If you’ve seen High Fidelity, you’ll likely recall the pair of teenagers who main character Rob catches trying to steal records. They have a band called the Kinky Wizards, which Rob admires enough to start his own label and release their debut album. The film makes a pretty entertaining riff on mid-’90s music geekery, and it’s also very similar to post-rock trio BULLS’ origin story, as told to me by drummer/vocalist Ricky del Toro, bassist Dylan Holt, and guitarist Jeff Schlueter in an interview recently.
“I worked at a record store called CD-X in Hurst in the mid-to-late-’90s, and [Schlueter and del Toro] would come in while I was working, pretty much to shoplift,” Holt said.
He was in his early 20s, and the would-be thieves were in their late teens, and the three of them were all fans of punk rock as well as the era’s prominent indie bands, which, on a local level, manifested in the form of long-gone acts like Serotonin and Rodin.
“Those bands, this band called Deadpan – they were all huge influences on us when we were younger,” Schlueter said.
Holt said a guy named Mike Hedley who worked at the store was sort of a real-life counterpart to John Cusack’s character, whom Holt describes as one of those “wizards” who could name every cool underground record.
“He’d make mixtapes for us that would just blow your mind,” Holt said. “And one day, [Schlueter and del Toro] came into the store, ostensibly to shoplift, and [Hedley] introduced me to them.”
They soon formed an instrumental post-rock band that went through a variety of names, played few gigs, and apparently recorded tons of unheard material – in del Toro’s words, “long instrumental songs.” But as these things go, life caught up with each of them, wife and kids for Schlueter and del Toro and a move to Dallas for Holt. They basically took a decade-long hiatus.
But these were also three dudes who really enjoyed getting together a few times a week in a rehearsal room and bashing out high-volume post-rock explorations. Reforming their trio was practically inevitable. Perhaps as a function of the mutually limited availability afforded by adulthood, their songs shortened and became more succinct but were as loud as ever
“We went from these nine-10-11-minute kinda freak-out jams to playing songs that are three or four minutes long,” Holt said. “It’s that same feel. I’m glad that translates because the roots are still there, but I’m glad it’s gone back full-circle to this kinda punk rock thing.”
Two years ago, BULLS recorded its first EP, this one at Cloudland Recording Studio with Britt Robisheaux (Bludded Head, Drug Mountain, B.J. Thomas). Holt attributes Robisheaux and the Dreamy Life team as a motivating factor in his band’s resurrection.
“They’re kind of why we did a record,” Holt said. “They were instrumental in getting us back to playing and getting us connected. We’d been out of the scene for a while, and they really helped us out.”
Last winter, they went into Cloudland again and recorded an album’s worth of songs, whittling them down to a second four-song EP, 14 Minutes. Though the trio has more material they could release, they’re kind of picky about what they put out.
“We discovered that our band has evolved into this loud, brutal aesthetic, and it’s harder to really capture that on record and be satisfied with it,” Holt said. “So we’re still kinda finding our voice, but in the meantime, we have this thing out.”
Holt said that overall, he’s happy with what they accomplished on 14 Minutes, in part because it captures BULLS’ sonic aesthetic.
“Punk was the common thread,” he said. “It doesn’t sound like a punk-rock record, but that spirit is in there.”
Still, to truly appreciate what BULLS is trying to do, you kind of have to be in the room with them.
“Loudness is part of our dynamic,” Holt said. “Being able to stand in a room, you can do stuff with amplification. We wanna challenge you. It’s gonna be short, but it’s gonna be uncomfortable. … It’s like life: short, and it’s supposed to hurt a little bit.”
9pm Fri, Sep 15, w/Born Snapped, at Sunshine Bar, 201 Division St, Arl. $5. 817-277-6252.