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‘It ain’t impossible, it ain’t easy’ — Neutralboy tours the nation
No big record company, no manager, no booking agent, Neutralboy tours the country on its own ambition.
When you’ve reached the point where there’s time to relax, that’s when you know that something is wrong.
Words of wisdom from local punk rock celebrity Michael Frottage, aka Mike the Pike.
You might not know him, might have never even heard of him, but he’s so locally famous, or perhaps more so infamous, that he didn’t want his real name in print.
You might know him by the glasses.
You might know him by the band — Neutralboy.
And while girls nearly half his age swivel to his songs as the crowd sings along in sweaty dive bars around the Sound and across the country, keep in mind, it’s not all as glamorous, nor as easy, as you might think.
“I’ve been broke since 1989, when I went on my first tour,” Frottage said. “I’m basically homeless so that I can go on tour.”
Fittingly, as they just returned from tour with MxPx last week, Neutralboy has been alive and touring, and based out of Bremerton for 16 years — since MxPx was Magnified Plaid.
They’ve survived multiple line-up changes and drug addictions and almost any other thing you’d imagine could happen to a punk rock band over a period of a decade and a half.
“Chicken pox, drug addictions, pregnancy ... we’ve had everything hit this band and we’ve never missed a show,” Frottage said, adding natural disasters to the list in one case. “We are a family, we are a business, we are a band ... and our actions represent that.”
Around those ethos and a batch of songs, Frottage started Neutralboy with childhood friend and bassist Mandy Reed (Hell’s Belles). Sixteen years later — garnering hal9000 Beers on drums and James Hunnicutt on lead guitar — he feels like the band is as strong as it’s ever been.
They recently released their third album — a 7-inch split EP called “Your Friends Suck” — following the release of their second full length “Everybody Dies” in January — and are set to hit the road for a self-propelled 40-date nationwide tour — Oct. 22 through Nov. 25.
Part of which will feature Frottage and hal9000’s profanely named two-man side project, which goes by S.G.F.Y. in family friendly publications such as this. S.G.F.Y is readying to release its first full-length album “Even Punks Get The Blues,” produced by Greg Bennett, recorded at Mike Herrera’s Monkey Trench Studios. Plus, with Reed and Hunnicutt being “actual professional musicians,” as Frottage said, S.G.F.Y. can fill in, in any instance when all of Neutralboy isn’t available.
But Neutralboy, as an entity, is also quasi-chameleon.
For instance, earlier this summer when Neutralboy toured the San Francisco Bay Area, Reed was unavailable, so a Bay Area friend of the band, Nicki Hazard, stepped in on bass.
Hazard and Bremerton stringer Alex Noble will be filling along the stretches where Reed and Hunnicutt can’t be there on this tour. Then after they hit Colorado on their way back west, a S.G.F.Y/James Hunnicutt tour takes over, bringing the band across to California, up through Oregon and back to Bremerton. Ideally. Bets are still out on whether or not they’ll make it back.
Impressively, if/when they do, it will be Neutralboy’s fourth tour of 2008.
And what’s more, they’ve done it all on their own — no booking agents, no big name label help, no managers, no PR people.
Hal9000 booked the entire thing and the band hosted a few car washes as fundraisers.
“I’ve put in more time booking this tour than I have getting money to eat while I’m on tour,” hal9000 said.
But it’s all worth it, he added, as soon as you get in the van and all the problems and stress of normal everyday life disappear.
“It’s one thing waking up in your own bed with a hangover,” Frottage noted. “It’s another thing to wake up with hangover in your van, knowing that you’re on your way to another place.”
Then, of course, there’s the stress of making sure you can make it to the next show, making sure you’ve got enough money to eat and making sure you’re going to make it home. It’s all in fun. But being in a touring band has gotten harder over the years, Frottage said. Especially now with the downtrodden economy, skyrocketing prices and online file sharing dipping into a musician’s bread and butter.
“At least gas prices are down,” hal9000 said with a smile.
In spite of it all, the forces of Neutralboy are still called to the road for three or four tours a year — a prime example of the words from that Rancid song “it ain’t impossible, it ain’t easy.”
“Everybody Dies, We Tour,” was the catch line on a recent Neutralboy tour flyer.
“Because you can make a record in Bremerton, but once you sell it to your 100 friends, you’ve still got 900 more CDs,” Frottage said.
BEFORE THEY LEAVE FOR TOUR: The forces of Neutralboy play two last local shows.
• Tonight, Oct. 15, SGFY is at the Funhouse in Seattle with Murderland, New Tomorrow and Omega Moo, 9:30 p.m., 21+, $5, 206 5th Ave. in Seattle
• Thursday, Neutralboy will rock with Android Hero and Murderland at the AFU, 7 p.m., all ages, 318 N. Callow Ave. in Bremerton.