Rich Howells

VIDEO PREMIERE: Wilkes-Barre horror punks Cut Up Naked Teenagers clown around with the ‘Monster Squad’

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In the fall, Wilkes-Barre horror punk band Cut Up Naked Teenagers were riding high on the release of their debut album, “Gray Matter Splatter,” with killer shows, creative music videos, a glowing review in HorrorHound magazine, and radio play in several states and even South America. Then the coronavirus pandemic hit and it all came screeching to a halt, along with the rest of the music industry.

The dead are beginning to rise, however, and the band is back at it with “Monster Squad,” a new music video calling for unity in these trying times that is premiering today exclusively on NEPA Scene.

“Over the past few years, there’s been a lot of division in the horror scene with some notable bands parting ways, and a lot of ‘he said, they said,’ animosity, and mudslinging. It’s been really hard for me to watch a scene I love so much fracture the way it has. We’re seeing a big rift forming even now over Michale Graves’ nationalist politics and his derision of the Black Lives Matter movement, his support of Alex Jones and Infowars, and just a lot of really reprehensible posturing over politics in a time where it couldn’t be more inappropriate,” vocalist Elvis Aron Deadly said.

“And although I absolutely believe in removing racists and bigots from our scene in order to foster something that is unified and inclusive, I think the more petty rifts over siding with Guy A from Big Band vs. Guy B from Big Band are unnecessarily divisive in an already niche scene. The horror scene used to be such a tight-knit community so, for me, this song was meant to be like an anthem in honor of that, calling for all the monster kids to band together and keep our scene moving forward.”

The title and theme is, of course, inspired by the 1987 cult classic film by Fred Dekker and Shane Black that features a group of young horror fans banding together to battle a distinctly ‘80s take on the Universal Monsters in their small town.

“The biggest part was the idea of the monsters banding together against a bigger threat. Our scene is already very niche and insular; it’s not a scene anyone gets rich off or famous from. Horror bands work hard for what we get, and we pay a lot out of pocket to keep bringing our show to the fans, and the way the music industry has been dying in recent years has hit smaller scenes like ours pretty hard, so I really wanted to call to mind that same ethos, all the monster kids banding together. Like the song says, we can’t survive alone,” Deadly continued.

Much like the movie, Cut Up Naked Teenagers has built up a devoted following of horror fans who can pick out every clever reference and appreciate the work in ways average fans just wouldn’t understand. Much of the music video is made up of fan-shot footage from various gigs edited together by local music promotion and production team Camp Rattler, who also created the band’s previous two videos.

“Man, our fans are so dedicated. We’ve got people who will travel out of state to see us play, then come see us play in Scranton the very next night. We’ve got fans who hype us more than we do ourselves. So much of our growth over the past few years has been through word of mouth, through dedicated fans, and we get some of the coolest stuff, man – Cut Up Naked Teenagers Christmas ornaments, artwork, one even found a guitar I used to own like a decade ago that got stolen and bought it and sent it to me. It’s killer. The love our fans have for what we do is the No. 1 reason we do it. They’re so dedicated, and they deserve to have that dedication rewarded. This video is really a thank you to them for sticking with us,” he explained.

“We got so much cool [footage], things I hadn’t even seen! There’s a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it clip from our first show with the original lineup, back when we had a keyboardist. I think there’s some old house show footage in there, footage from shows in New York, Philly, here in the 570 – at the end, there’s even a clip of me getting naked on stage at Darkenheavy last year! I was really impressed with the amount and variety of clips fans sent us. I filled a hard drive with so much cool footage, stuff I’m sure I’ll find more uses for. I think my favorite is a behind-the-scenes clip a friend shot at the video shoot for ‘Touched by Evil’ of us standing behind a church singing a Backstreet Boys song in our white suits.”

The cell phone clips are intercut with footage of a crazed clown named PainCake riding a bike along the train tracks, a concept that only video director and Camp Rattler founder James Callahan could come up with.

