The Spook Lights
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The Spook Lights


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This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos




Lawrence’s reigning garage combo, the Spook Lights, recently completed recording their debut slab o’ hot wax with engineer Chubby Smith at his studio.

The recording, entitled Live From The Planet Sleazetopia, is expected out on 7″ via the band’s own Scarum Harum label sometime this October. The track listing (in no particular order) is “Night of the Queerwolf,” “Nudie Watusi,” KJHK favorite “Teenage Maniac,” and “Sinister Urge.”

“Sinister Urge” makes its official downloadable preview debut here on Rock Star Journalist. I hope you enjoy it. It’s a rocker, as are the rest of the songs on the 7″. It’s somewhat weird reviewing this as a vinyl release, being as how I don’t have the actual thing in my hands, not does one exist at all. The only way I’ve heard it is via the mp3s that arrived in my inbox courtesy Scary Manilow.

Still, even in mp3, the sound quality comes through. Chubby Smith did an amazing job of capturing the Spook Lights’ raw energy, keeping the whole affair lo-fi without sounding as if it was recorded in someone’s basement. “Teenage Maniac” is in its third form here, with there being extant versions of a basement demo, as well as the Jackpot-recrecorded version found on KJHK’s Farm Fresh Sounds 2007 compilation. This version is slowed down a touch, and is crisper and creepier, with Jet Boy and Curvacia’s guitars actually playing off one another, rather than one burying another.

The whole appeal of Live From The Planet Sleazaetopia is that it sounds distorted and fuzzy, rather than cheap and shitty. The effects are added to enhance the songs, rather than being the result of unfortunate mixing and cheap equipment. Really, the only thing needed to make these songs sparkle is that crackle I know I’m going to hear the first time I drop the needle down.

The Spook Lights have made a lo-fi record that captures the energy inherent in their live show, and adds a touch of what the studio can add - things like the organ on “Night of the Queerwolf” make this record a so much more than the usual “we need music to sell” toss-off in which many local acts engage. This is a record that’s going to grab ears and turn heads. - Rock Star Journalist

"...Live! From The Planet Sleazetopia!"

Here’s what you need to know about the Spook Lights: If you like the Cramps, you’re gonna dig these guys (and gal).

The band was kind enough to send me a couple of songs from their upcoming EP, which I think will be titled Live from the Planet Sleazetopia. It’s very Cramps-influenced, but without that dark edge. While the Spook Lights play with tongue firmly in cheek, they are very serious about what they’re doing. “This band is fun, but not ‘hilarious,’” Scary Manilow said. “This band is campy, but not ‘a novelty!’ We will not be characterized as a ‘niche act’ with a ‘cool shtick.’ We love what we do, but we are dead serious about it.”

The Spook Lights’ origins are vague, to say the least. The band’s bio says Scary and guitarist Curvacia VaVoom were “exiled from their home planet, Sleazetopia. Forced to spend the rest of their days in the cultural void that is Middle America, this brilliant (and sexually talented) twosome gleaned their entire knowledge of human culture from thrift store record bins and 1960’s classroom education films.”

The Spook Lights are fun – and make damn good music. Give ‘em a listen and look for the album when it comes out. - Licorice Pizza

"Getting With The Program: Q & A With THE SPOOK LIGHTS"

From Legends of America:

According to the legend, the spook light was first seen by Indians along the infamous Trail of Tears in 1836; however, the first “official� report occurred in 1881 in a publication called the Ozark Spook Light.

The ball of fire, described as varying from the size of a baseball to a basketball, dances and spins down the center of the road at high speeds, rising and hovering above the treetops, before it retreats and disappears. Others have said it sways from side to side, like a lantern being carried by some invisible force. In any event, the orange fire-like ball has reportedly been appearing nightly for well over a one hundred years. . . Though many paranormal and scientific investigators have studied the light, including the Army Corps of Engineers, no one has been able to provide a conclusive answer as to the origin of the light. Many explanations have been presented over the years including escaping natural gas, reflecting car lights and billboards, and will-o’-the-wisps, a luminescence created by rotting organic matter. However, all of these explanations all fall short of being conclusive.

