November 11-17, 2004

music

Fight Songs

Under Pressure:
Under Pressure: “It’s difficult to be in this band,” admits Frank Domanico. Undergirl is on its sixth lineup in nine years.
Photo By: Megan Shearon

Undergirl cannot be stopped.

Heads up, Hostile City: Undergirl is itching for a fight. My Flash on You, out this week, is crawling with ditched friends and dumped lovers. But singer-guitarist Amy DiCamillo saves her yellowest bile for the scenesters who screwed her over.

“I don’t want to say [there’s] a prejudice against us in this city,” Domanico says, “but there’s definitely something there. I don’t know if it’s because we don’t take—excuse the language—no shit from anybody when we take our shows.” DiCamillo, 34, doesn’t hesitate to name the problem. “Oh, man, chicks are not supposed to play rock ‘n’ roll in the city of Philadelphia,” she says. “No way.”

She makes that very point in “Boys’ Club,” a longtime live highlight that finally finds a home amid Flash‘s grungy glam rock. “There’s a girl outside and she doesn’t belong,” DiCamillo sings in one of her more melodic moments. “Two weeks, two years, two hours, too long / And there’s a boys’ club meetin’ at the end of the bar / My motorcycle statue of David / He set me up to rat me out.” No wonder she’s ballistic by the end. The whole band is a powder keg. Nine years in, DiCamillo and Domanico are on their sixth lineup. “It’s difficult to be in this band. Matt’ll tell you,” Domanico says. “There’s a lot of friction that goes on in the songwriting and practice.”

Becky Vomit, Domanico, Matt Billick and Amy DiCamillo. (l-r)

Becky Vomit, Domanico, Matt Billick and Amy DiCamillo. (l-r)

Photo By: Megan Shearon

Matt Billick, 32, has been in the band since 1997, but he considers himself a lifer. “I’ve been kicked out of the band. I’ve quit the band, but I’m still here,” he says. ” ‘Cause it’s like being in this bizarre dysfunctional family. We know we’re all still gonna kinda be there, one way or another. But arguing’s very much a part of the band.”

The group extols producer Kris Alutius’ patience and perfectionism, but Billick says his style suits them: “Encouragement, peppered with verbal abuse.” Flash, like much of 2001’s She’s Too Much for My Mirror, was recorded at Alutius’ Slugg Studios in Collingswood. Basic tracks were done in a weekend, but it took two years to get everything right. “He doesn’t just let crap slide,” Billick says of Alutius. “He has no qualms telling you: “It doesn’t work. Keep doing it.'”

In one of Domanico’s angriest moments, he threw a drumstick at DiCamillo. It missed, almost hitting then-bassist Annah Winfield. “That’s not something I’d say I’m proud of,” Domanico says. “It’s not something that I had done previously or have done since, but tension gets high.”

Winfield joined Undergirl after Mirror was recorded but before it was released. She plays on the more polished Flash, but she’s long gone. So are her first two replacements. At 22, Becky Vomit is the band’s newest blood. Domanico’s been playing shows longer than she’s been alive, but Vomit’s a quick study. “When she picked up that bass to show it to me, she couldn’t play it,” DiCamillo says. That was in August. Now she’s got six shows under her belt.

Vomit seems to know the score. “I have a very bad temper, which has not, with the band, come out yet,” she says. “I’m sure it will. … I can throw stuff just as hard and as far as anyone in this band could. But at the same time, I can also play the role of peacemaker quickly.” Like the others, she savors the challenge. “I think they like me. I think it’s working out. We’ll see when it comes time to record.” “I think there’s probably points when everybody in the band … has hated me,” Domanico says. And I don’t have a problem with that. I think what I do, I do with the band first and foremost in my mind, making sure that the songs are right. And it gets ugly. I’m not gonna deny that. But I think the proof is on the CD. I think the proof is in the performances, too. I think it’s worth it.”

Based on their newest songs, it doesn’t look like Undergirl is going to tone things down for the next CD: “High Heels and Guns” and “California Mountain Snake” bear arms. “They’re just mad crazy,” DiCamillo says. “A lot of screaming. Lotta guns.” Consider yourself warned.

Undergirl plays Fri., Nov. 12, 10 p.m., $7, with Lefty’s Deceiver and DJ Psydde Delicious, Tritone, 1508 South St., 215-545-0475, www.undergirl.org.


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