Rocket Queen: New-School Noir

The Dark emerges for Verellen Amplifier Night.

"We put on Faith No More's Angel Dust and the Misfits' Static Age and used that as our bow-chick-a-bow-bow music," says former Schoolyard Heroes bassist Jonah Bergman. Bergman and his bandmates are discussing the conception of their new baby band, The Dark. We are at a bar in Wallingford a few hours prior to the band's inaugural show at the Comet on Capitol Hill. Drummer Jay Beaman (who played a few shows with SYH before their dissolution in 2009) and guitarist Christiaan Morris (also a former SYH member) are sipping pints of Budweiser and trying not to get distracted by the trivia-night emcee barking out questions about Beavis and Butt-head cartoons and Slayer songs behind us.

"When Schoolyard broke up, the idea was to start a new band and use it to catapult us towards something a little less angular and more driving punk," explains Bergman. Initially, Bergman, Beaman, Morris, and SYH frontwoman Ryann Donnelly called the new project Blood Cells, but shortly after recording some demos with esteemed local producer John Goodmanson, Donnelly announced that she was moving to New York to pursue a long-standing interest in fashion and design. The remaining trio decided to soldier on without her, and Bergman picked up lead-vocal duties.

"It's harder to rock out when you have to stay in front of the mike," he laughs. Though they've been rehearsing in this pared-down configuration for just four months, they already have a pretty sweet gig as the opening act for the Verellen Amplifiers Showcase this Thursday, September 16. The bill includes local metal luminaries Akimbo and Helms Alee, the menacing-yet-melodic outfit fronted by Verellen Amplifiers proprietor Ben Verellen. Ben's elder brother and former Botch frontman Dave Verellen will also be on hand, playing with his brutal hardcore band, Narrows.

"We didn't tell anybody about tonight's show—we're playing last on a Wednesday night at the Comet," continues Bergman, referring to their less-than-lustrous billing for their first show. "That way if anyone talks shit about [incorrectly thinking] our first show is the awesome Verellen Amplifier night, we can be, like, 'Look, we paid our dues!'"

Bergman first met Ben Verellen several years ago while watching Verellen's pre–Helms Alee band, Harkonen. "He had this almost hardcore-[meets]-Kurt Cobain vibe," he recalls. "He has that piercing growl in the high-to-mid-range of the vocal spectrum. I always liked Harkonen a lot." A friendship sprung up, and Bergman is now the proud owner of the Meatsmoke, Verellen's signature product.

"The Meatsmoke definitely feels like a Seattle thing. Maybe it's because of the Melvins," he muses. "That deep, distorted bass sound has kind of made its way into a bunch of bands. I think in certain genres of music, there's almost a [sense of] tone worship. Bands like Thrones or [the now defunct] Teen Cthulhu...that dirgy, grindy, dark-sounding stuff. And for bass players, there aren't a lot of options. You play an Ampeg SVT or a Sunn Coliseum—there are only a handful of things you can do. But Ben kind of made a dream amp. It has a very specific sound and very specific vibe. I think Ben could honestly market his [brand] as the 'new Seattle sound.'"

Guitarist Morris is also now collaborating directly with Verellen, trading labor time to pay off his own amp purchase, even though he came to the table with no existing electronics skill set. "We came up with these ghetto, color-coded schematics—the laymen's version of things," he explains, somewhat sheepishly. "I don't know how everything works exactly, but I know how to put it together."

Morris picked up his new amp just before The Dark loaded into the Comet. "Just got the Skyhammer [model] today," he enthuses. "It's really gain-y; it sounds fucking giant.

"I feel like everyone I know who is in a band has one or is trying to get [a Verellen amp]," interjects Bergman. "And hell, even if you don't like the tone of Ben's amps, the product names are completely badass."

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