WITHIN A FEW DAYS, Mario Long-Italian-Last-Name-He-Chooses-Not-to-Disclose, drummer of Seattle glam-punk band the Girls, will be on tour 1,200 miles away in Long Beach, Calif. There, guitarist Vas Kumar will bounce from tabletop to wobbly tabletop, stealing beers from stone-faced hardcore kids with such style that he doesn't get punched even once. The next morning, recording for a radio show, they will put in an order for another bottle of vodka and a case of beer, despite being so wrecked from a hookers and blow after-party that guitarist Zach Davis will keep falling asleep in front of the bass drum. Then they'll rub the mascara out of their eyes and roar through their set like they've got 100,000 screaming Japanese teens waiting just outside the backstage door. But right now, Mario is sitting on a toilet with his cell phone, cheerfully explaining that women find his handlebar mustache irresistible.
"IT'S LIKE, 'OOH, it looks so bad, yet God, it's dangerous and exciting!'" says the drummer. Sort of like, you know, his band. "It's just about rock and roll," Mario explains. "Just get up there and deliver. Stay sweaty and good, and have people leave wanting to fuck or fight."
That's tough talk for a poppy punk band. But the Girls aren't exactly the kind of poppy punk you'd play at the prom. However, they do make a great soundtrack to drinking champagne and taking painkillers in a rented limo, then barfing them all over the backseat. Especially if you happen to be wearing leopard print. Needless to say, the Girls would look great in leopard print.
The Girls, they tell peoplebecause this is what people tell them, Mario quickly addssound like a cross between the Stooges and the Cars. They also tell people that they have a frontmangutter- foppish Shannon Brown, the son David Johansen and Brian Ferry should have had togetherwho's a frontman, not just a man who stands up front. They don't tell people that there aren't any actual girls in the Girlsa practice that's had lechers from Los Angeles to East Texas demanding their money backbecause they don't want to believe that people are really that thick. And they don't need to tell people how obviously and viscerally thrilled they are to rev up the New York Dolls' scumbag charisma with the cuddliness of the Cars' Candy-O. (Every band member has his own copy, claims Mario.)
When the Girls get a chorus they like, they play it over and over and louder and louder until every single person in the bandevery single person in the bar!surrenders and starts singing backup vocals. "I believe that rock and roll thing that we all gravitate toward, when it's really good, is a natural thing," says Mario, who's actually pretty thoughtful for a guy with a handlebar mustache sitting on a toilet. "And somewhere in those years, '77 or '78, it really got so amazingly good. The attitude, everything getting stripped down, the middle finger to big businessthat era kind of encapsulates where rock and roll peaked out, and after that it's been kind of derivative. But it's where our heart is."
Mario's old late-'90s band the Cuckoos were a lot more macho than the Girls, he says. They sounded a little like Guns N' Roses, he says, and he reluctantly admits that they once opened for Blue Oyster Cult ("Secretly, I'm a fan," he says). But the only holdover from those days is the persistent cowbell that rings through at least half the Girls set. Well, that and an unrehearsed, unfettered enthusiasm that any fist-pumping mulleteer would recognize in a second: While other bands stop at lifting riffs, the Girls crack open that decadent late-'70s rock ethos and chow down on its guts. Between songs, they beam out the knowing humor, the campy theatrics, and the giddy I-can't-believe-I'm-getting-away-with-this bravado that made Alice Cooper more fun than David Bowie, the Who more fun than the Beatles, and the Sex Pistols more fun than the Clash. How does that line go? Men want to fuck them, and women want to be them? Because it was true for the Dolls, and it's true now. God, it feels good to be a Girl, Mario says. Maybe too good.
"Yeah, it's what we all really love," says Mario. "And there's a lot in a name. When you're called something a lot, you start to become it. Not that we're becoming women. But," he notes, "there is makeup involved."
The Girls play Sunset Tavern at 4 p.m. Sun., Aug. 17, with the Rotten Apples and the Peels. $5. They also play the Exploding Hearts Benefit at Chop Suey at 9 p.m. Mon., Aug. 25, with the Briefs, Rotten Apples, the Charming Snakes, and more. $6.