Volume 78 / Number 13, August 27 - September 2, 2008
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since
1933

Villager photo by Laurie Mittelmann

Josh Styles of the Stalkers says the band’s main goals are to get an American record label and do a U.S. tour.


Can a punk rock band love ABBA and still make it big?

By Lincoln Anderson

The Stalkers, an up-and-coming Brooklyn-based rock-and-roll band, have had some success — mainly in England. Now — with a show on the Rocks Off cruise early this Friday morning — they’re stalking greater popularity in the States, hoping for a breakthrough here.

Whether or not they make it might say a lot about the state of rock and roll today.

Mixing and matching musical influences ranging from the Beach Boys and the Bay City Rollers to the New York Dolls and The Damned, The Stalkers play an upbeat and fun brand of pop-rock. They’re the antithesis, thankfully, to the depresso, pseudo-Nirvana sound that radio has been saturating the airwaves with for far too long.

“We wear our musical influences on our sleeves,” said Danny, who plays bass for the Stalkers by night, and by day is The Villager’s circulation manager and all-around news box fix-it guy.

“We’re definitely doing our own thing,” added lead guitarist Raze.

The Stalkers have a charismatic, Batman-obsessed lead singer named Andy Animal, whose over-the-top delivery has more than a debauched dash of David Johansen. Raze is the band’s musical virtuoso, and drummer Josh is their driving force, determined that they reach the top of the rock heap. Rounding out the band is Lefty, also on guitar.

In their mid to late 20s, hailing from either New York City or Woodstock, they all share a place in Bushwick — “It’s now what realtors call East Williamsburg,” scoffed Josh.


From left, Raze, Lefty, Josh, Danny and Animal of the Stalkers


“Kind of like a Monkees vibe” is how Raze described their group living situation.

Fanatical music collectors, their place is jammed with thousands of old vinyl 45s and a couple of jukeboxes always blaring their favorite songs, heavy on 1960s garage rock.

They were recently flown over to London by a record label to cut four new tunes at the fabled Olympic Studios, where Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones and Jimi Hendrix all laid down tracks. The results include the hook-filled, hand-clapping “In Your Streets Today” and the rocking “Chez Jay’s” — an homage to Beach Boy Dennis Wilson’s favorite bar for drowning his sorrows.

Their biggest hit so far is “Let’s Get It Together,” the surefire party tune off their first album, named “single of the week” in Artrocker!, a U.K. music magazine. The turbocharged “Feral Child,” also new, is the number they close their live shows with.

Taking a much shorter trip, the band — well, four-fifths of it — earlier this week rode the L train into Manhattan for an interview at The Villager’s office. While wolfing down slices they brought from Joe’s Pizza on Carmine St., and with much hilarity at Animal’s groggy comments via speakerphone — “I hit ‘p.m.’ instead of ‘a.m.’ I don’t use alarm clocks very much,” he said in his defense — they talked about where they are now and where they want to be as a band.

“Our main goal is to get an American label and tour the States,” Josh said. “I think a lot of bands in New York were shocked that we got flown over to England and Paris.”

Rivalry with other bands seems unavoidable. The Stalkers do pretty much everything together, but they ridiculed one local band, which they declined to name, whose members go to the gym to work out together. The Stalkers would rather spend their time honing their songs than toning their abs.

Josh was wearing an Ace bandage on his left wrist. At a barbecue in Williamsburg over the weekend, some guy in an ’80-style “hair band” had kept provoking him.

“This guy kept talking s—t to us, calling us ‘hipsters,’” he said. “I asked if he got his fashion advice out of Vice magazine. He said, ‘You want to fight me?’ — I just pegged him right in the face with a beer.”

In the following fracas, someone hurled a beer mug that shattered on Josh’s shin.

A Williamsburg version of “Quadro-phenia” and the Mods versus the Rockers?

“More like the fake metal bands against the real punks with long hair,” Danny said.

But Josh is sure he’ll be able to play the Rocks Off show this Friday, though, he said, “It’s gonna hurt.”

The one thing about the Stalkers is that they are pretty impossible to pigeonhole. They like to experiment and throw musical curveballs, such as recording a punked-up version of ABBA’s “Tiger.”

ABBA?

“I love ABBA,” said Josh, sporting a Bay City Rollers button pinned to his big, black, floppy hat. “I’m an out-of-the-closet ABBA fan.” Asked why he likes the Swedish tunemeisters, he answered simply, “Perfect pop.” He’s not planning on seeing “Mamma Mia!” anytime soon, though.

Perfection is something the Stalkers have been striving for, mainly in their own lineup.

Fights used to break out onstage between the Stalkers themselves. But that was during two previous lineups of the band. Two guitarists — who weren’t into traveling overseas — were jettisoned. This current lineup is “The One,” they say. They don’t fight anymore. They just focus on their music, and obviously they have fun doing it.

“Basically, we feel we’re going to make the best songs we can write,” said Josh.

Added Raze, dead serious, “You’re not going to find five more dudes that really believe in rock and roll like we do in this town.”

Animal kept fading in and out on speakerphone, falling back asleep on his couch.

“If this couch could talk,” he said knowingly at one point, then segued into relating a romantic adventure that somehow also involved a pastrami sandwich from Katz’s Deli. He noodled on and on, his bandmates cracking up at his non sequiturs. This is basically what they do at home all the time, Danny said.

Animal promised he’s going to ride the Batboat to the Rocks Off concert. It’s not just a goof that he likes Batman. On a previous trip to England, the rest of the band members all brought appropriate amounts of luggage while Animal just brought a small bag filled entirely with Batman comics. When the band was riding with some French girls on a double-decker bus in London, Animal had a particularly gross run-in with the calling card of the notorious “Train Defecator.” Somehow, it’s always Animal. …

Lefty has a special relationship with Animal. Mainly, when they were growing up in Woodstock together, he lived in constant fear that Animal would beat him up. Animal admits he relished cultivating this sense of dread.

But now they are all tight unit. And they want people to know they’re available to play parties whenever, especially at Brooklyn lofts. They might put one unusual item on their rider — the list of the band’s requests — however. That would be socks, because, well, Animal really needs to change his a lot more often. In England, their riders always contain “socks.”

As the Stalkers left, Josh limped off, his leg that had been gouged by the beer mug at the barbecue visibly paining him. Who’ll make it bigger, the Stalkers, or that fashion-challenged, ’80s, Vice-advice-taking hair band? Batman and the Beach Boys would put the smart money on the Stalkers.

The Stalkers are headlining the Rocks Off concert cruise early Friday morning Aug. 29. The Half Moon will depart from the Skyport Marina at E. 23rd St. and the F.D.R. Drive at 12:30 a.m. sharp. Loading starts at midnight. The cruise lasts three hours. Also playing will be the Giraffes. There will be a cash bar and food for sale. Advance tickets are $20 at www.rocksoff.com. For more on The Stalkers, visit www.stalkersnyc.com.

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