A gentle boo

The Haints present the softer side of scare

Perhaps as a substitute for absent percussionist David Houston, Scampi, Kepi, Roach and Cory Vick pose with three birds and a cat.

Perhaps as a substitute for absent percussionist David Houston, Scampi, Kepi, Roach and Cory Vick pose with three birds and a cat.

CD-release show with Jackpot and the Arlenes; 9 p.m. Friday, January 21; Old Ironsides, 1901 10th Street; $10; (916) 443-9751.

If you’ve heard the Haints described as “the Groovie Ghoulies go country,” you might be imagining a fun-loving punk band doing high-speed covers of country tunes with an exaggerated twang, faux Southern accents and a strong sense of irony. Luckily, you’d be way off.

Sure, all three members of seminal punk trio the Groovie Ghoulies are also in the Haints. And yes, Kepi is the voice of both bands. And, OK, the Haints even play some of the same songs and enjoy the same playfully spooky subject matter as the Ghoulies, but these facts alone do not tell the whole story.

One listen to their debut CD, Hurt and Alone, will convince you that the Haints are sincere and devoted to the music they play. The band doesn’t go out of its way to sound stereotypically country but instead explores a musical influence that is obviously dear to it. The Haints are not even necessarily a country band. Their clever and catchy melodies, and Kepi’s sweet and highly emotive voice, bring to mind the Rolling Stones’ first few albums more than anything by George Jones or Hank Williams Sr.

The Haints started playing about two years ago when Kepi, a workaholic who found a really fun line of work, wanted a way to play locally without wearing out the Ghoulies’ welcome. “I was just doing solo shows to stay busy,” Kepi said. That Kepi should have to make an effort at staying busy is surprising. In addition to playing in two bands, heading his Green Door Records label, maintaining an impressive international touring schedule and publishing a quarterly zine, he’s also gaining a name for himself in the art world as a painter.

Eventually, Kepi invited his Ghoulie bandmates—Roach (also his wife of 14 years) and Scampi—to join this somewhat softer musical endeavor. “And these guys came on board, and it’s just so fun that we won’t let them go,” he continued, referring to guitarist Cory Vick and percussionist David Houston, the two non-Ghoulie members of the Haints.

And what do Ghoulie fans think of this slower tempo? “I think a lot of ’em do like it,” Kepi said. “And that’s why I intentionally made it ‘the Haints.’ So that the punk rocker’s not gonna come and be bummed that we didn’t totally rock. It’s its own thing and intentionally has its own name, so you can choose if you want to go and see a Haints show, if you’re a Ghoulie fan.”

Of course, the Haints draw an audience all their own, not relying solely on Groovie Ghoulies fans with eclectic tastes. “Our own family will come out and see us!” Roach said, bringing a laugh from her bandmates.

Kepi agreed: “Yeah, it’s a good one for family.” Vick recalls several shows where the audience got into the Haints and seemed to have no idea that there was “another band.”

The Haints don’t mind this at all and have not attempted to use the Ghoulies’ reputation to skip the opening-band phase. As Kepi explained, “We played the Bottom of the Hill [in San Francisco] to, like, nobody. We open shows, and we’re happy to open shows.”

The five musicians that make up the Haints agree that this is a project that’s meant to be enjoyed, and they’re more than willing to let the cards land where they may. Vick summed it up best by observing, “That’s what’s great about the Haints. There’re no rules. We’ll do covers from Daniel Johnston, Chuck Berry or Neil Young. I’ve been in other bands where there are politics, and … with the Haints, getting together to practice or do a show is just ‘Yeah! I get to hang out with these people.’”