THE VON BONDIES performing as part of BLOW UP with GRAND TOTAL at the Comfort Zone (480 Spadina), Saturday (December 22). $7 advance, $8.50 door. 416-763-9139. Rating: NNNNN
the phenomenal success of detroit's much-hyped White Stripes -- who just inked a lucrative three-album deal with XL Recordings -- has led to widespread speculation about which of the other Motor City maniacs in their clique might be the next big thing. While the Dirtbombs and Bantam Rooster recently caused a stir in London, and the Soledad Brothers would look swell in Gap ads, it's the Von Bondies who've been converting the White Stripes faithful overseas and packing out gigs of their own.
A quick spin through the Von Bondies' Lack Of Communication (SFTRI) makes it evident why these wired 20-something upstarts are raising a ruckus.
They've got that same raunchy D-town garage-rock aesthetic, but they bash with the wired-up energy of the Strokes -- the other band of the moment. With the Stripes' Jack White listed as the Lack Of Communication album's producer, how could the Von Bondies miss?
"We definitely have a lot to thank the White Stripes for," allows Von Bondies frontman Jason Stollsteimer from a stop in Washington, DC. "We've probably played 90 shows with them. Marcie (guitarist Marcie Bolen, formerly of Slumber Party) and I practically live at Jack's house; we're over there almost every day.
"But I don't know about these people who say we sound alike. We don't sound anything like the White Stripes.
"And as far as Jack "producing' our record, he didn't touch any of our songs or even suggest a guitar tone. We recorded all the tracks in, like, 13 hours, and the only thing Jack said was, "I think your guitar needs to be a little bit louder.'
"When we were writing out the production credits, I asked him, should it be "produced by Jack White and the Von Bondies'? And he said, "No, just put me down as the producer.'"
Although the Von Bondies' tunefully trashy approach seems to be rooted in the 60s Hideout sound of Michigan teen punk titans like the Pleasure Seekers, the Underdogs and the Fugitives, their actual inspiration didn't come from quite so close to home.
The song It Came From Japan offers a clue as to why Stollsteimer and Bolen dropped out of John Ford Community College to devote their lives to rock and roll.
"It was seeing a Guitar Wolf show with the Cramps that gave Marcie and me the idea of starting a band of our own, the Baby Killers, which eventually became the Von Bondies. Even though I couldn't understand a word the Guitar Wolf guys were saying, they were very entertaining.
"I love how obsessive they are about music. I mean, Seji keeps his guitar and leather jacket in a glass case at home because he believes there's a spirit inside them."
It's only been a couple of months since the Von Bondies released Lack Of Communication, but they've just issued a split single with the Mistreaters and the Soledad Brothers, X-Mas Surprise Package Volume 4 (Flying Bomb Records), featuring their own Christmas tune, Ain't No Chimney In The Big House. And they intend to record a new album in January.
Whether Long Gone John will be releasing it on his Sympathy for the Record Industry label is in some doubt.
"He's probably one of the most interesting freaks I've ever met," says Stollsteimer, "and he's a great guy, only the record label is like a hobby for him. He doesn't realize how that hurts the bands that take things more seriously -- no matter how many times we tell him.
"In fact, I just e-mailed him today to say that when we were in Europe nobody could get our album. All 8,000 copies sold out the first day, and people haven't been able to get it since.
"We all quit our jobs to go out on tour. We don't want to go back to work, so I don't know if the next record will be on Sympathy."