ARTIST SPOTLIGHTS: Ratbatspider, Billy Dreamer, Jazzcore Friction

Billy Dreamer

It was a loud, rowdy night at Last Rites on Saturday as bands Ratbatspider, Billy Dreamer, and Jazzcore Friction each took the stage.

Ratbatspider consists of vocalist Ryan Remains, guitarist Colin Bat, bassist/vocalist Chris Rat, and drummer Doug Spider. They are horror punks known for donning black and white face paint with each show. They formed in 2013 originally doing Misfits covers, as Remains explains.

“Doug and I were in a metal band previously, and every year we’d do a Halloween party at his house where we would play. We knew a bass player and guitar player that both love the Misfits, so we thought it’d be fun to do the Halloween show with a set of Misfits songs. A few weeks later we were rehearsing, and doing originals crept into it. We still do our shows as a mix of Misfits songs and our stuff, mainly because we’re not a band trying to go out there and make it; we’re all guys with day jobs that just do this because it’s fun. We had to part ways with our original guitar player because he had some family stuff going on, so Chris’ brother Colin stepped in and that’s how we’ve been since.”

The band released several EPs before releasing their debut full-length album “Day of the Ratbatspider” in April 2020, which was also their first vinyl release. Thematically the band creates with an absurdist approach, writing songs about ridiculous made-up cryptids and cult horror movies, for example.

Remains continued, “Honestly, we get the dumbest ideas (laughs). It started with our first EP, “Night of the Sharksquatch,” and how that came into being was from Chris and Jack sitting around talking about what would be the greatest thing that our drummer Doug could ever see. He loves sharks and loves Bigfoot, so those two things became the formulation. After that, we were sitting around throwing shit against the wall trying to come up with something, and one of us said “we should call it “Dawn of the Chupacoctopus.”” Not very long after we recorded that one, we decided the next one had to be “Day of the Ratbatspider”; there’s an old cheesy sci-fi horror movie called “Angry Red Planet” and the Ratbatspider is one of the inhabitants of Mars in this movie. If you’re familiar with the cover of the Misfits album “Walk Among Us,” that creature in the background is the Ratbatspider. It seemed like the natural thing to call the band and album that because we’d been doing Misfits songs. “Keep This Short” is about an apparent little person community called Haunchyville and the idea is that they don’t take kindly to trespassers, especially tall trespassers. “Kill Her Mommy” is a Friday the 13th song but not about the films; it’s about the dickheads that keep going ch-ch-ch-ah-ah-ah despite the fact that the composers said that it’s ki-ki-ki-ma-ma-ma. When we were thinking of made-up cryptids, we thought of the Moth-Manatee, which would be the shittiest cryptid ever because it’s not remotely threatening and there’s no way its wings could support its weight so it can’t fly! Someone will say something stupid at practice or someone will write lyrics, and that’s how we come up with stuff like that.”

Remains shared that the band plans to record their next album this summer and release it in October.

“The pandemic sucked, but we ended up having time to rehearse and jam and come up with new stuff. Tonight we played two of the songs that’ll be on our next album.”

Ratbatspider play Kochanski’s this Saturday for Doug Spider’s 50th birthday.

Billy Dreamer are a punk rock band comprised of vocalist/guitarist Josh Varichak, bassist/vocalist Zack Beer, and drummer Amy Lynn. They are known for their crowd interaction, featuring various costumes and props for showgoers to participate in, ranging from a mini basketball hoop to a Snapple bottle costume to animal masks. Varichak is also known to switch outfits throughout their set, such as starting in a dress and ending in a thong as he did on Saturday. The band’s name comes from a “The Kids in the Hall” sketch.

The project has existed in some iteration since 2005, as Varichak explains.

“It started with just me and acoustic guitar doing folk punk stuff, and then through the years I added members. In 2012 we started doing more of the show we’re doing now, and then after the pandemic we wanted to step it up even more with storylines and videos. I was always hurting myself smashing guitars and flipping around, and I needed to be able to have other stuff going on (laughs). I’m getting older.”

The costumes and props used in each show depend on the storyline that the band is working through. Their new record “Ass Hotel” came out in March.

On the idea for the record, Varichak said, “Originally it was going to be a concept record in the vein of “Animal Farm” but that idea kind of fizzled out, and it became more of an expose on mental illness. If you read the lyrics, they’re sad songs, but at the end of it the guy learns to throw some makeup on and live with it. We recorded it with Jeff Hamilton, who Zack knew from working with him before.”

The album cover has fun with the Ambassador Hotel sign.

“I was on the smoking deck at The Rave one night and I got the idea,” Varichak laughed. “I was surprised no one had done it yet.”

He shares what the band is up to now.

“We had a tour planned that got cancelled because of COVID, so then we just did a weekend run and now we’re finishing up the storyline with the next few shows. There are a couple tracks from “Ass Hotel” that we didn’t include that we’re going to remix a little bit plus record a couple new ones, and then we’re working on music videos for all the songs from “Ass Hotel.” It’ll be like a short film.”

Billy Dreamer play down in Harvard, Illinois at Cool Music Stop on June 11th and then again in Lake Geneva for Rhetoric Vendetta’s CD release show on June 25th.

Jazzcore Friction is Gabe Wilson on guitar and vocals, Abby Oliver on bass, and Jonah Wilson on drums and vocals. Originally known as The Red Flags, the band hails from Janesville and plays loud, bluesy garage rock. The Wilson brothers take turns on lead vocals; they’ve been playing together since 2015, then Oliver joined the band in 2018.

On why the band changed their name in 2020, Jonah said, “If you Google “The Red Flags” you’ll have to go through page after page to actually find our band. When you Google “Jazzcore Friction” we immediately pop up. Structurally we zig-zag like jazz, but then the heavy, loud, crazy, moshing, punching-each-other-in-the-face vibe is the friction.”

“We’ve been going on a funkier alternative route too,” Gabe added. “It’s still as blues as ever, but we get associated all the time with The White Stripes and The Black Keys and we get tired of it (laughs).”

Their first album as Jazzcore Friction “Hemipenes” came out in February of last year.

Jonah explained, “The music we created in late 2019 and the lyrics we wrote in 2020 in the midst of a lot of social and economic issues. The lyrical route kind of swayed that way naturally, and “Hemipenes” came from our song “Lesser of Two” which we wrote during the election when we felt like we were picking the lesser of two dicks. We found out that snakes have two penises and they’re called “Hemipenes” so we felt it fit.”

“There’s been a running reptile theme in our music, starting with our album “Dart Bummin Lizard,”” Oliver added.

Since “Hemipenes” the band has released four singles – “The Flow”, “Richardry”, “With Each Tick”, and “Why Think?”.

Oliver wrote “Richardry.” Gabe explained, “It’s a song about being a dick and making amends but actually meaning it.”

On “With Each Tick” Gabe said, “We’re all going to be underwater in a hundred years. That’s pretty much it.”

Jazzcore Friction are working on new music with Oshkosh’s Smoke Free Home and Madison’s Lunar Moth. They’ve also got two new singles that they plan to release this summer, plus Gabe Wilson is working on a solo hip hop record. Their next Milwaukee area show is at Quarters on August 26th.

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