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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    The mission creeps on with narrative-driven ‘Dark Cells’

    Out of the graveyard and into the darkness, The Mission Creeps are getting ready to debut their second studio album Dark Cells at Plush on May 21.

    The local gothic/garage rock trio composed of singer-guitarist James Arrr, bassist Miss Frankie Stein and drummer Jeff “”Die Day”” DiDay sees the new album as a departure from the ghoul- and zombie-themed jams they’ve previously rocked the desert with. The album features 12 songs co-written by Arrr and Stein from various points in their partnership, including some fleshed-out leftovers from the band’s early days as a five- and six-piece outfit.

    Dark Cells marks the first album with drummer DiDay as a permanent member, consummating the band’s whittled-down, power-trio format.

    “”Now that we have Jeff, it’s like this is what we want to sound like,”” said Frankie Stein. “”This is what we intended to sound like — whereas before it was this is what we can pull off.””

    Though this is the second full studio album from The Mission Creeps, in a way it’s their first album as a complete band. Their first release, In Sickness and Health, was recorded during a time when the band had inconsistent membership and a drumming lineup on par with Spinal Tap in its unpredictability. (Fortunately, no “”bizarre gardening accidents”” or spontaneous combustion were reported). 

    The album also separates itself from Sickness in its narrative and musical content. Instead of sticking to surf-influenced horror rock, Arrr cites the themes in Dark Cells as a response to the everyday evils of contemporary culture.

    “”We like to tag it as an anti-concept concept album,”” Arrr said. “”I guess the idea is we were influenced by things like Abu Ghraib, in a way, but maybe on a more personal level. … The songs sort of reflect the inner sort of nightmares and fantasies someone might encounter.””

    Creating Dark Cells also provided the band with a sense of musical freedom that previous recordings didn’t allow.

    “”On the first (record) we really came out as a band with a lot of influences in surf music and stuff like that … (but now we’re) just taking it in our own direction,”” Arrr said.

    The band’s evolution — or “”devolution,”” as Arrr puts it — is apparent on Dark Cells. While tracks like opener “”Boneyard Scene”” and “”Dead to Me”” maintain unstoppable surf- and blues-themed grooves, the album contains a wealth of slower, more narrative-focused tracks as well. The closing track “”Skull City Mine,”” for example, is a tender ballad about a mineshaft collapse told only by Arrr on folky acoustic guitar and Stein on melodica.

    The band has been working on the album since last August. Setbacks, including a scooter accident that resulted in a broken arm for Arrr, briefly disrupted the writing process, but some of the songs have existed in the Creeps’ collective conscious for years. “”There are stragglers from when we were just doing stuff to get by,”” Stein said. One such track is the sinister, surfy “”They Look So Good in Black,”” which narrates the dirty dealings of the Bulgarian secret police.

    “”That song came right out of the History Channel,”” Arrr said.

    Other tracks have evolved from various compositions the Creeps have created around Tucson. The grim love song “”Cannibals in Love,”” for example, started as an instrumental that the band choreographed for a Flam Chen performance.

    Sometimes the music comes first, and the story builds off from it. Other times, the story guides the instrumentation.

    “”What’s it sound like to have two cannibals in love, stranded on a desert island somewhere?”” Arrr said with a smile as he described the songwriting process. “”Well, it should be soft, it should be very mellow … and they’re hungry, and they’re cannibals — what are you gonna do? Well, one person is gonna have to sacrifice themselves for the other.””

    It’s this dual sentimental and macabre nature of the music that separates the Creeps from other bands that emerged around a specific theme. Below every mention of flesh-eating monsters and clandestine assassins is some genuine, universal emotion.

    “”There’s definitely some sort of underlying infectious love note in there somewhere, in the kernel of Dark Cells,“” Stein said. “”That’s besides, like, smackin’ people’s abdominals … or maybe that’s part of it.””

    Join The Mission Creeps along with The Modeens and The Creamys for the Dark Cells release party on May 21 at Plush. The band will play excerpts from the new CD at the concert along with old favorites.

    For a sneak peek of Dark Cells, check out the podcast of the band’s live KXCI performance of the album at



    Dark Cells release party

    The Mission Creeps

    Featuring The Modeens and The Creamys

    May 21, 2010

    Plush, 340 E. Sixth St.

    9 p.m.



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