[Editor’s Note: Popshifter is sad to report that since this interview was conducted Ruby passed on over the Rainbow Bridge in the sky. She will be greatly missed.]

Popshifter: Who are The Spook Lights?

Scary Manilow: singer
Curvacia VaVoom: surf guitarist
Jetboy: fuzz guitarist
The Meld: drums

Popshifter: How did you get started? What is “THE PROGRAM�? What is “exotic trash culture� and why is it so vital to our survival?

Curvacia VaVoom: For years I wrote and performed songs on my acoustic guitar and banjo. My themes of choice were ballads of populist uprisings, along with a romantic series of songs using natural disasters as sexual metaphors. Electric guitars sketched me out because if I picked one up I knew my peers would all be macho egomaniacs who didn’t appear interested in sharing stage space with any pussy power. Yet the traditional combo of “girl with acoustic guitar� eventually pigeonholes females into a soft-focused seat in singer/songwriter venues. I didn’t feel I was causing much trouble.

At home I started playing mean, scary, surf gang songs on my acoustic guitar. Scary Manilow encouraged me, pretty much in any direction I wanted, and soon enough I found myself trotting out of the music store with the cheapest electric hollow body could find and a small Vox amp with a gain setting on it that gave it that slightly warm and blown-out sound that I craved.

Scary Manilow and I spent most of our free time collecting odds and ends from the world of exotic trash. This included a lot of horror movies made with little or no money from the 50s and 60s. I started mimicking the scary little soundtracks from movies like Teenage Strangler and Robot Monster. This is where I came to appreciate the balance of not being adept enough of a guitar player to get the riffs right, but having a different kind of skill where my attempts may be way off-kilter, but are a whole other creation around which I can write an entirely different song.

Out of lack of money and lack of motivation we forgot about the record stores for a while and began picking our records from the trash, garage sales, and thrift stores. Every now and then there would be that one amazing find, something we’d never heard of that took us to a whole other planet, the Planet Sleazetopia.

Before meeting Scary Manilow I was already kind of an alien who preferred the company of myself, my animals and plants, my songs, and my trash treasures to the rest of the world. One day I said to myself: WHY BE ALONE IN A CROWD WHEN I CAN DO WHAT I WANT BY MYSELF? WHY BOTHER BEING AN OUTSIDER IN A DREARY AND BORING WORLD WHEN I CAN BE THE INSIDER OF MY OWN INVENTED WORLD?

Around this time I started obsessing of on the catch phrase “You need to get with the program.� To me, the mere existence of that phrase was evidence that our culture is ruled by an unwritten handbook that defeats millions into trying to catch up with a strict campaign of uniform guidelines, whether they fit or not. How can this work? I had silently decided to withdraw from THE program and live within MY program. Only for me, the handbook of rules wouldn’t be so unspoken. I would be out in the open with the fact that my Program supports all people living in an interdependent universe of separate pockets of self-invented “programs� and cultures that may or may not overlap.

Well, I just happened to be obsessing on this very idea the day that I met SCARY MANILOW. We started chatting, after he petted my invisible dog, Mert. I could tell just from that that he was someone I REALLY needed to become friends with. He made some off-handed remark about wasting his whole day off playing pinball and traipsing around town with an ass pocket of whiskey wearing a tattered shirt and broken shoes. I made an off-handed remark, being sarcastic about my recent views on “getting with the program.� So I looked at him pseudo-disdainfully and said “You need to GET WITH THE PROGRAM.� He immediately jumped onto what I was saying, and we began talking about what a REAL program would be like. This reinvention of a outsider world that would embrace both of us and our collective interests seriously happened within the first forty minutes of our knowing each other.

