Ken Leighton 9 a.m., March 24
The Guana Batz
RIYL: The Stray Cats, Ritchie Valens, the Meteors
- Blurt: "Batty" · May 21, 2008
Inception: Escondido, 1982
Influences: The Stray Cats, the Polecats, the Cramps, the Meteors, the Stingrays
In April 2008, the reunited Guana Batz played a sold-out Belly Up show opening for Mike Ness. The following month, the Escondido band accepted an opening slot on two dates of Rancid’s upcoming fall tour.
Guana Batz bassist Johnny Bowler admits that the 26-year-old British-born psychobilly band nearly passed on this career surge.
Three years ago, singer Nick 13 of locals Tiger Army had his agent see about resurrecting the Guana Batz to play with them at the Wiltern in L.A. Batz lead singer Pip Hancox rejected the offer: "Who is this Tiger Army?” he asked. After Tiger Army headlined the Warped Tour last summer and asked the Guana Batz again, they said yes.
Formed in 1982, the Guana Batz were part of a British psychobilly scene centered around a London venue called Klub Foot.
“We always had a strong cult following,” says Bowler. “We’d tour Europe about nine times a year.”
“Psychobilly” in ’80s Europe meant a mix of rockabilly and punk influences.
“I was 15 when the Stray Cats came over,” says Bowler, who now gives bass lessons. “The punks used to fight the rockabillies before 1981. The two scenes merged in the early ’80s.”
According to Bowler, the psychobilly scene died when Klub Foot closed in 1988.
“That’s when the Manchester DJ scene came in and kind of took over. Bands weren’t happening as much. The crowds started to thin out. The venues disappeared.”
Hancox moved to North County in 1992. Bowler followed four years later. Both started families and played locally on occasion.
“We slowed right down. We’d play maybe four or five times a year. But we would go back to England to play reunion shows.”
In 2001, they formed a rockabilly band called Bonneville 7, “…but Pip lost interest. He had a very short attention span back then.”
Guitarist Gino Meregillano formerly played with Whole Hog. Alex Pappas, formerly of Finch, is the Guana Batz’ current drummer. “He was born a year before the band,” says Bowler.