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Sonic Graffiti: Raucous rock that's off the wall

(Welcome to tbt*'s 2014 Ultimate Local Music Guide! All week we're spotlighting 10 of our favorite local artists of the past year. Today: Electric garage blues-punk trio Sonic Graffiti.)

Sonic Graffiti was born from necessity.

Singer-guitarist Drew Giordano's previous band, the Black Roses, had a gig booked at Crowbar in Ybor City in January 2013, but the band fell apart between then and showtime. He quickly recruited his twin brother Dane on bass, and friend Trevor Mustoe on drums.

"The show was two weeks away," Drew said. "I called up Trevor, 'cause I had played with him before; he's my favorite drummer, and Dane is my favorite bass player. I was like, 'Can we just practice and do this show in two weeks?' We had two practices, and we played and it was great."
After one gig, they all decided to keep playing together. "It just got better every gig," Mustoe said. "We started developing, practicing…"

"It was very therapeutic to keep going out and playing music so we don't freak out in an ice cream shop," Dane continued. "We can play shows, record and play music instead."

Thus far, it seems their musical therapy has been paying off. "It has just been snowballing since then," Drew said. "We hit the ground running; we play like every weekend."

Sonic Graffiti's rock sensibility stems from various rock scenes of the 1960s. The brothers live in a commune-like compound in St. Petersburg's Roser Park neighborhood dubbed the Pizza House, where at any given hour you can find one group of people upstairs playing music, another in the kitchen cooking dinner for all, and other random souls scattered about, whether it's on the porch smoking pot or hanging in the living room one-upping each other on tall tales involving Neil Diamond.

Through conversation with the band, a bevy of influential band names come out at random: Sly and the Family Stone, the Velvet Underground, Funkadelic, the Stooges, the Clash, Jimi Hendrix, Otis Redding. Their sound is a roug, approximate amalgamation of all of the above, topped by frontman Drew ripping mad, distortion-driven riffs; and howling above the sonic mess with vocals heralding back to a young Captain Beefheart. This culminates into what they describe as Electrified Blues Voodoo Rock.

Last month, the boys played South By Southwest, which is no easy feet for a band in its early stages, with little to no press. En route to Austin, they played a gig at Banks Street Bar in New Orleans to drum up some cash.

Amidst all this general madness, they have a recorded an EP, Friendly Unit Creation Kit. (A quick once-over will reveal the title's not-so-secret acronym.) The band was so pleased with their debut offering, they have continued recording and have plans to expand the EP into a full-length album, slated for a May 3 release. On April 30, they will be live on WMNF's Grand National Championships program. Not too shabby for a year-and-a-half-old band.

What keeps them motivated? Dane explains: "We have a fierce 'say yes' policy. Where anyone asks us, 'You wanna play this, you wanna play that,' we wanna do everything at least once. So we are always like 'Yeah, f--- it; let's do it.'"

The gents aren't worried about getting overplayed or burning themselves out in their own backyard.

"We don't give a f--- about that idea: you'll get played out if you play St. Pete too many times," Drew said. "We always say yes, and keep playing. We're a real rock 'n' roll band. You can't f--- with a real rock 'n' roll band when it's genuine and heartfelt and full of energy and soul. I think we do that, 'cause we do the best we can. Even if you f--- up and you're doing the best you can people will at least see you have some character. When we play, I feel something different than when I do anything else. It must be what some people call religion."


The band will perform at tbt*'s free Ultimate Local Music Showcase at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Local 662 in St. Petersburg.

-- Aaron Lepley, tbt*