I don’t believe in the national religion of romantic relationships or “love at first sight� but that very moment sizzles in my mind to this day as a burst of passion. I was not remotely interested in meeting another person, much less a male lover, or in sharing my life with anyone and collaborating on creative projects as an extension of amour, but I knew I was attracted to this other person who crossed into my own universe, and damn if that person didn’t drive me MAD WITH LOVE.

To further emphasize the outsider universe of the Planet Sleazetopia or THE PROGRAM: our cat Ruby was an aging and abandoned little alley cat, howling on the streets and mourning for love. She was an outsider in the regular world. But in our house SHE’S THE MAYOR OF THE PLANET SLEAZETOPIA!!

Half of our records were thrown out in alleyways, covered with mildew in rotting covers. But in our house THEY ARE THE SOUNDTRACK OF THE PROGRAM. That overgrown lot over there, with all the weeds and broken glass in it, has been labeled a “community eyesore.� But in The Program, it’s an EXOTIC WILD GARDEN and OUTDOOR BALLROOM for me and SCARY MANILOW. That abandoned building, the one with a sign in front of it that says it’s a future renovation project for corporate office space? Here, right now, with us it’s a SILVER SCREEN for ABSTRACT EXPRESSIONISM through the medium of SHADOWS AND MOONLIGHT.

Scary Manilow: Curvacia and I have always been aliens, living in our own individual headspaces, completely isolated from the people around us. The fact that we met is nothing short of remarkable; I’ve never encountered anyone that I’ve been able to relate to so completely. Our universes merged into a single, all encompassing psychogeography, and that was that.

On one of our thrift odysseys, Curvacia discovered a record by RAE BOURBON, a drag-queen from Kansas City (who was later found guilty of having her landlord killed—he had her dogs impounded and put to sleep when she couldn’t make rent, which is a horrible thing to do—sounds like he got off too easy, if you ask me), and on the album cover was the phrase FOR ELDERLY DELINQUENTS. And those words really spoke to us; we totally adopted them as our code.

For one thing, in the most literal sense, both of us ARE ex-teenage delinquents (and frightfully PROUD of it, I must say). . . and living in Lawrence, Kansas is enough to make ANYONE feel elderly—it’s a small, midwestern college town, where the average age is 22. By the time you pass 30, you might as well file for Social Security and strap on an adult diaper. It can be mentally frustrating, if you let it get to you, but I’ve always secretly longed to be a crotchety old fart. So here we are—a couple of aliens with a Program, two elderly juvenile delinquents adrift on Planet Earth. The idea came to us that Sleazetopia was a planet of teenage hoodlums, and we were exiled for aging beyond juvenalia. And all of the things that make up the Program—our garbage treasures, our love of throwaway culture, our secret passages through town—this combined, interpersonal mythology of ours was a result of us studying human culture, trying to assimilate, to fit in. Of course, it’s IMPOSSIBLE for us to fit in: the aspects of human culture that appeal to us most are the very things that the staus quo chooses to discard, from old educational filmstrips and sleazy rock-n-roll instrumentals to whatever crazy old lamp or scrap of flashy fabric catches our eye.

Our cat Ruby—the Program’s official mayor and mascot—was a throwaway pet that we adopted after someone else chose to abandon her. Most of our furniture and housewares came from the alleyways near our home. Even the pop icons we worship—people like Korla Pandit, or Doris Wishman, or Pedro Infante—pop culture has, for the most part, left them all by the wayside. We kind of feel like it’s our duty to rescue these tossed off bits of so-called rubbish, piece them together as best we can, and present them back into the public consciousness.

The mainstream has become so whitewashed and homogeneous that it has no choice but to spill over into the underground. We’re sick of suffoctaing down here in the world’s boring, monochrome sewage. The only way for us to fight it is by forcing the Program on an unsuspecting (and unknowingly eager) public—hopefully we’ll inspire other like-minded aliens to come forward with programs of their own and this tide of banal horseshit can be reversed once and for all.

