Oddity + energy
Clay Flores, Austin McAfee, Mitch Gilliam and Nick Flores of Lizard Police
The members of Tulsa pop-punk band Lizard Police revel in their innate weirdness. They wear it like a badge of honor.
When I met with lead singer and rhythm guitarist Mitch Gilliam for a chat one afternoon at the Soundpony — (“The Soundpony is our home,” Gilliam says. “We have songs about the Soundpony.”) — the word “weird” kept popping up in the conversation.
Gilliam describes the unique, percussive guitar technique he and lead guitarist Austin MacAfee employ as weird. Also weird are the basement bars and punk clubs around the Midwest and northeast where Lizard Police has been enthusiastically embraced. He recounts the weird way the band decided on its name, which came from an inside joke about a “super cheesy line from a very obscure, terrible movie.”
So, yes, to recap: Lizard Police is weird. Lizard Police also is loud, fast and energetic beyond belief, and they play surprisingly sophisticated, melodic punk rock that routinely whips their legion of fellow-weirdo fans into a sweat-dripping, arm-flailing frenzy.
Road to somewhere
Gilliam had been playing music with twin brothers Clay and Nick Flores (on bass guitar and drums, respectively) since they were all spritely misfit teenagers in Coweta. He met MacAfee in college, and the two quickly formed a bond based on the fact they were both self-taught guitarists with unusual playing styles. Gilliam and MacAfee started doing some casual experimenting with songwriting and dual guitar harmonies (reminiscent of classic rockers Thin Lizzy), but the lightning bolt that would become Lizard Police didn’t strike until the four friends took a road trip to Dallas in 2009 to see Wales-based indie pop outfit Los Campesinos!.
“On our way back we were so inspired,” Gilliam says. “They were such a weirdo band and they were just killing it. We were like, ‘Why are we not doing this?’
“And that was basically it. We said, ‘Let’s be Lizard Police. Let’s have practice next week.’ And we’ve been playing music together every chance we get ever since.”
Since that auspicious road trip, Lizard Police has released one full-length album, “Make Muscles,” as well as two EP releases, and has built a loyal local following, playing gigs at the aforementioned Soundpony and other venues that embrace the band’s subversive style. The band members also have struck out on the road on multiple nationwide tours, most successfully in college towns, bringing their frenetic live energy to a new generation of young punks.
Gilliam describes the band’s rollicking brand of punk rock as “kind of a post-hardcore, early ’90s, indie kind of a vibe. At its bare bones, I guess you could call it emo, but that’s kind of a four-letter word.”
Although the band has plans to embark on its most ambitious national tour to date, the focus in the meantime is on honing new material for an album the four plan to record soon at Hook Echo Sound studio in Norman.
“We’ve been working on it for way too long, but we don’t want to put out an album that’s just a collection of songs,” Gilliam says. “An album should have a beginning, a middle and an end. People want that album experience. That’s why we’ve been so meticulous about putting this one together.”
If their previous releases and live performances are any indication, I expect equal parts meticulous craftsmanship, off-the-rails exuberance and just the right dose of weird.
October’s best bets for live music
10/5 Lionel Richie, The Joint
If the joyous, infectious Latin rhythms of pop anthem “All Night Long” were the only good thing Lionel Richie produced, this show would still be worth seeing. Luckily, Richie has plenty more hits to go around, from the classic duet “Endless Love” to the heart-rending ballad “Hello” to the Academy Award-winning “Say You, Say Me.” And that’s not even mentioning his soulful early work with the Commodores. Richie may be a nostalgia act these days, but what’s wrong with nostalgia, especially when it’s this fun? Doors open at 7 p.m.
10/25 Sleigh Bells, Cain’s Ballroom
Have your eyes and ears bombarded by the Brooklyn-based duo that defies classification of any kind. Singer Alexis Krauss inflects her vocals with a sneering, provocative attitude while guitarist and all-around sound-making wizard Derek E. Miller lays down bombastic layers of melodic noise behind her. Lighting designer Bobby Mathias deserves a special shout-out for the inventive visual flair he adds to this parade of sonic exuberance. That bouncy Cain’s Ballroom floor is in for a workout. Doors open at 8 p.m.