ARTIST SPOTLIGHTS: Pescatarian At Best, Bunk Bed, Rainbow Cobra

Rainbow Cobra.

Bremen Cafe hosted a wonderful all-local bill on a rainy Sunday night this weekend – Pescatarian at Best, Bunk Bed, and Rainbow Cobra.

Pescatarian At Best comprises of vocalist Benton Belzer, guitarists Mason West and Courtney Martel, bassist Liz Adkins, and drummer Nikki Nelson. Their unique indie pop sound has been described as “funk-adjacent post-punk.” Sunday’s show was missing Belzer and Martel so the band’s set was all instrumental; Nick Ouchie of Bunk Bed hopped on vocals and joined them for an improvised jam as their final song.

Formed in early 2021, the band began as Belzer, West and Nelson and then Martel and Adkins joined a few months later. Their name came from a funny story; West shared, “We were at our buddy Vince’s house, who does all our artwork. I was eating cheese and crackers…Vince leans over…and says, “aren’t you vegan?”. I said, “no, I’m pescatarian at best” and then me and Nikki just locked eyes.”

“We knew that was our name right away,” Nelson added. “It’s also a riff off the Courtney Barnett song “Pedestrian at Best”.”

Their debut single “Hey Winner” came out at the beginning of this year while the accompanying music video for it was released last week. “It was the first song we all wrote together,” Nelson said. “You’d have to talk to Benton, but I think it’s about an existential crisis.”

“I think it’s about lost time,” Adkins added. “Like, going through the motions of what others expect of you and realizing that you’ve lost a lot of life that you could’ve lived.”

“Benton sings a lot about that kind of stuff,” West said.

The band’s sophomore single is “Pah to Pasture” which dropped in June. “We all have some tricky thoughts on our fathers,” Nelson said. “It’s about taking him out, sitting him down and telling him that he’s going in the bad nursing home. Our buddy Andy mixes and produces all of our music and he really hit a stride on that one – the sound turned out really good.”

Pescatarian at Best are recording two more songs this month and then plan to work on a three-song EP to release next summer. They play Cactus Club for Brat Sounds’ release show on October 14th, Linneman’s on October 21st, a Halloween benefit for trans rights in Rockford on October 22nd, and then Bremen Cafe again on November 13th. “We’re really trying to cultivate the queer music scene and giving platforms to bands that normally might get excluded from events,” Nelson concluded.

Bunk Bed consists of vocalist/guitarist Nick Ouchie, keyboardist Chris Ouchie, and drummer Bob Schaab. Formed from the ashes of Weird Storm, the outfit is a few months old now; Sunday was only their second show. The band’s name came from opening a book and finding “bunk bed” on a page, plus the fact that Nick and Chris Ouchie had bunk beds growing up.

On the dissolution of Weird Storm, Nick said, “We just wanted to do different things. We certainly hold no ill will towards our friend Charlie…he’s got his own project now called Ilich so we’re all spinning plates here. We were just hitting the natural evolution, I guess.”

On how this project is different from Weird Storm, Schaab explained, “We’re still playing some Weird Storm songs that Nick and I had written, and we’ve been finding our sound through playing those songs as a three-piece. We’ll discover that we’ve got to add more sounds or more distortion, so we’re leaning more into a noise rock element whereas Weird Storm was more linear with some math rock mixed in.”

“We still have some of that but we’re finding more grit with it,” Chris added.

The band’s got two singles in the works right now that they’re recording themselves at The Exchange Recording Complex. “Hopefully those will come out within a month,” Nick said. Bunk Bed do not have any more shows coming up as of now.

Rainbow Cobra is Oli Smith on guitar and vocals, Tommy Curtis on guitar and vocals, Nicki Abel on bass, and Sam Broadnax on drums. The band’s current lineup solidified this past summer.

Smith explained, “I’d been writing songs for Rainbow Cobra for two years when I brought them to Tommy to play leads on. I was instantly drawn to Tommy’s bluesy and twangy sound and was impressed by his improvisational abilities; I felt his lead guitar playing opened up a new dynamic and opportunity for melody. Sam has been a saxophone player since childhood but began learning drums under my mentorship about six months ago; their determination to learn and strong practice ethic made them the perfect drummer for Rainbow Cobra. Nikki Abel and I began playing music together about three years ago and they bring a great ear and musical flair to the band.”

On the band’s songwriting process, Smith shared, “At first it was mostly individualistic in that myself and Tommy brought fully-written songs to the table with the intention of the other musicians filling out the sound. Now we’re starting to write more cohesively as a group by jamming all together to try and find ideas that stick. We practice weekly to try and solidify old songs for playing live as well as jamming on new ideas for future songs.”

The band’s “Falcon Yard” EP was released in July and incorporates elements of country rock, folk rock and Americana across three songs. Smith said about what went into it, “The songs began during the fall and winter of COVID when things were looking bleak and boredom was setting in. I felt that I needed a creative way to express the sorrow and fear I’d felt in the world around me. I’d go to my practice studio every day nearly every day while I was unemployed and work on writing and recording the songs. I recorded them all myself by layering the different instruments on top of each other. Tommy became familiar with the songs and wrote some fantastic lead parts for them. Nikki played some beautiful slide guitar parts and piano on “Falcon Yard” and my partner Rae Friedman played violin and sang harmonies as well.”

Rainbow Cobra are working on writing more songs together as a band rather than individually. They play Flannel Fest at The Cooperage on October 8th and Linneman’s on November 12th.


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