Errortype: Eleven remind me of that hoary old joke, "Where does a two-ton elephant sit?" (A: Anywhere it damn well pleases.) Because even though their roots lie in Long Island's fertile hardcore scene, the quartet's full-throttle assault gleefully disregards the conventions that define most contemporary punk. ET:11 aren't sensitive emocore boys tugging on their secondhand sweaters as they beg for affection, nor are they overgrown bullies hollering corny couplets celebrating their stunted emotional growth. Born from a blessed union of shameless hooks and ear-splitting volume, ET:11 are quite simply, as the title of their sophomore album (on Some Records) declares, Amplified to Rock.
"We don't make punk rock," insists frontman Arty Shepherd through the haze of a dollar-drafts hangover. "We make mainstream rock. Unfortunately, we make mainstream rock in a scene that doesn't want that, so sometimes our music flies over people's heads. I'll openly say, 'I want to be a rock star, I want to be on a major label and play arenas.' It doesn't matter where we play; when I close my eyes, I'm at Madison Square Garden."
You'd think ballsy pronouncements like that and "We're the greatest band that ever existed that nobody's heard of" would earn his band nothing but disdain from the indie set. Yet Shepherd insists he gets tons of e-mail to the contrary, even from that stronghold of integrity, Olympia. ET:11 provide the perfect fix for closet hard rock junkies who can't abide by commercial offerings, "Because we're in 'the scene' and play mainstream rock."
While we're admitting our reasons for adoring Errortype: Eleven, I have a confession to make. Though I am just as susceptible to the sing-along charms of "Better Than the Super Bowl" and the anthemic "I'm Alive" as the next red-blooded American, my attachment to Arty Shepherd runs deeper. Years ago, we were co-workers at a small record store, renowned for its inventory of dance tracks and UK imports, in New York City. I'll forever treasure the memory of his hilarious impersonation of Bj� hobbling hunchbacked around the racks while cackling "Hyperballad" like a wizened crone. But what I remember best is the grace and good humor with which Arty—then the only heterosexual employee—deflected endless passes from our mostly gay male clientele.
Which is why I chuckled when I opened the April issue of CMJ New Music Monthly and found Arty promoting his band by modeling in an underwear spread. (Although I'm on the New York-based magazine's masthead as Editor At Large, his appearance came as a surprise.) Wearing little more than a fetching pair of black boxer-briefs and an "aw shucks" grin, here was our boy practically giving away a long, tall drink of a body many men would've paid top dollar to see. "I was offered a lot of money to be seen in my underwear then," he remembers. "Now it only costs six bucks!"
How much exactly is "a lot of money?" Well, one promoter in particular, who hosted prison-theme parties, was willing to put up $250 a night if Arty agreed to go-go dance in his skivvies. "I asked, 'Are there gonna be dudes jerking off in front of me?'" The gentleman said yes, most likely. Arty paused and considered the matter further. "'Am I gonna get hit with any fluids?'" (Eventually, after his girlfriend expressed displeasure at the prospect, he turned the gig down.)
While Arty was never as excited about the latest Junior Vasquez remix or Cher bootleg as most of our crew, he made up for it with his rabid passion for Brit-pop, especially Oasis. He readily admits that his onstage demeanor ("I'm arrogant, drunk, and fuckin' with people") is appropriated from the Gallagher brothers. Disappointed with Liam and Noel's latest, Standing on the Shoulder of Giants, lately Shepherd's been focusing his attentions on Travis' sophomore album The Man Who and anything by my own future ex-boyfriend, Robbie Williams.
"My favorite record of last year, by far, was the Robbie Williams album," he confesses when the name comes up. "I've done a million Top-10 lists for magazines, and in every one, items number five through 10 were just 'Robbie Williams live.' He's the greatest performer; I've never been so blown away in my entire life. He's one guy that could make me switch to the other team."
Perhaps someday soon, lads across the Atlantic will say the same about Arty. After all, he's charismatic as hell, and Amplified to Rock (produced with John Agnello, whose credits include Dinosaur Jr. and Screaming Trees) bristles with an undeniable urgency that easily surpasses ET:11's tuneful 1997 debut. "The last record was written in the first four months we were together," he explains. "We were figuring out what we wanted to sound like. Now we know what we want to sound like; we want to be arena rock."
Errortype: Eleven don't have a show in Seattle, but they play Bellingham's Showoff Gallery Saturday, April 8, and Olympia's Midnight Sun Monday, April 10.