Dirty Water Records

Taking Music Backwards Into Tomorrow

cleveland.com on Archie and the Bunkers

It's almost 9 p.m. on a Saturday night at the renovated Happy Dog at the Euclid Tavern. Marty O'Connor, 42, father and manager of Archie and the Bunkers, comprised of his two sons, drummer Emmett, 16, and keyboardist Cullen, 13, recalled a favorite memory of the old Euclid Tavern.

"The last time I was here it was 1995 and I was playing drums for a punk band called the Aggravators. From the stage I could see some guy at the bar was hitting on my then girlfriend, now wife, Jen. I threw one of my drumsticks at him, missed and hit her," he said, smiling. "Not good."

Things are good now though. Archie and the Bunkers are opening for a couple of Akron bands, Nico Missile, and The Beyonderers on this night. A&TB also have a new nine-song CD out and they have just been booked to open for Cheetah Chrome at the Beachland Ballroom on Sunday, Feb. 22.

Cheetah Chrome is an original member of Cleveland's own proto punk Dead Boys. His real name is Eugene O'Connor but he's no relation to A&TB. Except maybe spiritually, through the music they all love.

A&TB sometimes draw initial attention from a crowd because of their tender years. But their ages belie the talent and powerhouse show they put on every time they hit a stage.

"The novelty of their ages drops away the minute they begin to play," says Matt Fields, a booker and manager at the Beachland. "These guys are frickin' stars, man. I've seen them three or four times and they are total pros. The first time I saw them my jaw hit the floor. Every time they play, within two songs everybody at the bar has left their seats to go stand in front of the stage to watch and listen to them. I haven't felt this strongly about a new band in a long time. They have no pretension, no inhibition. They are just having so much fun with the music. They are mind-blowing players. And such nice kids."

The O'Connor boys describe the music they write and play as "hi-fi organ punk."

They are a musical anomaly in that the compositions they write are refreshingly new, but they draw their influences from classic musicians and movies of the past. One of their signature tunes, "Comrade X" is based on the 1940 anti-communist rom/com starring Clark Gable and Hedy Lamarr.

Musically, Emmett, who pounds his drums with the cataclysmic power of a Keith Moon, points to Buddy Rich as an influence. Organist Cullen collects and listens to the jazz records of electric keyboard legend Jimmy Smith.

"I love everything about Jimmy Smith," said Cullen. "I love his groove, his jive, his soul. But I also listen to (punk) bands like The Damned. So you take two completely opposite sounds, combine them and you come up with something different."

Emmett said he prefers old classic movies to current cinema.

"I'm into history and think it's interesting to see how people were before my time," he said. "I think the stories in old movies have more depth, but they also have simplicity."

This unique kind of cultural maturity may be the result of their being home-schooled by their mom Jen, 39, who also teaches ballet dancing on nights and weekends. The family doesn't have cable television and the boys don't own or play video games.

"What makes them unique is that they aren't caught up in popular culture. They prefer vintage stuff," said Jen O'Connor who has been married to her Cleveland Heights firefighter husband Marty, for 17 years.

"Both boys have strong character," she said. "They are not afraid to be different. They are who they want to be."

The band's success and growing popularity on the Cleveland music scene is no mystery to Emmett who says he never experienced any form of stage fright or pre-show jitters.

"I just like playing out, having a good time and sharing our music with other people in the clubs," he said. "I love the adrenaline."

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