Revenge of the nerds
The four lads in Didley Squat rule the school with an unholy mix of edgy pop-music forms
Didley Squat was discussing the logistics of putting a laser on the moon. It had something to do with this summer’s tour plans, although how that actually correlated remains a mystery. “It’s uninhabited right now,” drummer Casey John James the 14th remarked. “We could take a rocket,” keyboardist Stuart Spiddle Nishiyama added. But James would have none of such illogical talk: “Rockets can’t be reused,” he said, moderately exasperated by Nishiyama’s clear lapse in logic. “Lasers can be reused over and over again. We’ll power it with rock music.”
The interview was starting to sound a bit like Sun Ra’s Space Is the Place, a 1974 film that features Ra flying around in a spaceship powered by the music of his Arkestra while battling hordes of evildoers. It isn’t certain that the four members of Didley Squat spend much time fighting hordes of evildoers, but that wouldn’t come as a surprise. They’re honor students, after all, and our experience of Revenge of the Nerds clearly indicates that, in the end, the nerds will rule the school.
Ruling the school is exactly what Didley Squat has managed to do in just two short years. Everyone willing to offer an opinion on the band mentioned being floored by its sound, perhaps in part because it’s difficult to explain. It’s not that it’s difficult to understand or comprehend—despite the earlier Sun Ra reference, this is, in a sense, pop music—but Didley Squat’s influences are so diverse as to create an end result that is simultaneously accessible and perplexing, a mixture of disco, electronica, punk, new wave and pop. If there’s any kind of contemporary referent that might make sense, it would be Beck, the new millennium’s answer to David Bowie.
Interviewing them, though, was like interviewing the split personalities of one demented genius wunderkind. James talked with the rapidity of a speed freak. Nishiyama was more reserved, noting his training as a classical pianist. Vocalist David Mohr—a whirlwind of screaming and dancing when the band plays live—was mostly silent, and when he did speak, he did so in a quiet, reserved voice. (The fourth member, guitarist Jacob Barcena, was unavailable for the interview.) Mohr is also the band’s graphic artist, contributing the playful cartoon animals that grace the band’s posters and its new CD cover.
That new CD, The Smile Box, is out this month on The Americans Are Coming Recordings, a local indie label. And to celebrate the release, Didley Squat plans two CD-release shows, both at Old Ironsides. The first was an all-ages matinee last Sunday, November 21; the second is a regular 21-and-over show on Friday, November 27.
All-ages shows might be particularly important to the band members, for they are all 19-year-olds, four high-school friends who formed the band for the sheer fun of it and performed a few times at the old True Love Coffeehouse’s open-mic night two years ago. Since then, Didley Squat has garnered ever-increasing accolades, including a cover story in last month’s Alive & Kicking. The band members mentioned how A&K publisher Jerry Perry has been among a collection of people who have gone out of their way to help the band (a list that includes “superfan” Troy Wood).
But James couldn’t hold back. “Jerry says we’re big nerds just because we’re honor students,” he said of that monthly paper’s publisher. We’d been outside for a solid hour by then, and the band members were starting to look cold in their thin T-shirts and light jackets. “We’re gonna have to fuck that bitch up. We’ll AK that bitch.” He paused before adding, “Tonight.”
Mohr piped in, in a quiet, gentle voice. “Let’s rape a whore and leave her dead body on his porch.”
Perhaps they should order some coffee first. It’ll help warm them up before the mayhem to come. Boys will be boys.