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Monday, July 7, 2014

Ramma Lamma Enjoy the Sleazy Fringes of Rock ’N’ Roll

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Critically speaking at least, fun music often gets shortchanged. It’s great to meticulously dissect albums with weighty themes or ambitious compositions, but sometimes you wish writers would spill some more ink over releases that don’t pretend to be anything but a damn good time, that are more suited to backyard barbecues than contemplating the human condition. Ice Cream, the new debut LP from glammy garage-punks Ramma Lamma definitely falls into that rambunctious category, bursting as it is with summery, slightly sleazy rock ’n’ roll party starters. Sure, there’s not too much depth to songs like “Hot Stuff” and “Wet Denim,” but the band wouldn’t have it any other way.

“Ramma Lamma is good because we would just be hanging out anyway, even if we weren’t in a band,” explains singer-guitarist Ryan King over beers at Bay View Bowl. “We’re just friends; it’s just rock ’n’ roll; what’s the point of trying to paint it up to be some fancy, glossy thing? It’s supposed to be dumb and fun, you know?” Members have come and gone during the band’s long five-single lead up to Ice Cream, but that attitude has remained steadfast.

“We’re kind of casual,” says Wendy Norton, also on guitar and vocals. “It’s not like other bands I’ve been in where it’s like you’re running a small business.”

The album certainly sounds like a group cutting loose, but the sessions turned stressful when they sought help from an outside engineer who turned out to have too heavy a touch. “We recorded it once and had to scrap the whole thing, so the album is actually the demos from before we ever went in the studio, just remixed,” says bassist Daniel James, who together with drummer Bart Ferrara rounds out the rhythm section. “Then we had Matthew [Melton] from Warm Soda master it and that definitely helped bring out some sonic qualities.”

“Going into a fancy studio was kind of diverting from our ethic,” adds King, “that’s not us.”

They may have ended up spending even more time and money only to discover they had it right the first time around, an experience the band says has renewed their commitment to recording themselves, but, in any case, the finished product sounds fantastic, adding only a few appropriate embellishments to songs that are decidedly simple but also effective, even on repeat listens. It’s a difficult balancing act to pull off, but in that department Ramma Lamma looks to the masters for inspiration. “The guy that says The Ramones are idiots could never write a Ramones song,” says King, “and it’s not because he’s too good at guitar to write it.”

The subject matter, mostly mythical parties and being on the make, is simple too, the salacious title track that kicks off the album being a good example. “We played Chill on the Hill and there were all these little kids jumping up and down, because we’re singing about ice cream,” says James, laughing. “I just felt evil.” The song clicks perfectly with the cover art, which King serendipitously stumbled upon. “The cover is completely lifted from a pornographic Atari game from the ’80s, Beat ’Em & Eat ’Em,” he says, somewhat sheepishly. “Someone had told me about the cartridge art, with this strange-looking woman licking an ice cream cone.”

With their full-length debut finally hitting the shelves courtesy of the Tampa-based but Wisconsin-centric Certified PR Records, the band seems eager to further explore the format, but don’t expect any overwrought rock operas. “With the type of songs we write and the fact that we’re going to keep recording ourselves, I think it’s pretty fair to say that you can expect an AC/DC discography sort of thing out of us, where if you like the first album, you’ll like the second album and you’ll like the tenth album, because I don’t think a heck of a lot is going to change.” To which Norton nonchalantly responds, “Well, yeah, we’re awesome.”

Ramma Lamma play an LP release show on Friday, July 11, at 9:30 p.m. at Linneman’s Riverwest Inn with Cozy, Slow Walker and DJ Andy Junk.