For the past decade, the members of local comedy metal band Testosteroso have been supplementing the crass (and often hilarious) tunes they are known for with meticulous music videos. From the live-action B-movie weirdness of "Chew Toy" to the fully animated cartoon for "Brown Paper Bag," the group has embraced the synchronicity of audio and visual more than any other local band.
To celebrate this achievement, Testosteroso is playing two shows in the coming week, before a hiatus. The first takes place at the Lizard Lounge tomorrow, June 7, with Witness Marker, and the second is next Friday, June 14, at the Kaleidoscope with Avery. We spoke with singer, guitarist and chief videomaker Skot Shaub about why comedy and metal go well together and how to create a "stadium show on a dive bar budget."
These next two shows are being advertised as the last for the near future. Is this “until next time” or the end of the band?
Well, two of the guys are having kids. I think I might switch gears to something else, too, so we’ve been trying to put a lot into these last two shows.
How do these Testosteroso shows differ from ones you and the guys have put on in the past?
It’s a lot of work. These are celebrating 10 years of doing videos, since we’ve actually been a band longer than a decade. It’s interactive for some parts of the show, and every song has a corresponding video that I have to queue up while playing with a foot switch. So, it’s been cool, but, yeah, a lot of work.
If you don’t mind giving away some of the secrets, how does the interactive aspect of the show work?
So, it’s a two hour show with videos that we either made for specific songs or ones that we created especially for the show. In the middle of the set, there’s an air guitar contest. We give everyone these “Guitar Hero” controllers and they have to give their guitar performance, while our guitar player plays what he thinks they’re playing. Depending on how good or bad they are, I have a cue to push a button out of, like, ten different videos. Anything from Jimi Hendrix playing at Woodstock to that one video of Lil’ Wayne playing guitar from a while ago.
What I love about the videos is that they all have very different styles – some are animated and some are more special-effects heavy. Could you walk me through the general process of a video, from start to finish?
We actually storyboard everything, which is another part that going to school helped with. During the last batch of videos, we actually wrote the videos out while we were writing the songs, so we knew what the visuals would be. Like, for example there’s one video called “Deuce of Hazard.” My drummer helped me write that because he does a spoken word part when I’m not singing. While we were writing the song, we were writing what would happen in the video. Because it was animated, it took a really long time, almost six months until it was done. Even if the video is live-action, I’ll do an animatic to see if all the gags will fit in the video. It’s happened before where we’ve tried to put too much in a video and then there was tons of extra footage that we couldn’t use. This is all done with me and, like, two people.
You’ve mentioned doing something different after these two shows. Do you think the focus will be music, video or something else entirely?
I’m not sure yet. I think I’m going to take a little time. With Testo, there’s such a catalog that I want to start really fresh. I don’t know, I like that it’s funny and everything, but I want to try to write something serious. It wouldn’t work to write “serious” Testo material. I don’t know. I think the joke is that most people would try to write a funny song and do it very quickly, but we wanted to take a lot of work. Like, spending six months animating food characters coming out of a colon.
Do you think there’s a reason why the genre of metal is so ripe for comedy?
It’s because even the bands that are serious about it are so – it’s like, I really liked Kiss, but I also think they are one of the worst bands ever. There’s a part of me that really likes it, because it’s so cheesy. Some people get that, some people don’t. I think it’s because it’s a bunch of people who are just trying so hard to look tough and masculine, and it’s just really dumb. That’s actually where the band name originated from. Not that I don’t like them, but take Metallica – it’s full of metal, right? Well, Testosteroso is full of testosterone. It’s stupid.
Do you get more gratification from playing live or creating videos and putting them out?
I think content making is more gratifying. It’s tough. I mean, when we have a good show, we have a really good show. But it’s tough to get people out, especially at our age. As we get older, our fans are having kids and they can’t go out. And even if they did, they’d be leaving by, like, 9 [laughs]. So these shows are like one last big thing, because of all the work that I put into it. But it’s always going to be up on YouTube. I think having physical albums and videos is more gratifying than playing out.
A majority of the Testosteroso videos are self-contained stories in the span of three to six minutes. Have you ever wanted to do a short film or collection of videos with a single storyline?
Kind of. We always come up with these big concepts and then scale them back because we get tired. For the last album, we were going to do five videos where they would continuously lead to the next one. It wasn’t necessarily one storyline, but one would sort of blend into the next one. We ended up just making one-minute teaser videos.
Have you ever been put on bills with other metal bands who either didn't get the joke, or vice-versa?
It’s weird, we’ve been put on bills with comedy bands where we didn’t fit. We opened for Dean Ween once, and I love Ween. We’re huge fans, and they hated us. They didn’t think it was funny at all. But then we’ve played with metal bands where I thought they’d think we were idiots, and they ended up loving us. Probably for the wrong reasons, though, they probably thought we were being serious. It’s kind of weird to have people like what you do, but for the wrong reasons.
When you were making the setlist for these shows, were there songs that jumped out at you as having gotten more or less funny over time?
Mostly just less funny. But there’s stuff that, looking back, I think, wow, I did that, that is cool. I think the last two albums are really good lyrically, even if they are a little crass. But then, there’s a song on our first album that I refuse to play. It’s one of the few songs with videos that we aren’t playing for the shows. We used to do things for the sake of shocking people, and then as I got older, I think, “This isn’t funny, it’s stupid.” Now I get offended more, and I know that sounds bad, but there’s things that, when I was younger, I just didn’t give a s---. And now I think, “Oh, maybe that was in bad taste.”
Testosteroso plays at the Lizard Lounge tomorrow, June 7 and at the Kaleidoscope on Friday, June 14. Click here for more information on the band and both shows.