'When you think about it, what other city has music awards that include Punk Rock?" This is what singer and guitarist Miss Communication says when I ask her what she thinks of the music scene in Cincinnati. (Well, there might be other cities, but none that we Cincinnatians really care about.)
Communication and her band, The Socials, are nominated this year for a Cincinnati Entertainment Award in — what else? — the Punk category. They were nominated last year too, and in true Punk fashion, got in trouble. Bassist Shawn Abnoxious tells me, "We got kicked out of backstage last year."
"This little girl said 'I want to see your credentials,' and I said, 'Well, I'm in The Socials, my name is Shawn,' so she went to check our credentials," he continues. "We were hanging out backstage with (fellow nominees) Death In Graceland, because that's where the free beer was. We started to leave ... and she came back and said, 'I found out that you're not supposed to be back here.'
And I said, 'You know what, I'm leaving anyways, but I bet if I didn't want to leave, there's nothing you could do to get me outta here.' "
This attitude fits a man who has been making a name for himself on the Cincinnati Punk scene for more than a decade, both as founder of the 'zine/Web site The Neus Subjex (neussubjex.net) and member of several bands.
"When I graduated high school (in 1991), I was in a band, and we ended up without a bass player," Abnoxious says. "So I just went one day — you know, the classic Punk thing — I just bought a bass and an amp and started playing."
Abnoxious started The Socials in 1995 with Communication. The Juice by Jerry, their drummer, was discovered in 2000. "I met Jerry when I locked my keys in my locker at work," Abnoxious says, "and he showed me where to get a bolt cutter. I invited him over to practice with us."
True to Punk form, Jerry had never played drums before. "Shawn came to me," Jerry says, "and said, 'You're a cool guy, you play bass right? Why don't you play drums for my band?' And I said, 'But I don't know how.' And he said, 'I don't care.' "
His addition to the band helped them gel. Since 2000, The Socials have released two albums — their debut, Narrow Minded Entertainment for a Close Minded America, and their latest, New Vibrations of Light. A third disc is in the can, set for an early '05 release.
New Vibrations contains seven powerful tracks, calling to mind acts like The Slits and The Raincoats, but especially early Sonic Youth.
Communication counts Sonic Youth among her favorites. "I made a comment to Shawn when we were really young, 'Gosh there's hardly any girls in Rock & Roll,' " she tells me. "And he said, 'Wait a second, what about Sonic Youth, Kim Gordon?' And as soon as I heard them ... wow. I already had influences like Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn, but Sonic Youth just blew my mind."
Communication started playing guitar when she was 14, because, as she tells me, "My mom and dad made me. I got in trouble ... They thought it would help me out. It did."
"But the way I figure it, I was born to play Rock & Roll," she continues. "Because it just kind of was the natural progression of my life — I didn't fit in anywhere else."
This inability to fit in is partially where the band's name comes from. Communication says, "Shawn came up with the name 'The Socials,' because we're actually the polar opposite of that; we're kind of the uncool kids."
Cool or uncool, it doesn't make a big difference to Jerry. "I don't really care if people like us or not, I just can't stand indifference," he says.
Abnoxious' main goal with the band is pretty simple. "We just want to be the best local band we can possibly be and have fun."
And will the Socials stir up trouble at this year's CEAs? "We've already been contacted by (local bands) Viva La Foxx and The Sundresses," Abnoxious jokes. "This year, we're all going in force."
THE SOCIALS' CDs are available at Shake It Records.