Walk the plank!
‘Desert pirates’ invade Reno’s music scene
The setting: Carson City, Berl Ives songs, alcohol, a portable cassette player, a stereo, spoons, pots, pans, ashtrays, punk rockers.
Somehow, out of that drunken haze three years ago, a tape emerged. The tape was passed around. Friends got excited. More people and instruments were brought in. Now, the Scurvy Bastards are about to release their first CD, a split CD with another local band, Lack of Integrity.
But the Scurvy Bastards’ music has varied from their punk roots, with all the members having long histories in Reno’s underground punk scene. Rather than punk, the Scurvy Bastards play pirate music.
Yes, pirate music.
Calling on the songs of Ives, the Dubliners and the Pogues, as well as adding original tunes, the Scurvy Bastards take to the stage with a sound unlike any other in Reno. Alongside the guitar, drums and bass are instruments such as the bagpipes, fiddle and accordion. And what pirate band would be complete without a penny whistle?
While listening to their CD, it is impossible not to conjure up scenes from Treasure Island, in which drunken pirates celebrate the thought of finding treasure while downing pints of beer. Yells of “arrrr!” and drunken revelry can be heard in the background.
The night of drinking that turned into the Scurvy Bastards seems to fit the band members. “It’s not that anyone said anything like, ‘Let’s be this kind of band,'” says penny whistle/tambourine player and “cabin boy” Aaron Alvarez.
And while the band has fun with the style of music they are playing, the Scurvy Bastards are not just for laughs. All the members are serious about the music they play—they just want to have fun while playing.
“All of us are big music fans,” Alvarez says.
Darren Barnes, the band’s drummer and newest member, says he thinks that is one of the reasons the band is so fun.
“For me, it’s fun to actually play real music,” Barnes says. “I like seeing what happens with [fellow band members] Joe or Brooke or Erica. It’s motivating, stimulating.”
Richard Tarantino, the banjoist, says the shows become more than people going to see a band. “We’re providing a good time for us and the people at the shows,” he says.
And the audiences, according to the band, agree.
“People who come in off the street are shocked,” says accordion and bagpipes player Joe Logiorato. “They don’t know what to think. Just the fact that we have bagpipes, an accordion and a fiddle—it just throws people for a loop.”
And while the punk rock scene is known for its political commentary, the self-described “desert pirates” have shied away from taking political stances in their music.
“It’s not Brooke yelling personal manifestos,” Logiorato says. “And that’s a rarity here.”
“Especially in the punk rock scene,” Tarantino says.
“If we tried to bring politics into it, it would totally ruin everything,” Logiorato says. “It would throw off the mood. We have punk bands for that.”
And most of the members of the Scurvy Bastards are in other groups. Barnes, Brooke Walker and Aaron Alvarez are in Lack of Integrity, and Tarantino and Robbie Bouldin play in The Livid.
One of the Scurvy Bastards, fiddle player Erica Alvarez, says the band has provided her with an opportunity to display her musical talents.
“I grew up listening to punk rock,” she says. “But I never thought I’d be able to play in a band, because I played the fiddle.”
But the fiddle is a mainstay in the Scurvy Bastards, along with the penny whistle and the accordion. How else could you play pirate music?