Mean Motor Scooter drummer Jeffery Chase Friedman is fronting a new band. It’s called Uncle Toasty, and, at least for its debut show at MASS Friday, it includes three-fourths of the aforementioned other band. Friedman wants you to see his new band, and he wants you to have a good time. That might sound like an overly simplistic thesis, but it’s in the service of a greater purpose: Friedman wants to get people excited about watching bands again.
“Nowadays, people would rather sit at home, y’know, instead of going to a rock show,” he said, “and that kills me.”
Hoodied and beanied against the fall chill, Friedman posted up at a patio table at a Near Southside watering hole and along with Uncle Toasty co-founder and drummer Michael Surdel explained what he wanted to do with his new project, sort of vision-boarding what he’d like to see happen with the scene moving forward and how Uncle Toasty fits in it. In both cases, his ideas are predicated on loud amps and large crowds.
To those ends, Uncle Toasty does not reinvent the wheel — no one can deny that high decibels and a crowd large enough and ready and willing to absorb them make for a great experience — but it certainly slaps on the right tires for the job. Besides Surdel, who used to play drums in the short-lived rock band Bad Blonde, Friedman, who sings and plays guitar in Uncle Toasty, reached out to his MMS bandmate Sammy Kidd to join them.
“Sammy and I have always played music together, since like sixth grade,” Friedman said.
And for their first show, MMS bassist Joe Tacke will add more guitar crunch to Friedman’s and Kidd’s guitar attack, with Dustin Schneider filling in on bass.
“But this might be Joe’s first and last performance with us,” Friedman said. “Three guitars might be a little much.”
Even if Tacke never plays with Uncle Toasty after Friday night, his influence on the band’s sound is pervasive, as is Mean Motor Scooter’s keyboardist Rebecca Elizabeth, both of whom played on Uncle Toasty’s current single, “The Butcher of Burundi.” And given that Friedman is writing with Kidd, the Mean Motor Scooter DNA is expressed in a lot of Uncle Toasty’s sonic phenotypes. “Butcher” bears the punky tempo and bratty sort of guitar leads found in MMS’ later material, with Friedman’s vocals slathered in Scooter-esque reverb and Elizabeth’s keyboard pads and fills floating around like a whippet high. When Friedman drops his songwriting influences, though, he hints that Uncle Toasty’s other songs reach into murkier, more sludgy depths.
“We came up with a splatter-brained kind of idea, something that was punk rock, something that was rock ’n’ roll, very much influenced by stoner rock and doom,” Friedman said.
“Experimental,” Surdel added. “We haven’t really restricted ourselves to one thing.”
For the sake of contrast, Friedman described Mean Motor Scooter’s sound and Kidd’s songwriting in that band in terms of mid-2000s garage punks like Jay Reatard and Ty Segall, which is not where he started with Uncle Toasty’s songs.
“I wanted to take a very different approach,” Friedman said. “I think [Mike and I] were very much into the grunge thing. Tad, Skin Yard … I think Tad is a great songwriter, and Jack Endino’s guitar work in Skin Yard was crazy.”
Friedman mentions the Fastbacks as an influence, as well as the frenetic, distorted shredding found in the Jesus Lizard and Scratch Acid, but in the context of the breakneck, rickety-state-fair-roller-coaster rush of “Butcher,” one might deduce that Uncle Toasty’s grunge influence might be more from the party-centric legends spun from the late-’80s/early-’90s heyday of Seattle’s music scene than the era’s signature, chunky, detuned riffage. Either way, who cares? Though he himself does not drink, future party-centric legends are what Friedman wants Uncle Toasty to be a part of.
“We want to play with fun bands,” he said. “We want to be friends with fun bands. It’s important that people have fun” with live music, and having fun for the sake of having fun informs Friedman’s lyrics. “The stuff that I’m writing about … one song is about the Phoenix Lights. I wrote [another] about a crocodile. … I want people to have a good time. It’s gonna be loud, but like I said, it’s a rock show.”