Popshifter: What are your five fave low budget flicks?

Scary Manilow: This is too hard for us to narrow down. Seriously, there are a few mainstays, but our favorites can change from day to day depending on our moods, and there are so many great ones to choose from.

I think I can safely name three solid ones: Glen or Glenda, Carnival of Souls, and My Brother’s Wife. To my own personal list, I might add Blood and Black Lace and Sin in the Suburbs, but I really don’t know. Like I said, it changes all the time.

Curvacia VaVoom: Carnival of Souls has a really personal effect on me. First of all, it was filmed here in Lawrence, KS where I live, AND in Salt Lake City where one of my best friends, writer and tango instructor Cassandra Mogusar, lives. She took me to the creepy pavillion when I visited her, and it changed my life. The day was wet and cold: grey, black, and white. I’ve never been to a location where I felt more like I had stepped into the middle of a high contrast black and white film. We found tiles from where the pavillion was, before it was destroyed and rebuilt in a different location. The movie was made from almost no money, and the soundtrack by Gene Moore, on the organ, is phenomenally insinuating.

Scary Manilow: We actually have the wooden organ frame and a few pipes from the church scenes stored in our garage right now, courtesy of our goodest friend Tony Peterson.

Curvacia VaVoom: But before all that, I MET a person who was a production assistant in the movie. He was in a nursing home. I had never even HEARD of the movie, but he constantly talked about a “Carnival of Souls.� I didn’t even know he was talking about a movie; I just figured he was living in his own zombie ballroom fantasy in his mind, and sharing it with whoever would listen. Everyone ignored him, but I was fascinated by his every word. Then I saw the movie on the rack at the local video store, took it home and watched it, and it was like Kubla Khan was realized before my very eyes Everything he described was THERE! It was so. . . just so perfect and amazing.

It’s not low budget, but Mario Bava’s Blood and Black Lace is another movie that changed me. The lurid colored sets of the movie—along with the soundtrack—really drew me in. I decided, “Why can’t my house look like that all the time?�

So I started working on arranging our whole house with cheap colored lighting. I feel like the aesthetics of your most dwelled-in environment really effect you, and there’s always a cheap or free way to control aesthetics. Is the bus late? Surround yourself with broken colored glass or make up stories about the people around you! Are you renting and can’t paint the walls? Get a bunch of green, red, yellow, and purple bulbs for your light fixtures and live in a fire colored wonderland. Are you going to be standing in line all day? Adorn yourself in a garish dress, plastic flowers, and paper snakes.

Anything by Doris Wishman appeals to me. I love her camerawork, how she’ll focus on a plant or a table randomly while someone is doing a voice over of their “thoughts.� She was a real bossy lady too. I wish I could have met her.

Popshifter: What do you think of the trend of “fake� low budget movies?

Scary Manilow: For the price of ONE bullshit low-budget movie, I could cough up TWENTY actual low-budget movies, and there’d probably be a budget left over for drinks and a pair of fancy slacks. They’d actually be movies worth watching, too—more than just fake tits and cars blowing up. Every single character would be played by someone in drag, and Curvacia would always show up somewhere to impress audiences with her VICIOUS CHAIN-TWIRLING ABILITY. I’d probably also throw in some William Castle-style hijinks just to get my jollies. Who can I talk to to make this happen?

Curvacia VaVoom: Quentin Tarantino is a kiss ass.

Popshifter: What’s wrong with Hollywood today?

Scary Manilow: Same thing that’s ALWAYS been wrong with Hollywood: THE AUDIENCE. If the average movie goer wasn’t a sub-IQ yokel, the studios wouldn’t be forced to pander to their collective (lack of) taste. Hollywood’s only in it for the money, and so they gotta follow that cash to the source. There wouldn’t be turgid logs like Hairspray: The Musical! or Larry The Cable Guy: Health Inspector if people didn’t shell out dollar after dollar to see them. It’s a sad fact of life: most people are brainless fucking inbreds.

