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One of the very few power pop duos in existence, punk act Nutrajet have the force and structured sound of a regular, full-scale band. The group, which has developed its unique “wall of sound” noise with the aid of a complex arrangement of large speakers and a central amplifier that is tuned into bass frequencies only, was first formed in Orlando in Florida in 1998. Originally comprising of guitarist and vocalist Greg Reinel and drummer Suzanne Dozier, it put out its first record, a six track self-titled EP, on local label Disarraygun Records last year, and followed this with an album, which again eponymously named, came out on the British independent label Twenty Stone Blatt Records at the beginning of this year. With Dozier now having left the group and having been replaced by Jeff Wood, the new line-up of Nutrajet has recently completed a tour of the Western United States. The band will also in December embark on its first British tour.
Reinel, who is thirty five, first started to play the guitar when he was a teenager, and is the former frontman of The Nicotines, a Florida pop trio who released a 7” three track EP ‘Mary Wana’ in 1996. When The Nicotines split up at the end of 1997, he got together with Dozier, the ex-drummer in another local project Psycho in Texas, with the intention of forming another three piece group.
“We were going to have a bass player when we first started out , but we couldn’t find one to work out” he recalls in an interview with Pennyblackmusic. “The two-piece arrangement arose out of that, out of boredom of trying to find bass players. We tried this thing with a new set-up and we liked it so much we thought “Well ! Rock ‘n’ roll ! Let’s break the rules and come up with our own thing”.
The band experienced initial difficulties with their live sound, and their debut show a few weeks later was both a disaster and also a spectacular success.
“ The set up I have to play with is not that easy” Reinel recollects. “When I first put it together, I thought I’ll just play a chord and some bass note will ring out. It sounded like crap. Our first gig was horrible, terrible, but a lot of people there really liked it , so we felt that we were onto something. As people seemed to like us for better or worse being different , that really inspired us to keep going.“
“At this point in my life playing music has got to keep my interest as well ” he continues. “ Every time we play, therefore, it has to be a challenge to make it sound good. Although we are electric, it is a bit like playing acoustic. We are naked up there. It is important to me that I still get the same kick out of plugging an electric guitar now and shouting over the top of it as I did when I was a kid.”
After some experimentation, the group, more satisfied with their sound, went into a local studio King Snake Records in late 1998 to record the ‘Nutrajet’ EP. Reinel had already spent a lot of time at King Snake , and as a result of this, the band was able to release the EP on the studio’s own label, Disarraygun Records.
“ I like a lot of the bands that record for King Snake, and I would go and hang out and watch some of these groups recording” Reinel reflects. “The proprieter heard our stuff, and while Disarraygun does a lot of R and B and our music is not the sort of stuff that he normally listens to, he told us to come in and to record our records, so we did. He put it out for us, and we just did the legwork, getting it around, sending it out to people and going out and playing.”
From this, Nutrajet were able to secure a deal with the Scottish punk label Twenty Stone Blatt, who decided to release a full-length album. The resulting ‘Nutrajet’ album features the six tracks from the EP (‘Alternative Nation’, ‘You Little Disgrace’, ‘Whip the Big Boy Out’ , ‘Love to Explode’, ‘Up with the Lovely’ and ‘No More You’) plus another five newly recorded songs (‘Celebrity Fist’, ‘Filthy Hands’, ‘December Drowning’, ‘So in Love, So What’ and ‘Vicious Intent’).
It is a striking combination of both aggression and harmony. Described in the Pennyblackmusic magazine in June as “a nitro-driven assault” which “fuses the snot ‘n’ sneer of The Sex Pistols to the melodic, though no less volume driven stylings of Cheap Trick”, it is reminiscent also with its dynamic, crunching-sounding rhythms of the music of The Godfathers, The Rezillos and The Saints, all bands which Reinel says are open influences. Often caustic, but also very funny, its targets include corporate sponsorship, internet porn and media betrayal and one-upmanship . Many of the lyrics have been written in a tongue-in-cheek vein, and, as part of its humour, it makes clever use also of sound effects. ‘Whip the Big Boy Out’, the song about web porn, for example, begins with the sound of someone going on-line, while ‘No More You’, the last number, which is about a relationship coming to an end, finishes with the wailing sound of a police car.
The earlier-recorded songs on the album have both a poppier sound and are also more playful, but the newer tunes have a harder edge and are less satirical and slightly darker in tone. While it acts a splendid summary of Reinel and Dozier’s recording career together, and he is proud of its individual components, Reinel is unconvinced by the album’s overall structuring.
“I like it as a six song EP” he explains. “ I thought that it was perfect. When the record label agreed to put out the record, the distributors said that it wouldn’t sell as much if it didn’t have more tracks. The year after it came out we, therefore, had to add tracks to it. That is really tough to do, because you’re either a different band or the circumstances are different. If those five tracks had been put out on some seperator I think they would have held up just fine.”
Dozier left the group in February within a few days of the album’s release. She had recently married, and decided that with the band’s Western American and British tours coming up that she wanted to remain in Florida.
“We’re still friends.” says Reinel, taking up the story. “She decided that she didn’t want to leave or to come over. Then literally the next day Jeff, who was a friend of mine, called up and said that he would play with me. He came over and we went through the set and it sounded great. “
“I got really lucky !” he enthuses. “ He’s a really great drummer. He brings a bit of Keith Moon to it. He has a hard attack, and has got the solid 4/4 thing down, and as well as being able to sing and do backing vocals, he definitely brings some dynamics to it.”
While Reinel who works as a self-employed graphic artist remains based in Orlando, Wood lives an hour’s drive away in the next big city of Tampa. The duo meet for rehearsals once a week, and when they are not touring, play a gig in either one of the two cities most Saturday nights. Far from finding the distance between them a problem, Reinel believes that it works to their advantage.
“I can make the drive in about an hour” he says. “We’re not around each other all the time, so we don’t get at each other’s throats. We goof around that we don’t like each other, but that’s not true. We get along really well. I enjoy getting out of town the once a week I get over there. I can do a little record shopping-There’s some good record stores over there-and also run through some new stuff. It’s fine. It works out perfectly.”
For their British tour which will run to twelve dates in early and mid-December, Nutrajet will co-headline with Bubble, another punk act which features ex-members of the Street Walkin’ Cheetahs and Dogs D’ Amour. At this stage Reinel is reticent to say what exactly United Kingdom audiences can expect from Nutrajet.
“Expect probably anything, or maybe you’ll just see a couple of Americans fall on their faces !” he jokes when asked. “Until I crank up the gear and find out what kind of sound I am going to get, it is difficult for me to say. It took me a little while to get things working over here, so with converting the power, I am just going to have make sure that it all holds up.”
One guarantee, however, is that, alongside their own songs, Nutrajet will also play plenty of cover songs in their sets.
“The Sex Pistols ‘Holidays in the Sun’ is pretty much a stable of our live shows, Right now in our set, we also play The Saints ‘Know Your Product’ and ‘I’m Stranded.” We do some Rich Kids too, ‘Ghosts of Princes in Towers’ and ‘Hung on You’. We’ve got a lot of material that we like to play live. It doesn’t always have to be our own songs, just as long as we play and have fun.”
With their fan base beginning to develop outside Florida, and more European shows and a second album also eventually planned, Nutrajet is starting to steadily build an audience. The indie music world will be hearing much more from this unique Florida duo in the future.
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