all the time,” the two created a union based on the mutual agreement to change things up constantly and to play constantly.

Turning into the Americas meant time signature changes and frequent volume changes, placing their sound in the Captain Jazz or June of 44 post-punk realm that the duo admits to being inspired by. But veering off the road into more adventurous directions was just part of the theme of change. “We want to always expand into weirdness, just because that’s fun, but then I always want there to be a basic energy in the music,” said Wuerthner, and Deitz added, “I think punk rock [means] pissing off the punk rockers sometimes.”

Which actually fits. Live, Deitz, who plays on a really small 1966 “clown barf” Ludwig set and is himself a pretty big guy, is on the verge of dismantling the poor old traps with the sheer velocity of his punishing style at any moment. It feels like punk rock, but it looks more like jazz. Add Wuerthner, spazzing out like a stretched-out Elvis Costello playing in circles around the length of his guitar’s fret board in bunched-up clusters of arpeggiated-chord progressions (if that sounds like a mouthful, or handful, then you’re getting the picture), alternating between slumping into mellow, busy melodies and exploding into hyper, shrieking fits, and you can see the colliding worlds of musicianship and punk-man-ship at the heart of their musical explorations.

The song “The Grueling Task of Mending Chicken Wire” on the self-released Rinds of Glory EP bears this idea out: The extended quiet parts are just a trick, and as soon as Wuerthner lullabies you onto his hook the freak-out begins. It’s easier to point to than describe, and the band tries to keep its wits about it and not get too carried away in any one direction.

“If I do think that we’re getting kind of too ‘arty’ or whatever, I always go back to Death Star,” said Wuerthner of the legendary Chico trio that was so masterful at combining experimentation with the fun of straight-ahead rock. “That will always be our main influence,” added Deitz, “That sort of gave us hope. … That was just like a neat thing … to see this great band that was in Chico, that totally ruled, and pretty much changed our lives.”

The change is apparent. The Americas are now the band that is inspiring the high-school bands by getting out of town for shows, recording CDs (their latest, Statuette, is in the finishing stages of production) and challenging themselves to embrace change while still having fun.