The Saturday Knights: Flirtin’ With Disaster

Tacoma’s hip-hop and punk-rock cocktail—minus the bitter aftertaste.

Tilson and I sit in Moe Bar before it opens, eating spring rolls and curry and making up song titles for the next Saturday Knights album—we especially like "Lovin' On the Internet"—when Steve Severin, one of the owners, puts on the Knights' first full-length, Mingle. We make it through about a minute of the disc before Severin hollers at us from the far end of the bar. "This is the clean version!" he says, taking the disc out and eyeing it with distaste. "What's that all about? I need me some swears!" "All right, I'm gonna fix that," Tilson says, standing up. He goes out to his car, returning with an uncensored copy of the record. Technically the bar doesn't open until 3 p.m., but the owners let us hang out while Tilson relays some tall tales of redwood stature about his bandmates, MC Barfly and DJ Suspence, and about the making of Mingle, a record that serves up a generous helping of hip-hop with some rock and roll sprinkled on top. When I ask him how the Saturday Knights hooked up with legendary producer Jack Endino—whose Soundhouse Studios in Ballard was where much of Mingle was recorded—Tilson responds thus: "Well, Jack, like myself, is a very big crossbow enthusiast. So I was out practicing one day, but I didn't really understand the intricacies of using a crossbow," Tilson explains. "Lo and behold, Jack Endino showed up—and it wasn't just me, it was a whole Saturday Knights outing—well, he showed up and showed us the correct safety procedures. A couple of bull's-eyes later, Jack's on the album [playing drums on "45"]! It was that easy." And that's just one of the yarns Tilson spins for me in the course of an afternoon, all accompanied by a flirtatious, disarming grin that makes the most outlandish fib almost believable. Like the answer I get when I inquire why the band chose local label Light in the Attic instead of flashier suitors like Island/Def Jam or Downtown Records. "Matt (Sullivan) knows how to pirouette," Tilson explains, referring to Light in the Attic's co-owner. "He actually performed a little ballet for us. Before he started, he was like, 'I am a leaf in the wind.' And he really looked like a leaf in the wind! How can you say no to someone dedicated to being a leaf in the wind just for your entertainment?" It's hard to tell whether Tilson is clowning for me to better personify the Saturday Knights' tongue-in-cheek, zany sense of humor, or if this is just the way he acts all the time. I suspect the latter. We leave soon after to visit Barfly at Light in the Attic headquarters on Aurora Avenue; Tilson, who lives in Tacoma, gives me a ride in his cushy black Land Rover. When we arrive, Sullivan corroborates Tilson's story about the pirouetting, and we all sit down with Barfly, who comments more directly about their music and the airline-themed album art he designed himself. "Rap and rock, it's not a no-brainer like peanut butter and chocolate," Barfly says. "It's usually a disaster. Give it five years—this might be a disaster." Except it's not. Not only do the Saturday Knights manage to combine hip-hop and punk rock to create righteously hip-shakin' party jams—a near-impossible feat in itself—but the band's clever rhymes about skirt chasing ("Private School Girl," etc., etc.) and elbow-patch jackets ("Patches") also reveal real smarts beneath the band's lighthearted exterior. As far as the art goes, Barfly says, "I think we're a pretty obvious band. [The airline motif] is just an abstraction of who we are. If we left [the album art] up to someone else, they would've had us posing with dogs at Second and Battery [the Belltown dog park there is featured in the Saturday Knights' song "Dog Park"]." Due to legal issues, the band had to recreate in live performance many of the samples they wanted to use on this album, so there are a lot of famous guests, ahem, mingling on this album—among them, the Dap Kings, former Soundgarden guitarist Kim Thayil, Chris Ballew of the Presidents of the United States of America, and Jim Horn & the Muscle Shoals Horns. I ask if, since the Saturday Knights have live musicians on their record, they'll have live performers at their CD release show as well. "We'll have some, um, stage guests," Tilson says, but that's as far as he'll go. Then it's back to wacky speculation about pancake-making alarm clocks, with Tilson freestyling about Thunderbirds, cake cutters, and how to make Scotch that doesn't taste like Band-Aids. Is it like this all the time? Barfly just smirks and says, "Honestly, I don't know if we've had a serious moment, ever."

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