Neutralboy is, technically, a Bremerton band. But with two decades of rocking Tacoma under their belts, and members that honed their musical chops here at the Community World Theater in the late '80s, few acts have become more synonymous with the local punk scene.
The band became so synonymous with defunct Tacoma nightclub Hell's Kitchen that it was booked to play the final show there. On May 17, the band will return to play its first show here since the Kitchen closed its doors last year, this time at O'Malley's Irish Pub on 6th Avenue. We caught up with bandleader Mike “The Pike” Moen to mark the occasion, and to learn more about his band's brand new CD.
Tacoma Weekly: Every time I have caught you guys it has been at Hell's Kitchen. Have you played anywhere else in Tacoma?
Moen: Not really. That was something I always kind of held true to. They were always so good to us; always a good part of why we even have a following in Tacoma.
TW: Will it be weird to play somewhere else?
Moen: Yeah, a little bit for sure.… But O'Malley's, a lot of my friends work there, and a lot of people I know hang out there. It kind of made sense.
TW: So it could be your new home away from Bremerton.
Moen: Yeah, I don't even really live in Bremerton any more.
TW: Really? So where are you nowadays?
Moen: I've been bouncing around California, mainly in the van. That's where I pretty much live. I just got done playing with another band down here this whole last weekend with Cinco de Mayo. Then I go back up there and we start the tour.
TW: How long have you been down in California?
Moen: I've been there all this year. I've come up to do a couple of shows. A friend of ours' daughter got diagnosed with leukemia, and I couldn't be there (for an April 19 benefit show at Bremerton's Charleston Music Venue.) So the bass player in the band sang instead of myself.
TW: Man, sorry to hear that.
Moen: Yeah, it's a drag. We're actually donating all the money from our newest record that we put out for that. You can download it on our Bandcamp site. She's 15. And, speaking of Hell's Kitchen, there's pictures of her at Hell's Kitchen when she was 6 years old watching us. So she's a close friend and a big part of the band.
TW: And what is her name?
Moen: Jade (Stevens). She's originally from Bremerton, and her mom is a punk rocker. They moved down to Phoenix, so this all happened down there. (We thought) “What can we do? What can a bunch of touring punk rockers do that don't have jobs?” The easiest thing to do was, OK, let's just get this record out and do that.
It was something I was puttin' together. I record a good part of all our music at this studio, Monkey Trench, in Bremerton. So I had it, and I was already in my mind beginning to lay out the record and all that.
TW: Now, Monkey Trench, that is the place owned by the guy from MxPx.
Moen: Yeah, Mike Herrera, he owns it. That's where we recorded our last three records, I think. Mike's really cool. He's kind of let me intern there for a few years, learning how to record. I've gotta have my hands in everything. (Laughs) I don't know why. Whether it's the artwork or the recording or booking the tours. Some things that you enjoy you have to work for, you know.
TW: And so you worked really closely with him.
Moen: It's funny 'cause, travelin' around, we get to these places and there'll be somebody that's like, “You're from Bremerton, man. MxPx,” and they start talking (trash.) And it's like, yeah, Mike's one of my best friends. I probably wouldn't still be doing it – I definitely wouldn't do it with the work ethic that I do it – if it wasn't for my friendship with him and growing up with him and seeing how things operate.
I don't ever put liner notes in our records, but I think he's played lead guitar and then backup on almost every one of our recovers over the past 18 or 19 years.
TW: When did you record this new record?
Moen: It was about six months ago.
TW: The last CD of yours I got my hands on was “Everybody Dies.” What can we expect on this one versus what you were doing a couple of years back?
Moen: We've kind of stuck to the same recipe as far as Neutralboy is concerned; three chords and rockin' backup vocals. I don't necessarily think “Everybody Dies” is metal, but I think I kind of leaned that way on a lot of the guitars. This one's a little more poppy if anything. It's called “Pussy.”
TW: And you are talking about a cat, I am sure.
Moen: Yeah, there’s one song that's about a cat. A lot of the songs have “pussy” in it, in one way or another. And none of it is a sexual reference.
TW: Who is in this incarnation of Neutralboy?
Moen: This tour it will actually be myself, (bassist) Bill Mann. Dirty Ray, he's the drummer. He's from a band called the Swinos. And Shawn Durand from Portrait of Poverty and Subvert is going to be filling in on guitar for this tour. It kind of made since. We've been friends ever since the Community World (Theatre) days in Tacoma. We've been in bands since we were teenagers and played together all the time.
TW: Like you said, you are kicking off a tour up here. Where are you going this time?
Moen: We're going to Punk Rock Bowling down in Vegas. That's kind of our middle point. We're touring through Oregon, California, Nevada … then coming right up to the coast.
TW: So what is a tour story that you can tell? Maybe with names changed to protect the not-so-innocent.
Moen: I was datin' this girl that worked down at Adidas in Portland. She was a graphic artist, and she had this great idea of sending posters out to all the clubs on the tour that we did – like, 53 shows. She made an STD warning poster with my face on it.
Woman's scorn, man. She mailed it out to every club. You'd see a family eating, and over the table was my face. “Public health warning! STDs!” (Laughs)
TW: Was that while you dated or after?
Moen: I think we were done dating at that point. I think she'd had it. But it was pretty humorous. There was a contest to see who could find the posters first when we got to each town.