Hypnotic and Raucous

Austin hard-rock band Lions can relate to facial hair, but can't relate to the Top 40

Wanna know how to please Matt Drenik, singer and guitarist for the hard-rock band Lions? Tell him that his band makes music that sounds like the eternal soundtrack for the teenage years--all Black Sabbath thud, Deep Purple lurch, Motorhead squall and Led Zep stomp.

"When people tell me our music reminds them of being a teenager, that's awesome, man! That's when I was really, I mean magically, learning for the first time how much in love with music I am. There's something about hearing music at that age ... it has such an amazing impact on your soul. To make people feel that, it's a real fucking privilege."

Drenik--like his three partners in the Austin band--is now in his late 20s, but he's flashing back to his teen years.

"When I was a kid, it was all about Nirvana, Soundgarden, Smashing Pumpkins, Jane's Addiction. Those were great bands, and I loved them to death. When I was a kid, I thought Kurt Cobain and Billy Corgan were the coolest shit in the world."

He also cops to being a big fan of A Tribe Called Quest, Public Enemy and early Red Hot Chili Peppers.

"But then that's about the same time when I first listened to Led Zeppelin, buying Houses of the fuckin' Holy. I thought, 'This is great,' and I could feel all the connections."

The still-young Lions will bring their rock sound to Tucson for a gig next Thursday, Feb. 21, at Plush. They'll play on a bill with Mostly Bears and Brohammer.

Lions came together about 2 1/2 years ago, Drenik says. He and drummer Jake Perlman had been in another band, the Good Looks, which broke up but were still booked for a gig at the semi-legendary Austin rock club Emo's.

To fulfill that obligation, they formed Lions with bassist Trevor "T-Rev" Sutcliffe and lead guitarist Austin Kalman.

"We knew we had that gig in three weeks, so it was sort of a do-or-die situation. We didn't think it would necessarily last, but it turned out it was the right chemistry. Trevor, he had a real bitchin' moustache, and I knew he could play the bass; I knew what kind of music he was into. He had a great record collection, too. Austin, he played in a lot of prog bands, so he added that dimension to our raw rock sound."

Since Drenik mentions the facial hair, it should be pointed out that all four members of the band are hirsute in one way or another. This, despite the fact that in the accompanying photo, Kalman is clean-shaven. "Now he's got a full beard," Drenik says of his bandmate.

Not that there was a prerequisite or anything. It just turned out that way, Drenik demurs.

"I dunno; it's weird, but we always get the facial-hair comments. The only reason I had long hair and stuff is that I thought that was what rock was all about: kinda letting it all hang out and not being able to conform to anything."

Sartorial choices aside, Lions have carved out an appealing niche with their two releases, the 2006 EP Volume 1 and the full-length No Generation, which was issued in November.

In addition, the totally kick-ass Lions song "Heavy Metal Lady" (from the first disc) appears as a bonus track on the video game Guitar Hero III.

The band's full-throttle sound blends Detroit punk 'n' roll, à la the MC5 and the Stooges, with Blue Cheer-style proto metal, a little ZZ Top boogie, touches of R&B and some dark psychedelic undertones. Drenik sings in an inviting snarl that brings to mind a cross between Zack de la Rocha and Perry Farrell. The result is hypnotic and raucous.

And completely unlike anything in the Top 40, which does not go unnoticed by Drenik. He feels Lions plays music that isn't represented much anymore in the music industry, an opinion reflected in his song "No Generation."

"We don't listen to mainstream rock. I don't even relate to bands like, say, Nickelback or Fall Out Boy. I'll turn on the radio, and they might play something like Queens of the Stone Age late at night, and that's always nice. But most of the time, as a listener or as a player, you feel like your generation got skipped over. And all of the sudden, there are these other commercial bands out there, and you ask, 'Where do I fit in?'"