Rochester band Hot Mayonnaise is reverential in its handling of rock 'n' roll. But the quartet also knows that rock 'n' roll, the beloved icon, is itself iconoclast: It's a snake that sometimes needs a little help shedding its skin. So for the last two years the band has taken music from an era that essentially pre-dates its members, twists it, tweaks it, and drives it through the wall.
We're talking a loud, raunchy, raucous blast of Detroit muscle a la The MC5 or Iggy and The Stooges. In keeping access to the music rarified, Hot Mayonnaise has released a four-song EP, "Bathroom Tapes I," and one album, entitled "Heavy Moments," so far on cassette. A second cassette, "Bathroom Tapes II," is due to hit boom boxes in mid-April, so if you have the afore mentioned tape deck, or whether you drive a late model Dodge Dart with a fully functioning cassette player in its dash, this band will knock you out. Or if you're not above downloading Hot Mayonnaise online, you can find the music on bandcamp.
Live, the band is intimidating, antagonizing, and loud, but it's a good loud, sort of like a kick in the balls from Jayne Mansfield. The vocals seethe and provoke as the crowd returns the favor in a precarious ebb and flow. Perhaps it's a throwback to big rock in little joints; to celebrated excess; to the time of long hair, booze, reefer, and its loud soundtrack. Or maybe it's just what yesterday sounds like today ... when it's done right.
In the band's bombed-out rehearsal space, amid mounting piles of beer cans that rival the neighboring brewery across the street, City sat down with the members of Hot Mayonnaise — guitarist Johnny Watkins; bassist Donnie Watkins; drummer Reginald Hopkins; and singer Jorge Alvarado — to discuss it all: talent, volume, fast cars, and chicks ... and loud music. An edited transcript of that conversation follows.
City: What is Hot Mayonnaise?
Donnie Watkins: Just a rock 'n' roll band trying to replicate the music we love in our own style. It's a mixture of a lot of 70's rock, Detroit, blues a little bit, some pop.
Johnny Watkins: A modern take on the Detroit sound.
Reginald Hopkins: Sleazy rock 'n' roll.
Could you be a little vaguer?
Reginald: It's loud, it's drunk. If you want to be vague: it's music.
Like, say, The MC5?
Johnny: In the beginning that was the focus. But it was always original ... with the random Prince cover.
Donnie: Yeah, he's pretty sleazy.
What's the best and worst thing about the Rochester scene?
Jorge Alvarado: I dunno. There's a lot of good stuff happening now.
Johnny: Lack of recognition from the outside world. Rochester's a beautiful place; they love their beer, and they love their rock 'n' roll.
Reginald: All the young talent, dude.
What are you listening to?
Johnny: We're all pretty big Motown fans. "Ray Charles at Newport" — I can't get enough of that.
Reginald: I can't stop listening to Thin Lizzy's "Fighting."
Donnie: I've been going between KISS and Thin Lizzy lately.
What do you write about?
Jorge: Drinking, partying, fast cars, chicks.
Reginald: We follow a pretty simple rock 'n' roll motif.
Any thoughts about touring?
Jorge: We've toured up and down the East Coast, between here and Tennessee, and we played a music fest in Colorado.
What's something you'll never do?
Johnny: I don't think we'd ever do a ballad.
Reginald: Definitely not a slow song from Hot Mayonnaise. I don't think we'd go digital.
Johnny: Dude, we're right in the middle of doing that. We're putting our stuff on iTunes.
Reginald: No, man. I'm talking Flock of Seagulls type shit.
What's something you want to do?
Jorge: I want to put out a vinyl record.
Johnny: Spending some time playing the West Coast would be nice.
What's something you do that other Rochester bands can't or don't?
Jorge: Playing completely inebriated.
Johnny: I think some bands just pick a niche and stick with it, I don't think we're doing that. It's organic, so it's going to keep becoming its own thing.