“I always thought of the Arm as my rap band,” explains Sean “Oh No” O’Neal with a straight face. “I want it to be a mix of N.W.A and the Screamers. Rap rock has been perverted. A lot of times when I’m playing a show with the Arm, I think of Eminem in 8 Mile. I think that I’m him, you know? You’ll see me do little hand motions and shit, and I’m thinking that I’m doing a rap battle. In my head, that’s what I’m doing. I’m in Detroit.”
Welcome to the inner workings of Austin quartet the Arm. Four very busy men in jeans and white V-necks staking their claim on modern-day rock & roll and having a hell of a time doing it. In fact, four years ago, when this post-punk beast hatched, fun monopolized any future thoughts of the band.
“The original idea of the Arm was to see if we could put a band together in a week,” O’Neal recalls. “Let’s see if we can make seven songs in a week and throw them out there.”
From that house party sprouted the limb that tracked one of the best albums of 2004, local or otherwise. Now that original members and This Microwave World cohorts O’Neal (vox, keys) and Kevin Bybee (drums) have been joined by guitarist Alex Lyons, who produced that impressive debut and recently joined the local indie rockers in Zykos, and A Tiger Named Lovesick’s Alex Ramirez on bass, freshly back from Tokyo, the Arm is unstoppable.
“We’re out there to destroy every night,” warns O’Neal. “Whenever we play a show, and we have to open for somebody, I think of us as these four ordinary guys that are going to come in off the street and kill your band.”
Influenced by late-Seventies stalwarts the Birthday Party and the Fall among others, the Arm employs clever sing-speak (“Good artists make, and great artists steal”) over thick, funky basslines and crunchy riffs, all with Bybee’s ass-shaking beats in the background. Already recording another album, these boys seemingly can’t get enough of the Arm. What happens when four twentysomethings work, play, and hang out together every day?
“Every good relationship has its drama,” admits Ramirez. “We could just go to an amusement park if it were going to be happy all the time.”
That drama creates songs, infectious sounds easily sequenced alongside local limelights like Spoon and Trail of Dead. They still don’t have merchandise, nor time to promote it if they did, but they practice until 3am nearly every night.
“The thing is, I’m not going to say it’s just luck,” Bybee refuses. “I think we’re all really confident in what we’re doing. I really believe in this band. I don’t want to seem cocky, but I think that what we’re doing is really fucking good.”
And by God, it is.
It’s not quite punk (it’s not even NY punk). It’s not quite post-punk, or post-punk revivalism. It’s not quite art rock. It’s not quite hardcore. It’s not quite poppy, and it’s not quite experimental. But it just might be the end of the world. The Arm is the apocalypse threatening to descend and utterly annihilate dance floors everywhere. Thick, dripping basslines that shake one’s organs couple in some unholy way with dizzying and volatile drum patterns. The abrasive sand-paper vocals preach salvation by fire while the banshee organ shrieks. Sharp, staccato guitar work builds rhythmic accents on top of each other exploding chaotically, but decisively, into an overload of noise tornadoes.