Is Laramie, WY, the new home of modern punk-pop?
Wyoming, the Cowboy State, is known for many things: beautiful countryside, Dick Cheney, buffalo, Old Faithful, and punk rock (cue sound of a record screeching to a halt). Yep, punk rock in Wyoming. Teenage Bottlerocket may sound like they grew up down the street from CBGB, but it’s Laramie that they call home. One might think that it would be difficult to start a band without a scene to support it, but this was never a hindrance for TB. “That’s the thing about Wyoming—there’s nothing to do,” says guitarist Ray Carlisle. “So if you give them something to do, the kids are going to do it.”
The band’s name is an apt description for their sound—energy-driven pop-punk with a sarcastic sense of humor—and it was chosen when the act formed in the early 2000s, just long ago enough for the guys to forget where the name came from. “Our first guitar player, Zach, said it was the name of his dad’s first car, a ’49 Ford,” drummer Brandon Carlisle reports. “But that Zach guy was so full of shit. It was probably something he read in one of his hot rod magazines. That guy stole my U.S. Bombs shirt, and I’ll never forgive him for that.” Whatever the origins, the name has gotten a little awkward to play under as the band members advance in years. “My mom’s friends like to bring up the fact that we are no longer teenagers,” Brandon notes.
“In the ’90s it was sort of pointless for a smaller band to make a music video. But nowadays it’s easy to watch an underground band on YouTube. That certainly helps motivate us to shoot our stupid videos.”
—Brandon Carlisle of Teenage Bottlerocket
But that hasn’t stopped Teenage Bottlerocket from touring relentlessly and using a tool to get noticed that many bands abandoned after the Total Request Live era. Their videos for “Skate or Die” and “Headbanger” depict the frenzy and humor of the band perfectly and are racking up hits on YouTube every day. “Yeah, the YouTube thing makes videos more relevant for underground bands. In the ’90s it was sort of pointless for a smaller band to make a music video,” Brandon says. “There was really no chance of anyone seeing it, unless you were set up to be on MTV. But nowadays it’s as easy to watch an underground band on YouTube as it is the bigger bands. That certainly helps motivate us to shoot our stupid videos.”
The ink of the guys in the band also seems to be cohesive with the sound of the group. Guitarist Kody Templeman shows off the light side of the band with Trogdor the Burninator inked on his forearm. Brandon has tattoos depicting some of the group’s musical influences, including Screeching Weasel and the Ramones, and the story behind Ray’s main tattoo would be perfect lyrical fodder for one of TBR’s songs: “I got this tattoo in Italy—it’s my ex-wife’s name. Then I got it x-ed out in Bakersfield,” he explains. The most heavily tattooed member of the group is bassist Miguel Chen, who has a mishmash of serious personal tattoos and a lot of tattoos influenced by sci-fi and horror movies, which are common themes in TBR songs (see: “Necrocomicon” and “Blood Bath at Burger King”). Chen gets a lot of his work done by Jeff Everett at The Underground in Laramie, proving once again that Wyoming has more than buffalo, Old Faithful, and Cheney.