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Automatically the underdog


"All the punk songs that I could ever think of have already been written several times over," says Motorpsychos guitarist Pam Simmons. "Metal gives you more room: that welcome dissonance and rhythm."

          With just the right amount of Iron City savvy and metal guts goosed with punk speed, Motorpsychos' sound is more about its collective energy than any pigeonhole you might want to put it in.

          For lack of better words (as if there are any) it's rock 'n' roll: the kind of rock 'n' roll that thrives in sweaty dives, the kind that's visceral, vicious, raunchy, and real. And though the Pittsburgh band adheres to standard song structure, the accelerated meter makes it undoubtedly punk.

          And of course there's no denying the metal.

          "There's a couple of metalheads in this band," Simmons says, addressing the quartet's dark metal sway. "I probably come from punk land but I'd much rather play --- and write --- metal stuff than punk stuff because it's more interesting from a playing standpoint."

          Both genres tend to dominate and with most bands, one inevitably rises to the top. This is what sets Motorpsychos apart --- the way it skates the punk-metal razor.

          The band's brand-new second album, Piston Whipped,is loud and hard, full of retribution and doom. Muscle-car speed and a cocky stance deliver the band from evil, keeping it out of the perpetual cartoonish hellfire that plagues a lot of bands when they try to get heavy.

          The vocals howl and yell and are frequently punctuated by guttural death-metal moans. The band sounds urgent, pissed, and out for fun: elements found in punk, metal, and plain old rock 'n' roll. Hence the band's crossover appeal.

          "There aren't a lot of songs that are written solely by one person," Simmons says. "The bulk of the writing is a collaboration. What I think all the songs have in common is that they're really hard and driving."

The Motorpsychos frontline is an impenetrable femme fatale wall --- a triple chick threat. Simmons and Abby Krizner brandish big snarling guitars and Amy Bianco's on bass. They all take turns at the mic. The lone man in the group, Dennis Brown, pounds the drums.

          Still, it's "not a girl band, according to the drummer," says Simmons.

          The overriding estrogen has its perks.

          "It works both ways," Simmons says. "I think mostly it's in our favor. The thing that works for us live is that when people find out we're women, sometimes they expect less. And it's easier to blow them away 'cause their standards are lower."

          Not everyone'sstandards. Not Pittsburgh's anyway.

          Motorpsychos is right at the top of this Pennsyltucky town's hard-and-heavy rock pile. They're undefeated --- two for two in hometown battle-of-the-bands contests.

          The band recently won The K-ROCK Winter Rock Challenge, beating out 107 other area bands. They also placed first out of 18 bands in The Rolling Rock National Hard & Heavy Rock Wars.

          "Winning these battles of the bands was kind of a fluke," Simmons says. "Because being female, you're automatically the underdog."

          The wins, added to a relentless barnstorming of joints at home, have built the band a rabid following in a town already crowded with loud and heavy acts.

          "We've had a really good year," she says. "After playing awhile, we've finally broke into the good ol' boy network."

          And there are the repeated jaunts to Chicago, Detroit, New York City, and all over Ohio --- the band is widening its fan base.

          The Motorpsychos sound may be big and Simmons may be proud, but there are no grandiose plans.

          "I haven't really heard anybody who mixes these two styles together like we do," she says. "We're just seeing how far we can take it."

          And this week it's Rochester --- our dirty little city along the mighty Genesee --- with punk pile-drivers The Blastoffs and Whatever Mary. This will be Motorpsychos' first visit here. Well, more or less: Simmons was here once on a school bus.

          "There was that field trip in college to Kodak."

Motorpsychos, The Blastoffs, Whatever Mary play Saturday, June 25, at The Bug Jar, 219 Monroe Avenue, 454-2966, at 9 p.m. Tix: $6. 21+