Curvacia VaVoom: When you have to write a movie to appeal to everyone, you end up having to compromise a lot so that you can sell a lot of tickets. I love what costume ideas people come up with themselves when given the license to invent the look and sound of a character. The movie that Scary Manilow wrote, that we’ve been working on this summer, every scene is my favorite scene. At first I would watch the raw footage of myself and think, “AAAAGH! Look at my chin!� Then at some point you realize you’re in a whole cast of people who look great, sound even better, and play the character to the HILT, and they all have chins or some other feature they’re concerned about. They offer more in one scene than a whole movie of people who have been sculpted, airbrushed, and vocally coached for big industry movies. I’ve seen a lot of Gwyneth Paltrow. But I haven’t seen enough of characters like THIS! There are so many more talented people who aren’t rich.

Also, what’s up with hiring people who are straight, skinny, or non-disabled to play someone gay, or put on a fat suit, or play a person with a disability? Why not hire ACTUAL queer people, actors of size, and actors with disabilities? Jesus!

Popshifter: What makes a good movie?

Scary Manilow: Grainy, black and white film stock. Out-of synch overdubs. Some kind of mad science or hideous monster. Choreographed dance sequences—A MUST! And I personally endorse bouncing, voluptuous women and broad-chested, square-jawed he-men with well-oiled buttocks.

Popshifter: What makes a bad movie?

Scary Manilow: Pretty much anything that wasn’t listed above, and especially anything in which Scarlett Johansson is cast.

Popshifter: What’s so great about Halloween? Why is it better than Christmas?

Scary Manilow: Anyone will tell you that I’m a guy who likes disguises, enjoys playing different characters. I can wear seven or eight different personalities in a single day! To me, Halloween isn’t so much about wearing a mask as it is about finally dropping one. It’s the one day a year where it’s okay to indulge in public role-playing, to show the rest of the world how you really wish you could relate to it. Also, I’m a child at heart, and the best toys hit the stores around Halloween. The BEST toys.

Christmas is scarier than Halloween, but not necessarily FUN-scary. It’s real-life horror: Jesus freaks are everywhere, the financial burden is stifling, and the familial obligations really begin to stack up. I can face these terrors on an individual basis, but all at once? I crumble like a gingerbread house. Some of the best horror movies are Christmas-themed, by the way: Black Christmas (which was the inspiration for the original Halloween), Christmas Evil, Silent Night, Deadly Night, etc.

Curvacia VaVoom: I get chills everytime I hear the line in Glen or Glenda when the narrator announces AND THEN ONE DAY IT WASN’T HALLOWEEN ANYMORE. It’s a hilarious line, but its also so poignant, because it drives home the point that after Halloween Ed Wood isn’t going to stop wearing ladies’ panties, fluffy sweaters, needle pointed bullet bras, and skin-tight pencil skirts, but now he has to hide in his living room with the curtains drawn and feel guilty about it. You can bet he has to don his soul-killing neutral khaki man-pants for Christmas.

Halloween encourages and embraces the freak individual inside everyone. Christmas stifles and kills it. Even Jews and other non-Christians have to conform or be alienated when it comes to Christmas. Who can escape the decorations, Santa Claus, and the horrible grating SONGS that are ever present wherever you go? You can’t get away with it if you try. Now churches are even trying to force Christmas into Halloween! The children are supposed to dress like angels. Where’s the fun in that? No one gets depressed on Halloween.

Popshifter: What are your five fave horror movies?

Scary Manilow: All of my favorite movies are horror movies, in one way or another. Like I said before, it could change every day depending on my mood. I don’t even know where to start. Bride of Frankenstein will probably always be my absolute favorite horror movie of all time, though. It’s got mad science, ominous sets, great black and white moodiness, and copious amounts of The Gay.

