Band of the Week: Bikini Islands

Pittsburgh group plays on December 22 at the Grog Shop

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click to enlarge Bikini Islands. - Courtesy of Bikini Islands
Courtesy of Bikini Islands
Bikini Islands.
MEET THE BAND: Kyle Wacker (guitar, vocals), Eric “Natty” Neugebauer (drums, vocals), Oskar P. Karst (guitar), and Dave Romero (bass, vocals).

NO BASS, NO PROBLEM: Neugebauer and Wacker started the band around 2014, but the group was just a trio at the time. “We only had one other guy in the band, and he played guitar, and we even recorded an album without a bass player and without playing any live shows," says Wacker. "Fast forward a couple of years, we did find a bass player. Right around when the pandemic started, we started talking to Dave [Romero] and were supposed to meet up and start playing and recording more, but everything go shut down. We eventually were able to start practicing as a foursome.” While Wacker says that Pittsburgh has always been a big metal city, he says the city’s music scene is now more diverse. “There’s a lot of new psychedelic rock bands and punk bands and horn bands are popular. Everyone assumes we’re a surf-rock band based on our name.”

SURF’S UP, SORT OF: While the band’s name suggests surf rock, and the guys like that type of music, the group's influences are more wide-ranging. Influenced by alt-rock acts such as the Strokes, Arctic Monkeys and Weezer, the group also draws inspiration from classic rock acts such as the Beatles and Pink Floyd. “I like the neo-psychedelic bands too and really like bands like King Gizzard and Tame Impala,” says Wacker.

WHY YOU SHOULD HEAR THEM: Since the band wanted to have more control over how its recorded music sounds, it decided to self-produced its latest effort, Simple Pleasures. “We did record it all ourselves in our practice space,” says Wacker, who adds that he'll have vinyl copies of the album for sale at the upcoming Grog Shop show. “I read books on recording and microphone techniques and all that nerdy stuff. If we didn’t like one of our takes, we could go back and record it and didn’t have to spend a couple of hundred dollars to re-track it. It allows us to be more experimental too.” “Modern Pop” might have some psychedelic vibes, but it’s also very accessible. “As a songwriter, I naturally fall into writing songs that are in a standard pop structure,” says Wacker. “I know where it’s going to go most of the time. The song ‘Bowie’ might have a chorus per se, but the lyrics change throughout it. ‘Skeleton’ has a verse and maybe a chorus and maybe goes into a slow bridge part and ends on a verse.” The band tends to mostly play newer tunes when it plays live. “We have enough of an eclectic mix of songs that we will look at the venue and the bands we are playing with to see the energy of the set,” says Neugebauer. “We haven’t written a set yet [for the Grog Shop show], but we’ve been talking about it at practice. Some of the songs are heavier and some are more chill. We'll probably play a mix of both.”

WHERE YOU CAN HEAR THEM: bikiniislands.bandcamp.com.

WHERE YOU CAN SEE THEM: Bikini Islands perform with the Vumms, Simon & the Apparatus and Oongow at 8 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 22, at the Grog Shop in Cleveland Heights.

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About The Author

Jeff Niesel

Jeff has been covering the Cleveland music scene for more than 20 years now. And on a regular basis, he tries to talk to whatever big acts are coming through town, too. If you're in a band that he needs to hear, email him at [email protected]
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