Attractive and Popular's abrasive art-rock/punk is an international sensation

Attractive and Popular with Hot White, Shard and more
9 p.m. tonight
the Conservatory
8911 N. Western

When this Hot Springs, Ark., quartet says it's Attractive and Popular, don't take the members too seriously.

Bittersweet Victory
Brazilian Connection

Their scabrous, sarcastic sound re-imagines Black Flag for the dance-punk generation, channeling off-the-wall, satirical wit through a charging, keyboard-abetted, punk-rock sound like Devo in a blender. The quartet travels to a "Crack Farm," trumpets a love for "Big Tits," and inform listeners that "Money Equals Magic." If it's superficial and caustic, the band's probably put it in a song lasting less than 90 seconds.

The act began in Louisiana five years ago, but relocated to Arkansas when singer Zak Mouton's aunt made them an offer they couldn't refuse.

"She's owned this building for a while and she offered us the space. We couldn't turn it down," said guitarist Bobby Missile. "We have our own music venue we live inside of, called the Exchange. The music venue's downstairs, and we converted this restaurant into an apartment upstairs."

"It was like the same year as Katrina and Hurricane Rita happened," Mouton said. "We were living in Lafayette, and it was like 10,000 new refugees had moved there. We were gone a lot of the time touring, so we felt bad having an apartment that was empty."

Bittersweet Victory

A year after moving, they had the fortune to hook up with the now-defunct label Gold Standard Laboratories, which released a variety of albums by electroclash groups like The Rapture and The Faint, to noise acts such as Melt-Banana and XBXRX. For a young group touring the country without any backing, working with GSL was a coup, but it turned out to be something of a bittersweet victory.

"(Label owner Sonny Kay) told us before we agreed to put out a record with him that he was going to be closing his doors soon, but we had been such big fans of GSL for so many years before that, that we just wanted to be involved before it came to an end," Missile said. "We felt lucky to get one of the last releases before they actually closed their doors."

Attractive and Popular's full-length debut, "Money Equals Magic," came out in summer 2007, and the label shuttered six months later. Undeterred, the musicians followed that with a split-EP release with Norman's El Paso Hot Button. Titled "Live in Hell," the five-song disc was recorded in Oklahoma and features a nimbler, crisper sound that's more polished and less noisy, if still somewhat abrasive. It veers from songs like "Dead Dear," about roadkill ("face mangled, brains exposed"), to jagged blasts of paranoia ("Hypochondriac Attack").

When not playing with Attractive and Popular or one of his other bands (Mother Hugs, Church of the Snake), or booking acts through his Ballistic Missile company, the guitarist helps organize the Hot Springs-area music festival Valley of the Vapors with its founder, former Blue Meanies singer Billy Spunke. Now in its fifth year, it's developed into a hot stop for bands on their way to Austin, Texas' South by Southwest.

Brazilian Connection

Through the festival, Missile came in contact with Brazilian band Debate, which returned the favor by inviting Attractive and Popular to join it for a recent tour. This fall, A&P embarked on a three-week, 18-date tour of Brazil, a considerable undertaking for an independent band, let alone one from America.

"It just so happened the people we were talking to were trying to start some underground independent touring circuit in Brazil," Missile said.

The shows provided a unique experience for the guys, who found themselves treated as rock stars.

"What's crazy is you have a city like São Paulo, with almost 20 million people, and then if you drive two hours in any direction, you run into a city of at least 3 million people," Mouton said.

"It was crazy, too, because we were, like, the first American band to play in some of these cities. You're on the front page of the newspaper.

"Whoever booked the tour did a really good job with promotion. We were in Brazilian Rolling Stone. A lot of people would come up to the venue before we even played and take pictures, because we're, like, the first Americans in their city."

Missile agreed.

"Whenever we finished playing, we'd get rushed by the crowd," he said. "We had to sign autographs for 10 to 20 minutes before we could even get off the stage."

The tour came after a yearlong hiatus, during which the members worked on side projects, finished up school and collectively caught their breath. The group has written four new songs, which it's integrating into the live set, and plans are underway to record a new full-length during the holidays.

"We definitely want to take the time and do this next one right," Missile said. "Make sure it gets into the right hands and the ball gets rolling in the right direction.""Chris Parker