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The Serpenteens: Toppling genre conventions with the power of two

The Serpenteens
12 November 2021

The Serpenteens – Photo Credit: The Serpenteens

From the first ominous chords of The Serpenteens’ new release, Revolution, try not to let a sinister smile creep across your face.

The Serpenteens is a pandemic-born, Nashville-based, garage-punk-dark surf duo consisting of Marco Argiro on guitar and lead vocals and Tracy Jean on percussion and backup vocals.

Their SoundCloud profile states, “The band was formed earlier in the year 2020 after we shed our tender skin and followed a more progressive path of enlightenment.” Y’all had us at “shed our tender skin…”

Channeling a deadly serious Spinal Tap, the opening instrumental “Corpse Pose” shifts between 1970s Heavy Metal and Tracy Jean’s syncopated, almost reggaeton rhythm. It’s an epic start; an extended overture offering listeners a taste of all that’s to come on Revolution.

But it’s not until “Game Show Host” that Marco Argiro shows off his vocals, softly sneered and dripping with reproach. Guess who Marco’s talking about when he sings, “False prophet demagogue/Tyrant and crook./The dirty stranglehold/wrapped around the laws in the book.” Damn…

The Serpenteens recorded Revolution in Miami, Florida and you just know someone felt that burn down the road at Mar-a-Lago.

“Circus Song” features Tracy’s gorgeous background vocals that melt and swirl a death metal version of a carnival sideshow. The melodic line feels like something you’d hear playing out the back of a vardo caravan or an organ grinder played by a zombie monkey. So many of these songs cross genres even between sections. You’ll be walking (not running) with The Ventures and then along comes Golgol Bordello shouting, “Hey! Hey!”, and now everyone’s doing the squat dance! Side note: Tasteful whammy bar goes a long way and Marco delivers. Chef’s kiss.

“Underworld” features a classic Arabic scale (double harmonic major scale for fellow theory nerds) that Dick Dale expertly and permanently affixed to the surf rock soundscape. The octave and phased-out sitar effects give it a Lawrence of Arabia on LCD vibe. Also: nailed it with the jawbone. In a song called “Underworld?” We see you, The Serpenteens.

Another stand-out is “Love Sick Hotel.” A breezy surf rock ballad that just astoundingly soars. Guitars soaked with reverb, vibrato, and slap echo morph into a rich overdriven solo. Chimes, shakers, tambourines, and claps color the rhythmic journey from a loose and open intro to a triumphant finale. It is an absolutely beautiful ride.

Picture sitting on the floor in front of an old tube television. You turn the knob on the TV and every channel has a band playing a different genre of music and every band is The Serpenteens—just wearing different costumes. Here some sequins, there some leather, everywhere big ol’ sideburns.

The band is only a duo, but they sound humongous and versatile. Heavy metal? Serpenteens bring it with fuzzed-out guitar and booming kick. Boogie wooky honky tonk? Marco oozes the word “struuuut” while Tracy grooves on the ride. This album rocks, and it rocks in assorted flavors.

This band was born in the darkness of early 2020. Then they put on some groovy shades and got to work. The Serpenteens’ Revolution has begun.

Marco also took part in the following Q&A:

The duo sounds great. Why a duo?

“Cheers! Happy you dig it. Well, for starters You must know we’re both really into numerology. The number two being our most favorite number. But if you must know It really happened when the pandemic kicked off and Tracy and I (who were previously in another band together (The Tenders) moved in together since we had both lost our jobs and survival was paramount. Naturally as the world continued to catch fire, we resorted back to writing songs and jamming together at our new HQ in Donelson, TN.”

What’s your favorite song on the new album? Follow up question: What’s the most fun to play?

““Underworld” is probably our favorite cut from the Album. It was the last song to come together for the album and it ended up adding a whole new mood to the collection of songs we had written. The title track, “Revolution” is one of the most fun to play live. It’s probably our shortest song, but it’s full of energy and gets the crowd going.”

What’s your songwriting process look like?

“Starts with a riff during a jam and we usually keep digging in until a rough arrangement feels right. Melodies are usually off the cuff improvisations until a sentiment or subject comes to mind. Lyrics are usually last and Tracy and I both work those out together.”

I understand Tracy has puppeteering experience. Do you plan on incorporating puppets or any other denizens of the uncanny valley into your performances on the stage or screen?

“We are always looking for ways to enhance our live performances with theatrical elements such as props or special effects. Although at times it makes for an insane load-in for a two piece band we’re just crazy, or maybe committed, enough to do it in an effort to transport the audience into a different scene. As far as the screen is concerned, we have a music video coming out for our song Ode To Neptune that features some of the large scale props that Tracy has made and we also had a robot alien puppet that makes an appearance in that video.”

I loved the video for “Strut.” It really highlights your style. Is there something about that ‘50s-‘60s vibe that appeals to you?

“Absolutely love the ’50s / ’60s style. Both of us do. It’s classic and works well with our personal style and ascetic. Funny that you say that. Technically that’s not the official music video for “Strut” it was a live performance on an Atlanta, GA based Public Access music television program called Now Dig This. It’s given that retro mid-century Shindig/Top Of The Pops treatment.”

What does the revolution look like to The Serpenteens? And what’s next for you? Touring, movie deals, “The Serpenteens in Space” maybe?*

“Ultimately we believe the current revolution is a continuation of the shift in consciousness that began in the 1960s. Slowly but surely people are starting to wake up and evolve into higher states of being and embracing love consciousness. Obviously this will effect politics, culture, the economy, the environment, and the world.”

“Music provides opportunities for deeper connections and creates space for expansion and exploration. Rock and roll in particular allows us to explore darker themes of the human experience, to be messy and unafraid and to capture the sounds and stories of our shared experiences. It’s definitely a lifestyle as is this revolution.”

“As far as the future is concerned, we want to travel, we want to write, we want to keep creating and collaborating with other earthlings…and beyond. Serpenteens In Space is currently in production in Joshua Tree, just waiting for our ride to beam us up. After that we hope to travel our planet some more and keep the collaborations and connections going all along the way.”