Metal with melody

Two-20-Two blends heaviness and harmony

Harmonizing vocals and Southern rock riffs keep Two-20-Two on the melodic side of metal. From left, band members are Rob Basine, Matt Smothers and Gus Caba.

Harmonizing vocals and Southern rock riffs keep Two-20-Two on the melodic side of metal. From left, band members are Rob Basine, Matt Smothers and Gus Caba.

Photo By David Robert

Two-20-Two will play a Toys for Tots benefit with Mama’s Trippin’ and The Vitriolics at 10 p.m. Dec. 8 at Harry’s Watering Hole, 1100 E. Plumb Lane. There is no cover charge with a toy donation. Visit www.

There’s a certain thing that happens when a band forms, they say. A certain spark or chemistry is present at birth if the band is going to be worth its salt.

Two years ago, Rob Basine, a guitarist with an East Coast heritage and “Southern rock blues” musical roots, put an ad in the paper. He wanted to start a band. The ad caught the eye of Matt Smothers, a long-time drummer, music teacher and Stockton, Calif., native.

“But I was with another band,” Smothers says.

Still, he answered the ad. He and Basine hooked up and played together for a couple of hours and hit it off. He asked Basine to join his cover band, Feed the Fish, which went on to enjoy a sort of flirtation with its newest member before disbanding completely.

But that was hardly the end of the affair. A few months later, Smothers and another former Feed the Fish member, bassist Gus Caba, called up Basine. They formed Two-20-Two—named after Feb. 22, 2000, the date the name was chosen—and started to write their own hard, but not quite heavy, metal tunes.

And then came the spark. The chemistry. The energy.

“I see [being in] a band as dating that many people,” Basine says. “I have two girlfriends.

“Only we’re not having sex,” Smothers quickly interjects.

What they are having, however, is one wild, impassioned rock music ride. They’ve played nearly 60 shows in the last year, says Caba, a second-generation musician who doubles as the band’s bassist and vocalist. And they’re far from worn-out. Regardless of the scene, the vibe or the size of the crowd, Two-20-Two is determined to give the audience its money’s worth.

“We always get excited to play if it’s three or 300,” Caba says.

A touch of theatrical costuming doesn’t hurt. Basine, known to me as “that scary vampire guy” before our interview, slips on vampire teeth and white contacts for shows.

“It’s all in the name of shameless stage theatrics,” Basine says with a conspiratorial smile. “It’s so diametrically opposed to my personality.”

While he brings an element of visual outrageousness to the stage, Basine is in fact the one least willing to attach the descriptor “metal” to Two-20-Two’s name.

“Rob hates the term ‘metal band,’ “ Caba says.

“I play Southern rock riffs in a metal context,” Basine explains.

The guys also note that the presence of “high harmony vocals” helps keep them on the melodic side of rock. Smothers and Caba do harmony vocals together, sometimes throughout an entire song.

“We’re such a heavy band, but the vocals make it melodic,” Smothers says.

Basine also says that the bandmates’ diverse musical backgrounds and tastes keep Two-20-Two from being pegged too definitively. Caba and Smothers are enthusiastic Kiss fans; Basine loves Led Zeppelin. Both musical influences are certainly present in Two-20-Two’s music but are far from dominant within their hard-driven and melodic musical framework.

“We all have very different ideas of what great bands are,” Basine says. “Diversity is the mother of creation. … You can’t say what we are until you see us.”

And once those unique styles and personalities work themselves into Two-20-Two’s heavy but harmonious tunes, something happens. That spark, present at the band’s birth, becomes one crazy, magical affair.