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The power of three

Pacific Northwest rockers The Quails and The King Cobra hit the Midway

The Quails
The Quails

Stylistically, The Quails and The King Cobra exist in separate realms of rock. But on stage, they demand equal attention.

Last summer, The Quails brought their political pop punk to the Roxy when they opened for Sleater Kinney. A sweet spot, the San-Francisco band proved why they got picked by S-K with a riveting rhythm section led by fast and furious bassist Seth Lorinczi. His energy was matched by drummer Julianna Bright who swaps vocals with singer/guitarist Jen Smith. Smith, who sounds awfully similar to Corin Tucker, followed suit with such stirring songs as "Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist" which is off their second
release, "Atmosphere."

Meanwhile, The King Cobra, another power trio, hit the more humble T.T. the Bears in Cambridge months ago when they opened for Tracy and the Plastics. A math rock, metal band, Betsy Kwo played a screeching guitar to Tara Jane O'Neil's thumping bass, as an upright Rachel Carns balefully pounded the drums and screamed indecipherable staccato lyrics into the mic. All in all, a spectacle that rarely comes through Cambridge.

Since then both bands have kept busy by touring with Erase Errata and recording. Recently both wrapped up new CDs and hit the road with fall tours. Promoting their new wares, they'll stop by the Midway in JP, with local band The Kitty Kill as openers, on Wednesday, Nov. 5.

A couple weeks ago, FUN called Jen Smith of The Quails in San Francisco to talk about her band's new recording. At the time of our interview, Smith was preparing for the band's CD release party taking place that evening at San Francisco's Adobe Books. A free show, the only thing the band asked for in return from their audience was pie. Apparently, they have a thing for pie as, come Boston, it's another B.Y.O.P night.

Still, the band probably wouldn't mind it if you picked up their new CD called "The Song is Love." It marks the band's third album and second release on the now San Franciso-based Mr. Lady Records. In all, Smith described the new release as "capturing more of their live sound." Playing at a faster tempo, she added that the band aimed for a "more rocking" beat. Still, there's an undeniable undercurrent of pop feel-good love to the rock as the first song off the CD has Bright leading off with the announcement, "The Quails are throwing a party for lovers."

Following the bookstore show, Smith and her bandmates were departing the City by the Bay for a six-week tour where they'll hook up with The King Cobra for seven shows.

Both bands go way back as Smith met Carns when both kicked around in the 1990s closeknit, artsy underground rock scene of Olympia, Washington. Still hailing from the Pacific Northwest, The King Cobra grew out of numerous side projects including Carns's 90s band, The Need. These days, The Need is no more as Cobra constitutes the band's only project.

King Cobra's new CD is self-titled and comes courtesy of Troubleman. This is their first full-length release even though folks may have picked up a copy of the limited EP that the band recorded after borrowing a friend's studio space and mixing board. It was affectionately called "eight-song punkass CD."

A considerably cleaner effort than "punkass," "The King Cobra" captures the band's dissonant and complicated clamor. In "march on pompeii," the band takes its listeners on a dark retreat to jarring guitars and thunderous drums while Carns's grating vocals keeps it chaotic. After welding math rock with metal, they've attracted quite a diverse following. While on tour with fellow Troubleman band, Erase Errata, Carns noted that the two bands assembled a motley audience.

"Our shows with Erase Errata were awesome. I think we have a similar crew: part freaky queer kid, part marching band geek, part smartypants artiste, part tranny diva, part no brow rock archivist, part bookish nerd, part drag royalty, part unfortunate hipster," wrote Carns by email. "The list goes on really. Maybe that's what our shows have most in common: the diversity itself."

Deviating from the norm is definitely a driving force behind The Quails and The King Cobra. In particular, if you check out King Cobra's Website, then
you'll see that all answer "tba" to the answer of sex. Sure, they could have just opted against a gender designation but that would have negated all the fun.

"Basically it's a big 'Yeah! Right on! Me too!' to the out trannies and genderfreaks in our world who are living towards change," wrote Carns. "For me it was a small but conscious gesture of alliance. In everyday life all three of us use the traditional female pronouns, but in my mind gender is fluid, not fixed."

Similarly, on The Quails new release, there's a rousing nod to gender in the song, "More Gender More of the Time." Asking Smith about it, she said, the song was inspired by a friend who works as a transgender activist. "There's an important place in our collective hearts for gender ambiguity and certainly ambiguity in sexuality," said Smith. "So we're for it and have a little anthem about it."

Presented by Truth Serum productions, The King Cobra, The Quails, and The Kitty Kill play the Midway on Wednesday Nov. 5. At 3496 Washington St., JP. Doors 8.30pm. $8. 21+. For more information, visit www.truthserum.org

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