Fear of the familiar
The word “xenophobia” means “an irrational fear of foreigners.” Not the band Foreigner, as highly justified a fear as that may be. Actually, the Gardnerville-based Xenophobes seem to fear very little musically. But what’s in a name?
“We mainly picked it because ‘My Chemical Romance’ was taken,” quips drummer Fil Corbitt, wearing a red and black bowling shirt, his hair up in a pompadour.
In a room full of bikers, punk rockers, betty girls, and crusty old toughs at Davidson’s Distillery, the three youths that comprise Xenophobes—none of whom are older than 18—have just enthralled the crowd with their speedy guitar licks, pounding drum beats, and Chris Stehman’s thumping upright bass. The room is full of smoke and the echo of Austin Barnett’s screaming vocal pyrotechnics.
“One day we were bored, and Austin came over with his guitar,” says Corbitt. “I had a drum set, and we decided to start a band. … We sucked really bad at first.”
Bassist Stehman had a bit more experience than the others, having played for about five years.
Stehman started playing electric bass before switching to upright. Why the switch? “They made me,” he says, grinning.
With newly buzz-cut hair and a Slayer T-shirt, Barnett blasted the room with every bit of vocal power he has, his guitar drowning every corner with thick, rattling distortion.
Amid the growl and wall of sound, you can hear the influence of ‘50s rock, 12-bar blues, the reverb of surf music and punk rock—with a twang of the Pixies mixed in for flavor. It all adds up to a tasty bit of psychobilly.
“We have a lot of influences,” says Barnett. “Mostly post-hardcore bands like Fugazi.”
They’re still finding their sound. They just listen to what they like and try to take the best of it.
“There’s really not too much of an Abba influence, though,” jokes Barnett.
They’ve even rocked a punked-out version of “16 Tons” by Tennessee Ernie Ford, which got one old guy off his seat and dancing, shaking his fist at the stage as though he was preparing to go storm the doors of the company store.
Xenophobes never let up on stage. They play hard and fast, tricking the audience with constant tempo changes.
Stehman sways back and forth with his bass, even climbing on it for a balancing act while he plays, his chain and studded belt glinting.
Corbitt pounds his drums with every bit of energy his small frame can muster. “Usually my drums fall apart at least once during a show,” he says. “I got this kit for free. Found them in a garage.”
Although based in the hinterlands on the far side of Carson City, Xenophobes primarily play in Reno. Members are also planning on doing some San Francisco shows with Reno’s Cobra Skulls.