“The creeps at Camp Rattler – Kristin Rose Shimonis and I – contacted their homies, the creative juggernaut that is Grimly Fiendish, to collaborate with Jared and Meg of Video Ninja Productions to boldly and crassly break the social distancing rules after two months at home to assist us in producing this kooky notion that we had been saving for just such a deserving pandemic. We shared a quick, manic phone call with Jason and Rene of Grimly Fiendish and voila – the optimistic and disturbing child of chaos PainCake the Clown was born!” Callahan told NEPA Scene.

“I soon after recalled Elvis had mentioned interest in actually reaching out to their fans and asking for any shitty phone footage that they may have drunkenly snagged in in the past couple of years. So, long story longer, this is the product of a hysterical and fun 1.5 hour shoot along the tracks that run through every town, USA. We hope you enjoy this low-low-fi reminder of just what punk rock should be – fun, fearless, and free.”

“JB is a mad man. I didn’t have much of an idea up front of what Callahan, KRS, and the rest of the Camp Rattler crew were going to do, but I knew that I was going to be pleased with it,” Deadly said.

“I trust James implicitly. I’d give that dude a kidney; he and KRS are family to us. Jared and the crew at Video Ninja Productions are consummate professionals and always a joy to work with, and bringing JB and Rene from Grimly Fiendish in on this was a no-brainer. They did makeup work on the ‘Anything But a Tomorrow’ video and were such pros and so much fun to work with. JB is such an over-the-top character in person that I knew whatever character they came up with would have that same manic energy and would really be a strong asset for the project.”

Not being able to perform since Valentine’s Day in Philadelphia has taken its toll on Deadly, especially after an injury, but the quarantine has also allowed him to make some big changes in his life.

“It’s been rough, honestly. I got injured at work in the beginning of March, then COVID hit and everything shut down and it took two months to get an MRI and an appointment with an orthopedist. My job is an ‘essential’ job, but I’m still recovering from a pretty significant injury, so I’m still out of work, and just the psychological toll of living with the pain of the injury, of not being able to be productive, it’s just exhausting. Couple that with the loss of a bunch of really fun shows that we’d been really looking forward to and then [our drummer] Bobo dislocating his shoulder literally the same week I got injured, so we haven’t been able to rehearse like we’d like. The past few months have been an experiment in misery,” he recalled with a laugh.

“I’ve done my best to be productive. I wrote and recorded a new acoustic track that appeared on a quarantine compilation and is up on my SoundCloud, something very different from our usual material. I’ve also written some new stuff for us that’s coming along nicely, and I’ve been making ends meet by printing T-shirts and patches and stuff out of my house. I got a dog, which has really saved my sanity; he’s awesome. Currently, I’m in talks to start a studio darling side project with some long distance friends and developing some new stuff for our stage show. We also just voted last night to change the band name, which we will be announcing with a formal press release soon, with new branding and artwork and an explanation to our fans. So, uh. hang on to all that CUNT merch – the collectors market is about to go through the roof!”

In July, the newly named band plans to play at the Hellaware Slasher Fest with other horror-themed artists like former Misfit Dr. Chud, and in the fall, they’ll hit Killadelphia Slasher Fest with another stacked lineup. Deadly is working on putting together some August shows with the original Jason Voorhees, Ari Lehman, and his project First Jason, who they shared the stage with at the inaugural Darkenheavy Campfest at Mountain Sky in Jermyn.

“I’m hoping as things open up we can keep booking out the fall into the holiday season, then hopefully this winter we’ll be recording a new EP. I’m also currently shopping for real estate with my boyfriend, trying to find a commercial property in which to build a recording studio and expand my print shop so I can really focus on my label, Cortege Records. Our labelmates Slumtown Deadbeats are releasing a singles collection and a music video soon, and they’ve been working on a killer second album. I’m also in talks to release the debut album from a new local band called Sexy Aquaman vs. the 1995 Philadelphia Flyers as well as working on material for a solo record entitled ‘30,000 Volts Away from Life.’ It’s going to be a busy year for sure!” he said, adding a “heartfelt thank you to all of our friends, families, fans, colleagues, and everyone who’s supported our art and worked with us over the last four years.”

“It’s been an amazing experience so far, and we can’t wait to see what the future holds, and we hope you’ll stand with us through the name change and rebranding as we move into the next chapter for Cut Up Naked Teenagers.”