Nostalgic Nightmare

The American Werewolves mix doo-wop with horror-infused hardcore.

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American Werewolves Peabody's, 2083 East 21st Street 6:30 p.m. Saturday, February 12; $6, 216-779-9999
When not putting fans in headlocks, American - Werewolves frontman Trevor Moment (second from - right) is a bar bouncer and amateur martial-arts - practitioner. - Walter  Novak
When not putting fans in headlocks, American Werewolves frontman Trevor Moment (second from right) is a bar bouncer and amateur martial-arts practitioner.
Three days after a full moon, the American Werewolves are in human form, dressed all in black, at one of Cleveland's best spots for all-you-can-eat meat: B.D.'s Mongolian Barbeque. As one might expect, burly frontman Trevor Moment has a bowl full of spicy beef. The two other members present -- guitarist Brendan Less and drummer Nate 68 -- skip the buffet's lamb, steak, and pork, instead loading up on tofu. Half-vegetarian, half-carnivorous, the American Werewolves' culinary preferences mirror the duality of their music: half bloody-knuckle hardcore, half melodic '50s pop.

"What I wanted to do with American Werewolves was to have a band with the intensity of Bad Brains, but the melody of doo-wop," says Moment, a strand of hair bobbing from his spiky black pompadour as he speaks. His long, curved sideburns taper into points, ending just beneath his earlobes. "I think oldies are an honest kind of music. Oldies and punk have a lot in common: Doo-wop was made by kids on street corners, for kids. And punk is music by kids, for kids."

Naturally big, Moment stands 6 feet 2 -- 6 feet 8 with the pompadour, he jokes -- and weighs 240 pounds, bulked up for professional bar-bouncing and amateur mixed-martial-arts fighting. Wrapped in thick wristbands, his meaty arms display his dedication to the horror aesthetic, tattooed with misty graveyard scenes of specters and tombstones. His right biceps bears a skull the size of his big fists and the American Werewolves logo -- a grimacing wolfman in an orange circle. The rest of the band -- bassist Tony Scamboney isn't present; he's working at Mentor's All Tattoos tonight -- also wear the mark. Moment had the piece in place before the band even existed. He originally intended to use American Werewolves as the name of a motorcycle gang, but then he discovered the campy 1971 flick Werewolves on Wheels and decided that leather-bound lycanthropes aren't exactly menacing.

"I had faith it would be a good band," Moment explains. "Partly, I used werewolves just because it sounds cool. It's not just the Lon Chaney kind of wolfman, but the idea of the duality of people and being young, virile, and violent."

As he rests between bowls, Moment is quick to identify and critique the oldies playing over the restaurant's sound system, ears perking up when he hears Dion and Chubby Checker.

"'Let's Twist Again' is a very good song," Moment says. "It's a far better song than 'The Twist.' It's weird that a sequel song would be that good."

"I don't listen to much modern music," he continues. "I try to. I go out of my way to find music I'd like, but I don't."

"There's no songwriting in modern music," Less chimes in. His jet-black hair combed to the left, he wears rimless glasses frames, looking as if he belongs in the kind of German synthesizer bands that he's been listening to lately. "It's just crappy part slammed into crappy part, slammed into a chorus. Everybody just imitates somebody else's crappy sound. It's like you're letting all the other bands do the work for you."

Not the 'Wolves, who have managed to hit upon a somewhat original sound. Moment had written songs and planned the band since 1996, but the group didn't become a reality until 2003, when they released We Won't Stay Dead. Filled with what Moment calls "violent crooning," the album's 13 horror-themed songs, including "Atom Age Vampire," simmer from rough sing-along pop to belligerent hardcore. Though they had been together only a few months, the Werewolves came with a strong LP. Informed by the same influences that made horrorcore kings the Misfits an enduring legend, it showed what a short leap it is from Pete Seeger's ooh-oohs to the Misfits' whoa-ohs.

American Werewolves' second LP -- recorded, unmastered, and tentatively titled 1968, after the landmark year in horror that saw the release of Night of the Living Dead, among other classics -- is a complete contrast to modern hardcore. Like a tighter version of its predecessor, it even includes ballads -- an idea not entirely unprecedented in punk, but never done with such sincerity or grace. "For Your Blood" and "Scream a Little Scream" are already fan favorites.

"I like the songs that the kids can sing along to," says Moment. "I think it's fun. I think people forget that music's supposed to be fun."

Granted, the hardcore aficionado's idea of fun can get a little out of control, but the 'Wolves handle it. Tattooed to the gills with a notoriously short fuse, Scamboney once punched a heckler who moved from the audience to the stage. A professional peacemaker, Moment has sung an entire song with an unruly fan in a headlock.

The band plays Peabody's as regularly as any big Cleveland act and has developed a modest national cult following. A 7" of songs split with Texas horrorcore troupe Phantom Pains sells well on internet punk outlet Good international reception at leads them to believe that the next album will be well received. Pending label interest, they'd like to release it this year. In the meantime, the band plans a spring release of a very limited CD EP of five new songs on Fractured Transmitter Records. Moment thinks the band has the same appeal that has made oldies popular for 50 years -- and horror, of course, has an enduring audience.

"Every society has horror," says Moment. "It's a theme that goes through everything. It'll always be there. It's not a fad. It's a metaphor for culture and society. There's a dark side to everybody's life."

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