Until a couple of weeks ago, there was a young rock band performing around Reno by the name of The New Gods. That’s when the members decided collectively that they had outgrown the name. Now calling themselves The Partists, they are Paul T. Shanrock on vocals, Johnny Brooke on lead guitar, Emily Durr on keyboard, Erik Skjelstad on bass and Jonathan Hatjakes on the drums. They’re all 18 except Brooke, who is 17, and Skjelstad, who is 19.
They describe their style as “teenage garage pop,” and it’s hard not to see a resemblance to the “The” bands (The Strokes, The Vines, The Hives and The White Stripes) in both their sound and appearance.
“He’s really into fashion,” Brooke says of Shanrock, who is looking a little like a young Mick Jagger, sporting skin-tight black pants and a fluffy white blouse. Shanrock drives home the point by becoming a human advertisement for a minute, listing a string of his favorite clothing companies, then rambling into an obscenity laden rant about emo culture. “We’re not emo,” he repeats easily a dozen times over the course of a half hour. What they’re not is the easy part. When it comes to describing what they are, it gets trickier.
“Rock ‘n’ roll with a twist,” says Durr.
“We’ve got the synth-dance-guitar side, but then we can come in with the punk-rock attack, too,” says Skjelstad. The result is a grungy sort of garage vibe with a catchy, pop-rock rhythm. Then there are Shanrock’s lyrics, or “mind grapes,” that he insists are inspired by “drug abuse.” Skjelstad and Hatjakes seem to doubt this. Either way, the songs are a curious blend of the mundane and the fantastic.
“Its poetry, in a non-faggy way,” says Shanrock. “It’s like, science-fiction rock, in a non-Star Trek way.” This earns him funny looks from his band mates. Pensive and sensing that he is losing his audience, he says, “I mean, I wish I was a centaur!”
The band is young, and they’ve been playing together for only eight months. Their sound is still developing, but what they may lack in musical sophistication, they make up for in showmanship. When The Partists perform, it’s difficult not to dance, both because of the rhythm and because the band will not abide an audience slumped in its chair. During a recent performance at the Reno Jazz Club, where the band is fast becoming regulars, Shanrock made several laps around the room, gyrating about, crazily shaking his maracas and even physically pulling people off their barstools and onto the dance floor. Durr spent at least half the set on the dance floor in front of the stage. Brooke theatrically struck chords with the full thrust of his entire arm, as if he were chopping wood rather than strumming a guitar.
“The drunker you get, the better we sound,” says Shanrock.
The Partists practice several times a week and hope to have an album recorded by the end of summer. Shanrock aspires to “start a new scene in Reno.” Specifically, he says he wants to “bring the boozing back to Reno.” He’s apparently under the impression that booze is not currently in vogue in the area.
“I tell people not to make any judgments about the band until they see us live,” says Skjelstad.