By Dan Barry
2:33 PM EDT, August 29, 2011
w/ Nemes, Oculesics, Zip-Tie Handcuffs, Il Abanico; $5; 21+, Friday, Sept. 2, The Outer Space, 295 Treadwell St., Hamden, theouterspace.net
Sometimes you hear the name of a genre of music and the name sounds so absurd that you can only figure some music writer contrived it, like that was his shot at fame or something. (Dubstep, screamo, and chillwave all come to mind as examples.)
So when I was researching the West Haven trio Babytown Frolics and found out they were part of a genre called "twinkle daddies," I was sure I had stumbled onto some sort of Internet joke. "Twinkle daddies"? Seriously? The name sounds like some kind of horrific development in gay male culture — like a guy who habitually doses young gay men with ecstasy and then takes advantage of them. Or maybe it's what a leather daddy becomes when he shaves his body and trades his leather in for glitter.
Nope. Twinkle daddies are bands who channel early- and mid-'00s emo. The Get Up Kids, Sunny Day Real Estate, and Jimmy Eat World seem to be the main influences, because their guitars were, y'know, twinkly. The twinkle genre, or subgenre, is predominantly based here in the Northeast and has a lot of acts on the label Topshelf Records. (You may have heard of Topshelf related to their release of the Mitch Dubey benefit compilation. They also put out records by Connecticut's The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die, who we interviewed in June.) It's almost as though the bands are going back to rewrite history, starting with the moment when their emo forefathers veered towards the commercial. In this alternate and twinklier universe, pop-punk and emo never mated and birthed monsters likeFall Out Boy¿¿, the All-American Rejects, the Red Jumpsuit Apparatus, or Hawthorne Heights. Instead, it's as though emo stayed underground, smoked a few bowls with post-rock, and copped a few ideas from hardcore and metal's math-rock chaos. If you really wanna dig deep into the sound, you can visit a blog dedicated to it at twinkledaddies.tumblr.com.
Babytown Frolics take their name from the pilot episode of the TV show Archer (the title character mutters the phrase to himself when he discovers that the password to the mainframe he's hacking is "guest"). They're mostly instrumental, so they keep things rhythmically-driven, with a lot of grooves based on unusual time signatures. "It keeps the listener intrigued and guessing. 4/4 is great, I love that time signature, but there is something about 7/8 that I appreciate so much more. It's really that stretch from the norm that does it for me." That's bassist Kevin Boettger, explaining some of Babytown's overlap with math rock. That mathy proclivity for challenging instrumental parts comes out in their tunings as well. "The different tunings I think may be the hardest challenge we face, just for the fact that as the bassist I stay in standard tuning while Jon [Scranton, guitarist] likes to switch it up. Also another challenge we face is lyrically. We really aren't sure where we want to go lyrically so that's another big challenge."
What few lyrics are present in Babytown's songs are usually pie-in-the-sky musings (like "Framed by our past, the die has been cast," from the song "Tigers Jarmy Sometimes"). This is another one of those places where twinkly and post-rock collide. The lyrics are half-sung, half-shouted in a sailor-y, gruff voice common to the genre. Some similar bands will even eschew screaming into a microphone in their live shows, preferring the intensity of screaming directly into the audience.
If you want to check out Babytown Frolics in advance of their gig at the Outer Space, you can head over to their Bandcamp page, where their releases so far (2 demos and some loose ends) are available for free. I asked the band if they had made any money off the downloads, and all three members seemed laissez-faire when it comes to finance.
"Honestly, I'm very glad that our music is free (or name your own price)," writes Scranton. "We really try to get our music out there as much as possible, and we are not attempting to profit from it. We love giving out CDs at shows."
As for the future? "Honestly, I play music with two of my greatest friends in the world. It really is the best," writes Boettger. "So as long as we continue playing I am happy. I'd love to see us put out a record in the near future, definitely get a tour going."