schizos minivan photographyCredit: Minivan Photography.

They formed in 2009 but it's in the last few years that San Diego’s Schizophonics have convincingly cemented their reputation as one of the world’s hardest-working and most dynamic bands.

Gymnastically-inclined singer-guitarist Pat Beers, drummer (and his wife) Lety Beers, plus a series of bass players, have been wowing audiences around the world with their unique brand of explosive garage rock. They’re poised to pay Australia and New Zealand their second visit in a year in February and March, before hitting Japan for the first time.

The Schizophonics have been likened to a cross between James Brown and the MC5. Local bands have been lining up to join them on bills. Aussie all-female combo, The Fangin’ Felines, are lucky enough to be joining them for two support spots - in their own hometown Wollongong (Lalalas, March 12) and Sydney (Marrickville Bowlo, March 13).

Strong females are integral to both bands, so it made perfect sense for the I-94 Bar to host a pre-tour conversation between Lety Beers and Fangin’ Feline singer Carrie Phillis. The ladies spoke over Skype earlier this week. Pat Beers joined them and uber fan Russell Hopkinson (You Am I, ex-Radio Birdman) made the whole thing happen.

the beersPat and Lety on tour.

Carrie Phillis: How are you guys? You're getting excited?

Lety Beers: Yeah, we're excited. I just got a message from our friend John in New Zealand. He said it's 40 degrees Celsius there!

CP: I think it will be fine by the time you get here. What's it like there (California) at the moment?

LB: It's cold. It's been chilly all month.

CP: I’m actually originally originally from Southern California. I've got family down at Capistrano Beach near you guys.

LB: Oh yeah. That's really close to us.

CP : So yeah. Love it down there. Speaking of San Diego, what's the music scene like there at the moment? Is the Casbah still going?

Pat Beers: Yeah, the Casbah’s the place to be for live music in San Diego. There's some good bands in our kind of genre around here. Like this band called The Creepy Creeps; they’re kind of like surf punk garage dance music and what else?

LB: The Loons.

PB: Yeah the Loons are really good.

CP: They've been around for a while, haven't they? I love them.

LB: They’re still one of the most prominent bands here. You know, big San Diego staple. It's a fun scene. I love that we kind of formed in this community because it's so many different genres. Like there's there's metal, there's '60s garage, there's rock. There’s, you know, there's a little bit of everything and everyone gets along. So it's a good community to pull from creatively.

CP: Rocket From The Crypt too. They’re from San Diego aren't they?

LB: Yeah, one of my favourite bands. I love that band, they're fabulous.

CP: They're still going aren't they?

LB: Yeah, I heard a rumour that they just recorded some stuff. I don't know what they’re up to exactly, but something's going on. I know they have a couple of dates in Europe coming up in spring.

CP: We’ll have to stomp and shout for them to come down here.

PB : John Reis is doing a lot of Hot Snakes stuff right now, that’s one of his other bands. They just put out a new song.

LB: Yeah, they just finished the new record, so I'm excited to get a hold of that whenever that’s out.

CP: Awesome, it's good to hear that everyone's still doing stuff and never stopped creating music. I realised that you were, or are, in the Rosalyns, Lety?

LB: Yeah I’m the drummer, with Amy (of the Gore Gore Girls) from Detroit.

the rosalynsLety (centre) making a point with The Rosalyns.

CP: Connecting the dots, when you read about stuff. You guys are doing all the “Girls In The Garage” stuff; that's awesome.

LB: Yeah, that thing started with Anja our bassist. Her husband runs "Ugly Things" (legendary magazine/label) and is also from The Loons. It was their 30 year anniversary and she put this band together to perform at the party and it was so fun, and we all got along so well, we just kept it going.

CP: Brilliant, the way it works organically like that. Everyone's on the same page, and you get to wear cute outfits, too!

LB: (Laughs) Yeah! Anja makes all the outfits. She had her own clothing line for a while. I'm not sure if she's still going to do it, but she's so talented, you know.

CP: Oh, that's fantastic. Then is this related to Elvez (alter ego for ex-Zeros member Robert Lopez) as well?

LB: No, that’s different. We met him here and we sometimes play with him. Pat and I have been in his band as El-Vez and, like, we're such good friends now. He was in town all summer, so we put this summer fun band together. So we're always doing something with him. He's always a really fun person to do stuff with…he’s crazy.

CP: He's an entertainer.

LB: Yeah, through and through. San Diego’s a great melting pot. Like we have the '60s crowd with the Loons and then we have El-Vez, this ridiculous over the top performer, so you know we have great influences right here.

CP: That's wonderful. Like it’s good that it's all the community together. But let's then get on to you guys. Schizophonics, excited to have you back here! It’s good that you wanted to come back so soon.

LB: Yeah, we’re excited to go back!

CP: I didn't make it to your show, being down in Wollongong (ED: An hour south of Sydney.) I can’t remember, maybe we had a show on or something. So we're super excited that we're on the same bill!

PB: Yeah! Excited to see y’all play, should be really fun.

LB: One of our good friends here in San Diego is from Wollongong, so she's been telling us about it. She's so excited we're going to her hometown. So that will be a really fun place to play for us. She's like, ‘Oh, my God, you're playing my hometown!’

CP: Get out of town! That's great. Well, you'll be playing at a fantastic new venue called La La La’s, which is run by the Yours & Owls guys, who put on all sorts of amazing festivals and run the uni bar and stuff. So it's a really cool new little bar. So it’s good, it will actually be pretty huge. I know a lot of people have bought tickets already so it'll be fun.

fangin felinesCarrie Phillis (right) with The Fangin' Felines. 

LB: Is that where you live?

