La Santisima Muerte
On hearing the words “drum and bass,” your brain might jump to raves, breakbeats and, well, Burning Man.
There’s a good chance that crust punk and thrash metal don’t even begin to register. But La Santisima Muerte, a new band in Reno, might change that.
They’re a two-piece punk band that, as you may have guessed, is comprised of a drummer and a bassist. No guitarist at all, though you wouldn’t know it at a distance.
I pulled up to one of the band members’ grandmother’s house behind Shopper’s Square, and before I opened my car door, I could hear the muffled drum set from the front room. They didn’t hear the doorbell the first time, so I stood on the porch and waited for the song to end before ringing it again. Through the door, I would have said there were three or four people inside.
The two of them—Austin Bunnell on bass and vocals, and Josh Marche on drums—simply don’t need anybody else. As I sat on a couch next to a backpack full of drum parts, Marche counted into a song with a rapid-fire snare roll, and Bunnell immediately jumped in, playing a lead riff on the high strings of his bass.
They didn’t have a PA at this practice, but I could hear Bunnell yelling over his half stack … at least until he tapped his distortion pedal. The bass suddenly became a booming guitar with a deep low end, and he treated it like one, hashing out two-string power chords.
Not only did the distorted bass tone make up for the lack of guitar, but it seemed to render the entire notion useless. Why have a guitarist play the same power chords that the bass can double up, especially when both tones are in perfect time?
“We just try to do more with less,” said Bunnell, citing influences like Rudimentary Peni and Dystopia, both three-piece bands.
“And it might not sound like it, but Alkaline Trio too,” added Marche—who are of course a trio.
So, La Santisima Muerte is a minimalist band, but that doesn’t really explain their sound, which can be mostly summed up like this: fast, thrashy, heavy, and like they just finished watching a horror flick marathon.
The name, which roughly translates to The Holiest Death, or The Holy Death, definitely backs up that horror influence.
“We were at [grocery store] Marketón,” explained Marche, “and there are all those religious candles in the back. And there’s one that’s just completely black with a skeleton on it that says La Santisima Muerte.”
“Did you buy it?,” I asked.
“Uh …” said Bunnell, “no … we’re kind of broke.”
The Rudimentary Peni influence definitely shined through with a series of dark but scrappy songs.
To be fair, some of the songs still sound new, with the two of them not quite clicking on some transitions, but that might be because the band is new. The band’s only been playing for about two months and already has a three-date tour to Denver booked in August.
Having to only coordinate two people, they said, makes the managerial side of it easy.
“We play on our own terms,” said Bunnell, explaining that when a show or opportunity comes up he only has to make one call.
And that might be what defines La Santisima Muerte: It’s not what they have, it’s what they decide not to have.