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Scary Scare: First Fright

By August Edwards

Scary Scare intoxicates for more reasons than their gripping music. I think they represent the vitality of musical deviance. First Fright is a triumph in punk—fresh and meaty with zippy riffs and hungry lyrics.

Photo by @slonekanterphoto in Instagram.

Imagine a night where you buzz with excitement along with an entire audience, living in the moment at the same high level. The night Scary Scare played their album release show for First Fright achieved this—cementing a sold-out crowd in fun.

That night at Eli’s Mile High Club in Oakland, I felt like there was a tangible veneration from viewers to stage. Scary Scare’s set was quick and tight—elevated antics that created kinetic energy. It’s impactful when a band’s stage presence alone makes you smile.

“It’s nice to go on first ‘cause you kinda get to set the tone for the night,” drummer Aaron Apple said—and that they did.

This is all to say—First Fright is a pillar of devilry, lacerating coolness, and above all, is memorable.

The airy intro, “Screaming Breaths,” ricochets inside my brain. It doesn’t so much set up the tracks to come as it simply gives the Scary Scare stamp of authentication. It’s representative, like the mask that Aaron wears while drumming, of the band’s impish nature.

And now that you know who the hell is playing, in come crisp vocals with the saucy “I Smoke Ants.” This track is meant to be played loud, and gets better with that volume increase. With headphones, you kind of get a funky sort of cacophony in the background, various vocals including screaming. Apple, Colin Smith on guitar, and Justin Reyes on bass all hammer down on the beat under James O'Shaughnessy's goofy wordwork: “I smoke ants / I like it / put ‘em in my pipe and light it.” It’s inspiring on the level that art can, and should, be absurd.

Photo by @slonekanterphoto in Instagram.

Once you’re stomping, “The Liquor Store” sweeps in. The march-like quality treats going to the liquor store like the voyage it is—“here it comes / brain goes numb” – then sharply continues with the saunter. “Life is just such a bore when you don’t throw up and hit the floor,” “destroy my body, break it down, I think I’m gonna go home now.” Definitely a threatening tune, as it screams realness under a veil of humor.

“Cool Song Bro” is what I think of as a fuck-you-tune. O'Shaughnessy's voice really brings the heat here. I like the feeling it gives me—defiance, confidence, strength—it brings me to the present. This track grows on me with every listen, maybe because it shows a hint of vulnerability, or maybe just because of its cheeky swing.

The instrumental interlude, “La Da Da,” creeps, crawls, and spooks, much like the intro piece. Interludes can be used for many reasons—generally signifying some sort of shift—but it’s here, left alone with my thoughts accompanied by “la-da-das,” that I realized the album has the pacing of a cartoon. The instrumental tracks are like the colorful title cards, and like the other songs, are riotous and above all well-crafted, like a beloved story on screen.

The title “To Me From Me” suggests that a culprit of the speaker’s demise is his own self. “Please be nice to me,” the lyrics beg. The guitar and bass melody create a loop, which in some ways indicates harmful repetition, a vicious cycle. We’re left with a culminating thought—“Who do I blame?!” It’s an ominous lead-in to the final track of the album, “Not Today,” bites back with ferocity. Menacingly, we hear a theme of fighting death—fighting the inevitable. “Not Today” demands the question, how can you prepare for the day you die?

The attitude of the album shifts from “I don’t care” to a grave underlying message, which has something to do with fear. Whether in a dangerous, habitual trudge to the liquor store, or gazing in the mirror and trying to overcome what you perceive to be shortcomings, it’s easy to let fear take the wheel. Through poking fun and creating art—like the entity of First Fright—we can work through the fears and ultimately banish them.

Scary Scare’s next show is on 3/11 at Brick and Mortar SF. Join them for a night that’ll be—in their words—filled with raucous rock and shocking shock.

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