Rhys “Spider” Webb says his British hometown of Southend-on-sea “is pretty much a gray and miserable place which was once majestic in Queen Victoria’s reign. … where once stood grand bandstands and a Victorian promenade now stands rubble, where it’s all fallen down the hill. So there’s nothing to do there, basically.”
But Webb, 23, didn’t spend his teen years whining over the lack of local culture. Four years ago, the obsessive record collector created some culture of his own when he got together with some like-minded chums, took over a rickety old Edwardian hotel and rechristened it the Junk Club — a late-night hangout where the Spider spun “punk-inspired” platters from the past five decades.
“And by ‘punk,’ I mean garage,” Webb clarifies. “The idea was just to have a party and play our favorite records, in this dark, dingy basement. … We weren’t really expecting anyone to come, let alone for it to become as successfulas it was. But it not only blossomed into one of the best clubs in the country, but also a magnet, then a home, for creative young people and young bands.”
Bands like The Horrors, which the keyboard-playing impresario formed with four of his Junk comrades two years back. The groovy Goth-punk ghoulies make their S.F. debut at Popscene Tuesday.
Looking like they just walked out of an Edward Gorey engraving, The Horrors came up with a cool logo (Webb’s buckled boot), a creepy sound and a spooky debut, “Strange House” on Stolen Transmission, with dirges like “Sheena Is a Parasite.”
But the Junk Club — now closed — was the strangest house of all. “I can’t believe we survived any of our nights there,” Webb shudders, recalling nights when the hotel regularly flooded three hours after opening. “And people who’d turned up in their finest attire would end up completely drenched from head to toe in this disgusting red liquid which had covered the floor; I think it had something to do with the brickwork in the basement and a leaking toilet, to be honest.”</p>
Webb likens his non-Junk Southend life to the Barbarians’ ’65 garage classic “Are You a Boy or Are You a Girl?” — baseball-cap-wearing lager louts didn’t get him or his androgynous Horrors. Luckily, the rest of England did.
The band soon wound up on the cover of NME, touted as leaders of a ‘Junk movement,’ which recently spawned several productions of “Junk — The Musical.” Renowned actress Samantha Morton even signed on for their “Sheena” video.
On their Web site, which sells switchblade combs, the Horrors have branded their music as “Psychotic Sounds for Freaks and Weirdos.”
It’s no joke, Webb says. “If it’s stripped to the bone, that’s what ‘Strange House’ is. But some bands, like us, are lucky enough to make those sounds for a wider audience, and it doesn’t happen too often. So we’re really enjoying the fact that we can potentially introduce new sounds or new inspirations to a whole new audience.”
Where: Popscene, 330 Ritch St., San Francisco
When: 9 p.m. Tuesday
Tickets: $10 to $12
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