words by Brittany Nader and images courtesy of Red Arrow Photography
The formula for a classic horror film tends to include a few specific, predictable elements. An oft-repeated trope prevalent in the slasher movie world is the Survivor Girl, a wholesome female protagonist who finds herself, as the last character alive, forced to confront the dreaded killer after the rest of the cast has fallen under his vengeful wrath. These are the Lauries of “Halloween” and the Nancys of “A Nightmare on Elm Street,” those recognizable characters less celebrated than the murderers but still so crucial in driving the story forward and saving their neighborhoods (until a sequel or four come along, anyway).
This characterization of modesty, fear and a surprise vigilante strength is what inspired Scott Roger and his triad of greaser musicians to adopt the Survivor Girl name for their horror-inspired sound, deftly meshing the sugary sweetness of the 1950s sound with the darkness, shrieks and howls of those cinematic monsters who tend to overtake our television sets around Halloween time.
Though the band itself doesn’t rely on goofy stunts or gimmicks, the idea for Survivor Girl initially came to Roger as a bit of a joke during the recording of a horror podcast he hosted. An offhand mention of starting a pop punk band where a scary-movie killer sings songs to the Survivor Girl character strangely developed into a collection of solo demos inspired more by the rock music he grew up on than the genre he originally mentioned. Roger says the first CD he owned was Chuck Berry’s Greatest Hits, and a sprinkling of the Motown girl groups his mom loved helped him develop a new sound that differed from the heavier and faster music he had been playing for roughly 25 years.
“I played in a [local] metal band called Ichabod Crane,” Roger says. “My drummer, Brandon, approached me about doing something different. He heard my Survivor Girl demos, and we decided to make it a ‘real band.’”
The slower-paced ‘50s tunes erupted into a retro surf-rock-meets-rockabilly sound, with overwrought, campy tunes shrouded in bouncy, happy melodies with contrasted ominous undertones. Roger and Brandon Siegenthaler, along with bassist Joe Flach, stuck with the original concept of performing tunes from the perspective of horror movie killers, this time with a pure rock ‘n’ roll sound that conjures images of Buddy Holly back from the grave, stalking the Survivor Girl and meeting his fate, once more, in a darkly epic moment of cinematic gold. The trio successfully turns the world of sock hops, malts, saddle shoes and horn-rimmed glasses upside down with a spattering of blood and wretched screams for help – but remember, it’s all in good fun.
Survivor Girl plans to unveil its new album on Oct. 30, otherwise known as Devil’s Night, during a special community benefit concert at Musica. Aptly titled Slasher Sockhop, the event is the second of its kind organized by the trio after spending a year refining and inviting friends like Jeff Klemm & The Letters, Younger Still and Telamon to flesh out the lineup. Proceeds for the evening’s events will benefits ACCESS Shelter, a homeless shelter for women and children, and will feature a ghoulish host, costume contest, raffles and more Halloween-themed activities for attendees.
“We held off on doing shows for a while to save our energy for the Slasher Sockhop and to focus on recording the album,” Roger says. “We’re mixing and mastering it now, and we kept everything in house. So I got to take some control and be a perfectionist.”
The new record, “Survivor Girl II: Captive Audience,” is titled, he says, in the infamous style of Danzig’s releases with the subtitle serving as the actual name of the release. Though Survivor Girl has a sound and aesthetic all its own, its horror punk influences are prevalent in the new release, woven in with Western-style ditties and guitar-driven rock that touches on a new sect of spooky movie antagonists. Roger says he’s compiled a whole list of horror movies to touch on, and the new album will include a special three-song mega-track sung from the perspective of the Wolfman, the Creature from the Black Lagoon and a Mummy. The songs will be a little campier, reflecting the inherent humor the band celebrates and incorporates in its musical craft.
“The songs are from a different point of view – they’re not humanized killers – they’re actual monsters,” Roger says. “There’s the element of laughter, but these monsters are still killing people in horrible ways. The songs reflect the voyeuristic feeling we get when we watch these horrors onscreen.”
Roger says the faster-paced songs sound best live, and last year’s inaugural Slasher Sockhop felt like a special homecoming for the band. They spent just 12 months putting the group together, writing their first album and organizing the special event. This year, they’ve spent roughly the same amount of time on putting the new release together, and with previous tunes like “My Hellbound Heart” and “Bloody Beach Party (of Blood)” under their belts, fans wait with bated breath for the upcoming ghoulish greaser bash and collection of new tunes dedicated to those special ladies who bravely rose to the occasion, defeating on-screen villainous beasts. Survivor Girl will live long in the local music scene, adopting the evil voice of these devilish characters while maintaining golden hearts dedicated to bringing the community together for a night of fun, frights and contributions that benefit women and children.