Curvacia VaVoom: ALICE SWEET ALICE! It’s set in Patterson, New Jersey and you just feel so claustrophobic watching it. Another film where the sets are full of tacky, bright colors contrasted against grey pavement and dead -ooking skies and walls. Lots of thick, orange lipstick and women in obvious, suffocating girdles screaming their guts out over things like what daughter can take first communion. There’s Alice in her see-through plastic mask, yellow slicker, and blinding silver knife. She has a trunk in the basement of her apartment building where she keeps disturbing trinkets and a doll with a two faces, whose head turns around. She gets her revenge and the whole thing is one scene of hysteria after another. The director, Alfred Sole, studied in Italy, so he was obviously influenced by the giallos, and the European theme of child killers. Great movie that bombed at the box office, even though it was Brooke Shields’ first movie before Pretty Baby.

Also I’m a fanatic for The Birds by Hitchcock. Last year I went as Tippi Hedren’s character for Halloween. It turned out to be an omen because over the summer I had a thrilling experience where I really was attacked by THE BIRDS. Our neighbor’s cat was threatening a grackle fledgling in our yard, so I started to chase him off, but it was too late! A flock of about a dozen iridescent grackles were already swarming and dive-bombing him. . . and because I was near him, they were dive-bombing me. None of them got me but it was really great. Part of me was terrified that I would get my eyes gouged out and the other part of me was thinking, “Wow, this is wonderful! It’s just like The Birds!�

Popshifter: Why are remakes of good horror movies a sign of the apocalypse?

Scary Manilow: I don’t ever actually see any of these horror remakes, so I don’t know if they contain any viable, physical signs of the Biblical apocalypse. Rob Zombie’s Halloween is like a real clunker, though—how does this guy continue to get work? This whole concept of “grunge-ifying� classic horror movies to make them somehow more palatable to contemporary audiences is a total joke.

Just re-release the original film in theaters, and if audiences are too stupid to enjoy it, big deal. They don’t fucking deserve to be catered to, anyway. Let them stay home and jack-off to EXTREME CLOWN porn and stuff their drooling maws with energy-drink flavored corn-blasters. Their brains and bodies will give out soon enough that we won’t have to worry about their POOR TASTE polluting our environment, anyway. Then my inner cultural fascist will be vindicated and all will be right with the world.

Popshifter: What is next for The Spook Lights?

Scary Manilow: Our first seven-inch, LIVE FROM THE PLANET SLEAZETOPIA, is getting mastered and will hopefully be available later this fall. We’re taking the winter off to work on new material and do some more recording, as well as work with our hopeful new keyboardist/glam-meister, Zeppelina Mystery!

Curvacia VaVoom: Of course this means soon we’ll be coming to your town, peddling our wares and doing our show spreading the gospel of THE PROGRAM all over the world!

Although last weekend we did our first out of town show in Wichita, Kansas. We stayed at the hotel from the movie Planes, Trains & Automobiles. I was wearing show clothes and while I procured the room the proprietor of the hotel gave me a discount because he thought I was a prostitute. He saw the cars of the guys in the parking lot waiting for me, and asked if I was a “working girl� and I was so preoccupied with the show that it went right over my head. I said, “Who me? Yeah, I work all the time. I’m working tonight. too. I’m doing a show. And this summer I’ve been doing a movie, too. How much for a room for four?� He saw the guys in the cars waiting for me in the parking lot and said, “I think you’ll find that we’re very. . . understanding. It’s good for business.�
- Popshifter


Teenage Maniac (7-inch) (2009)



Emerging simultaneously from the depths of outer space and the primordial ooze of prehistory, this gang of brilliant (and sexually talented) delinquents arrived on Earth with a swithcblade-sharp sense of style. Having gleaned their entire knowledge of human culture from thrift store record bins and 1960's classroom education films, they have decided to bring their message to the world the only way they know how... through the majesty and splendor that is ROCK-N-ROLL MUSIC.