William Shakespeare once noted that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, but the members of Mad Anthony would likely take issue. Guitarist/vocalist Ringo Jones, guitarist Adam Flaig and drummer Daniel "Deadly" Durick shed their previous bands two years ago and assembled as the Black Scabs. Response to the music was good, but reaction to the name was less positive.
"Everybody thought that was a terrible name," says Jones with a laugh. "All the girls hated it."
"It was just embarrassing when a girl would come up to you in a bar and say, 'What's your band's name?' and we'd be like, 'We're the Black Scabs,' and they'd go, 'Alright ... have a good night," says Durick. "It was like, 'Guys, we've got to change this name."
The opportunity came last summer when the band brought in new bassist Dave Markey, whose arrival signaled a shift in the band's sound as well as their perspective. Thus, Mad Anthony was born.
"When we were talking about names, we said something about Mad Anthony and everyone was like, 'No, no," says Jones. "I think it just eventually stuck.
Nobody wanted it but it was better than the other names we came up with. The worst part of being in a band is naming it."
With the new bassist and new name came a fresh attitude about the band and its presentation. As Mad Anthony, the quartet started taking a closer look at their gig schedule and making adjustments accordingly.
"It was all about drinking then playing," says Durick. "Then we started to realize it that it should be about playing then drinking."
"We were never really serious about it, but Dave injected a more professional attitude into it," says Jones. "We were playing house parties and shitty clubs. The biggest part of it was we just started writing better music. I don't know if it was Dave or if we just finally hit something that felt right."
Having recorded demos as the Black Scabs for over a year to little effect, the right feeling with Mad Anthony resulted in a sound that suggested a jittery, psychedelicized New Wave spin on the Toadies, with flecks of the Misfits, Fugazi and Electric Six thrown in for color and texture. The turning point came when Mad Anthony got together with Ampline/thistle guitarist Mike Montgomery to record at Candyland Studio, coming away with a solid five-song demo that properly represented Mad Anthony's current sonic profile.
"We learned a lot from Mike — he's a great producer and he knows what he's doing," says Jones. "We had no idea what we were doing, and Mike helped us out."
"It was actually fun in the studio with him," says Durick. "With the other guy, it was like, 'OK, that's good. Let's go.' And with Mike it was like, 'Hey, we didn't even know you were in here for six hours today.' Plus once we told people we were recording with Mike, more people were interested."
After that, Mad Anthony fell in with the Strongest Proof, playing shows in Lexington and Louisville, which aligned them with the audience they wanted to attract. The next step found them playing area shows with a lot of the bands on Jerry Dirr's Phratry label, which naturally led to a meeting with Dirr.
"Jerry was impressed," says Jones of Dirr's first exposure to the Candyland demo. "He'd come out to see us early on because we were making a little buzz as the Black Scabs — we'd played a good show at Cincypunk (festival) or something — then he came to see us on one of the nights when we were hammered and acting like morons, and he was like, 'Nevermind.' But we got reacquainted with him as Mad Anthony and he took us more seriously and said that we'd found our sound. I think there's truth to that, but we're still kind of scattered."
Within a week of hearing the demo, Dirr contacted the band with an offer to release the EP. Following last Friday's CD release show at the Gypsy Hut, Mad Anthony has nearly a solid month of weekend shows booked before Durick leaves for a monthlong excursion in Ecuador.
"It would be great to sell a lot of CDs, but the truth is we're playing with three bands that we love," says Jones. "I'm just a big fan of the Cincinnati scene right now."
MAD ANTHONY (myspace.com/madanthonyband) plays Saturday at Covington's Mad Hatter for the "I Might Be Wrong" benefit concert/Radiohead tribute. See Spill It here for more info. Buy tickets, check out performance times and find nearby bars and restaurants here.