CP: Yeah. I'm from originally from Sydney but my husband, daughter and I moved down here about 10 years ago and then two of the other Felines followed; our drummer, Binx, was born and raised here but we're all local Wollongong girls now. Well, as you know, you'll love it, it’s by the beach. Actually, a lot of the coastline down here reminds me a little bit of So-Cal. Hopefully you'll get a chance to see some of the sights. You probably won't with your schedule; play sleep, get up, go somewhere else.

PB: Yeah, I hope to make a little bit of time.

LB: Yeah, we’re bringing our swimsuits. That’s for sure.

CP: Yes, definitely, don’t leave those at home. So where does your tour start?

LB: We start in New Zealand then we go to Australia and then Japan.

CP: So what’s the New Zealand connection? Because you’ve recruited, NZ born, Takumi McIntyre as your bass player.

LB: We met him when we went to New Zealand for the first time and he was just along the tour as kind of like a helper for John Baker, our booker. We got along with him super well. And, you know, like when you tour with someone, that's when you know if your friendship can stand that test. It's like you when you become roommates with a friend and then it's like, oh, I hate this friend. I can't live with that, you know what I’m talking about?

CP: Yeah. You don't want to ruin a friendship do you?

LB: With Takumi, it was super fun and we had a lot in common. Same music taste. So we got home and we needed someone who was available for our longest U.S. tour we've ever done. And that's hard for someone to just up and go for five, six weeks at a time. So John in New Zealand was like, hey, why don't you ask Takumi? He's played bass, he’s the original bass player for The Cavemen. So we just called him, we've never we had never played with him before and we're just like ‘Hey, you want to do this huge tour of the United States?’ And it worked out really well, we had a great time.

CP: Magic! So he's he still based in New Zealand?

LB: Yeah, so he's gonna do this tour and then we're taking him to Europe as well in May and June.

CP: OK, fantastic. are you playing places like London and Spain?

LB: Yeah, Spain, France, England and, I don't know, we might be doing a few other countries. I'm not a hundred percent sure.

PB: Scandinavia, maybe. I’d like to check out the Scandinavian garage rock scene.

CP: Yeah, there’s a lot of that there!

PB: Definitely.

CP: So I just wanted to just backtrack again and just a little bit of your history together playing music. Like how did that all start. Are you both originally from San Diego?

LB:  Patrick and I are originally from Arizona, which is the next state over from California and there's an interstate that ends in our little, middle of nowhere hometown. So Patrick moved out here when we first started dating and then I moved out shortly after. He had one band and his drummer quit and so they decided, ‘Oh well, you're always here, you should learn how to play the drums.’ And I'm like, ‘Okay, yeah.’

So that's how I got involved and I've been the drummer ever since and that's how I learned how to play drums; playing in like this tiny little sports bar where they have football games on in the background. We've just been playing in the same band ever since. You know, people people come and go, you know, it's hard. And the busier we've gotten, you know, that's when we kind of started having to get a few different people to fill in.

schizos on the floor

CP: How does the songwriting process work, do you both write?

LB: I really don't write.

PB: I just write a bunch of ideas and then Lety shoots most of them down and then I go back to the drawing board and come up with more ideas. (Lety laughs) But no, I never really tell her what to play as far as drums go. Usually I just come up with the songs and then we'll kind of jam on them together and figure out the structure and all of that stuff.

Sometimes you just kind of have to like play the song with somebody else to kind of hear how it sounds. That part's too long or too short. We just kind of get them sounding good musically and then usually we'll just have all the music but all the vocals are just gibberish. I don’t even attempt to write lyrics until I know that we're going to keep it. (Laughs)

CP: Yeah, I’m the same! A lot of la, la la’s and oo’s. (Laughs)

PB: Yeah! It’s a good place holder, ya know.

CP: So the new album "Peoplke in The Sky" sounds amazing. Will all your records be available at the shows?

PB: I think we'll have we'll have the the new one for sure.

LB: We’re sold out of the old one, the first one. I might have a few copies of the Sympathy For The Record Industry album, "Land of The Living". A few but not that many.

CP: You’re playing Hobart, Brisbane, Newcastle, Wollongong, Sydney and Melbourne, that's gonna be a an amazing trip down the East Coast for you.

PB: We'll be very much looking forward to it. We’re excited to see more of Australia. Last time we just played Melbourne and Sydney so looking forward to seeing a bit more of it.

LB: And last year we got really sick as soon as we landed there. We really didn’t even go out, we were sleeping all day then we'd be awake at night. But hopefully this time we'll get to see more. Like Pat was saying, it was real quick last time.

CP: Well, dose yourselves up with some vitamin C or whatever you need to do to get your immunity up before you get here and, yeah, we'll show you a good time!

PB: Awesome!

The Schizophonics
NZ-Australia-Japan Tour
21 - Leigh at Leigh Saw Mill
22 - Tauranga at Woodcock (Not) - ask Austin
24 - Wellington at Valhalla
25 - Takaka at Mussell Inn
26 - Blenheim at The Plant
27 - Christchurch at Space Academy
28 - Dunedin at The Cook
29 - Raglan at The Yot Club
1 - Whangarei at The Whangarei Club
4-- Auckland at Neck Of The Woods
6 - Napier at Paisley Stage
7 - Upper Hutt at Obey The Spliff
8 - Hobart @ The Brisbane
10 - Brisbane @ Netherworld Arcade - FREE SHOW
11 - Newcastle @ The Badger's Lair
12 - Wolllongong @ La La La's
13 - Marrickville Bowling Club, Sydney
14 -Melbourne, The Tote
15th - Melbourne, TBA
19 -Shimokitazawa Three, Tokyo
20 - Namba Mele, Osaka
21 - Higashikoenji UFOclub, Tokyo
22 - Club Heavysick, Tokyo