It's a snow-covered Sunday afternoon in early February as local Punk quartet The Messengers — guitarist Don Hogle, drummer George Jesse, bassist Bryan Schmidlapp and singer Shannon Wilson — enter Mecklenberg Gardens to grab a late lunch and talk about their brief history together.
We discuss their somewhat surprising victory in the contest to open for the Suicide Girls Live Burlesque Tour — "Honestly, we thought that Death in Graceland would win" — the ups and downs of the Cincy scene and how they're better known outside of their hometown (apparently they're big in Indianapolis).
The Messengers formed in October 2000, but only Schmidlapp and Wilson remain from the original lineup. Hogle and Jesse, both longtime scene vets, joined the fold in February 2003.
The band's three-song demo — which they are actively shopping to various Punk labels — features exactly what their sparse Web site (themessengers.cc) boasts: "female fronted, mid tempo, street punk."
The lead track, "Fight the Rich," leaps out of the gates with churning guitars and Wilson's blast furnace of a voice.
And, of course, a message: "Another congressman gets a raise/And we're still working like slaves/There's only one thing I'm asking for/Fight the rich/Free the poor."
They sound fierce — think Dead Kennedys fronted by Joan Jett — but they're polite, too: No one mentions the interviewer accidentally skipping out on his lunch bill (a cup of coffee).
A few days later, CityBeat reconnects with Wilson for further clarification.
CityBeat: When it was announced you guys won the Suicide Girls contest, a lot of people said they'd never heard of you.
And truthfully, though I'd heard the name, I knew very little about you guys. What gives?
Shannon Wilson: We are really secret agents cleverly disguised as a Punk band ... OK, not really. We have always been torn about playing Cincinnati shows. On one hand, it's good to have a strong local following; on the other hand, we don't want people to get "burnt out" on us. We don't want to be the band that opens up for every Punk show that comes through. I also think that it's hard to get a crowd at an 18 and up or 21 and up venue. It seems like since The Void closed that local venues all fall under the age limits.
CB: Do you ever get shit for being a girl in a largely male-dominated genre? What kind of reaction do you get?
SW: I've only experienced one instance of a guy saying that a girl has no place in Punk Rock. I mostly think it was because the guy was an asshole, not because he actually believed what he was saying. It also makes me wonder why people think that the Punk scene is "male dominated." I feel like some of the most remarkable Punk bands have had female members. I definitely think that it's harder for a girl to be taken seriously in the music scene, but I think that it's due to the Pop world more than the Punk world.
CB: Talk about the political nature of your music.
SW: We like to stay well informed. I would say that we are more socially conscious than out right political. We want people to think; we don't want to tell people what to think.
CB: What do you personally get out of playing with The Messengers?
SW: Expression. There's nothing better than getting on stage and being able to let go of all the shit that's happened to you in the previous week/day/month. Plus it's nice to have an excuse to travel. Bryan says he likes playing music for the chicks and free beer. Although he usually ends up with more free beer than chicks.
THE MESSENGERS perform as a part of the Suicide Girls Burlesque Tour at the Southgate House on Monday.