The state of rock ’n’ roll music in the early part of the 21st century seems pretty grim. Try to think: when was the last time a rock band grabbed your attention and made you not only dance, but listen to the lyrics and think? While the undiscerning masses are content to fill their vapid ears with pop pabulum, clichéd country, and tuneless synth bands, loyal rock aficionados have to search hard to find intelligent and moving music that has something to say; when found, it is a revelation. Phoenix band Battered Suitcases are that rare musical treasure: gut-wrenching rock ’n’ roll with heart and brains.
Does poetry belong in rock music? Sharon Case, the band’s lead singer (who also plays bass/keys on some songs) wouldn’t have it any other way. A veteran of the local rock scene, Sharon had the concept for the band as “uniquely beat rock’n’roll,” deriving inspiration from the beatnik poets of the 1950s-60s and other bohemian types such as Patti Smith and Jim Carroll. When assembling the group, Sharon recruited other seasoned friends from the Phoenix scene: Frank Case on guitar (“The absolute best lead guitar player I know” claims Sharon); Sue Case on guitar, bass, and backup vocals; and Jess Case on drums and backup vocals. “Collectively, we have over 100 years experience in playing rock music” according to Sue. “We’re legends” she jokes. The combined pedigree of the band proves her point: members have been in a long list of local bands, including: Labor Party, Hubcap, The Now, Hell On Heels, Sonic Thrills, Atomic Zombies, Jeff Dahl Band, Venomous Pinks, Breakfast Of Champions, and more! Sharon chose her band-mates very carefully, and it shows. They play together like long-time friends because that’s what they are. “These are the three kindest people I know,” declares Sue.
The combination of poetry and rambunctious behavior clearly is not for everyone. Frank and Sharon got ejected from poetry readings early on for being too rowdy. Defying expectations seems to be par for the course for this band, as they explain to people familiar with their punk rock pasts. They warn people expecting all-out aggression that their sound is subtler, with something to say rather than pure rage. They are not garage rock or a band to mosh to, but the edge is definitely there, and their punk roots show through in the music and the performance: throbbing bass, crunchy guitars, pounding drums, shout along choruses. Battered Suitcases click on all 4 cylinders live: Jess & Sue propelling the tunes with a tight rhythm, Sharon singing/speaking/shouting with intent and purpose, and Frankie weaving his stinging guitar leads throughout.
As American as Saturday Night Live, the Battered Suitcases have contagious energy, passion, and hooks. They lament the current trend of musicians placing the music secondary to the performance: choreography, lip-synching, elaborate costumes and stage sets, etc. While all-image without depth may be the modus operandi of many modern musicians, Battered Suitcases have a completely different raison d'être: they convey emotions and intelligence through music while filling a unique niche in the Phoenix music scene. Sharon likes to leave the meaning of her lyrics open to subjective interpretation, but they touch on themes of strength in the face of adversity, personal accountability, social equality, and freedom. The powerful images may send chills up and down your spine. Go to one of their upcoming shows to discover this sensation for yourself: The Battered Suitcases are performing at Lawn Gnome Publishing on March 8, or catch them at Rips Ales & Cocktails April 25th. To keep updated on upcoming show details, be sure and "like" Battered Suitcases' facebook page.
They also have a 4 song EP available at Bandcamp:
They plan to release a full-length album later in 2014.