Named after Vonnegut, but sounds more like Tucker Max

by Ryan Snyder

The guy second from the left is a rapper. No lie.

In case anyone was wondering what became of Kevin Federline these days, he has shaved his beard and is going by the name of Kyle Lucas, frontman for a hip-hop/nu-eyed soul band out of Atlanta called Vonnegutt. Thanks to a collegiate friendship between Lucas and rapper Big Boi’s younger brother, the band has unbelievably

found themselves signed to Big Boi’s Purple Ribbon Label, which currently includes esteemed artists like Janelle Monae and Sleepy Brown, and formerly the great Killer Mike. In any event, their show Sunday night before a few dozen college kids at Greene Street Club was a far cry from their guest spots onstage with the Daddy Fat Sacks himself last week.

In spite of the band essentially being a combination of everything unlikeable about Maroon 5 and Young Jeezy, they still managed to parlay their tenuous connections into a favorable association with the second greatest emcee in all of the Dirty South. When asked to give a hook to Big Boi’s then-unfinished single from Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty, guitarist Neil Garrard offered what amounts to a plea to give his own band a spin. “Follow us, now/ Try to walk away, now/ It’s not another letdown/ Got something to say right now,” he sang, and despite no one else actually in the band besides Garrard contributing to the song, the single was credited as “featuring Vonnegutt” for the sake of giving the band a promotional boost.

So what’s to dislike about Vonnegutt?

For starters, Garrard’s backing vocals hang in a room like unclaimed flatulence. His anguished over-singing is tormenting to the point of nausea and no matter where you go, it lingers unwelcome in your eardrums. The band’s hybrid sound of rock, funk and hip hop neither rocks, nor is funky — most of Garrard’s chord structures are built from overly simplified knockoffs of Phrenologyera Capt. Kirk Douglas. Lucas is a PBR-weak lyricist, to which lines like, “She handcuffed me to the bed with chains/ She took out whips and all those freaky thangs,” will testify. On “Shaky Love,” Garrard pipes in backing tracks of his voice singing the hook to give his own backing vocals a boost, but not enough to drown out trite raps like “She’s just another girl that you meet at the bar/ every night it’s somebody else/ wears skimpy clothes to try and cover the scars.”

It’s simply amazing that a band with so little to say can find the wherewithal to take their name from a writer with so much to say. Lucas is cavalier in claiming he named his band in tribute to his favorite writer, though his SEO-friendly bastardization and overall musical context pair to make what was intended to be a tribute sound like more of a smear. During their 30-minute set, Lucas offered up his own Nebula-caliber material, prefacing “Bright Eyes” by telling the crowd, “This is a song about a one-night stand,” which he followed with a song titled

“Ex-Girlfriends Are Stupid.” It feels as if the title of that one speaks for itself. Tastes Like Chicken blogger Benny Rodriquez said it best about the band’s debut EP The Vice Nine: “To associate this album’s content with the memory of the late Kurt Vonnegut Jr. is straight up legacy rape. I read Cat’s Cradle in sophomore English class too, a**holes.”

Lucas’s most glaring shortcoming wasn’t lyrical or musical, however, but aesthetic instead. Lookin’ like a fool with his pants on the ground, Lucas was blithely unaware that the sagging of jeans was only popular in the mid-’90s for a minute until 1) most realized how stupid it looks, 2) prison lore revealed pant-sagging to be a sign that the perpetrator was the physical property of another, more dominant inmate, and 3) General Larry Platt came along and put the nail in that coffin.

Sure Vonnegut might have even found a harsh review of his namesake band a tad pointless — something about donning a suit of armor to attack a hot fudge sundae, if I recall — but he also might have excepted a band like Vonnegutt when he wrote that some art “should not disappear up its own a**hole.”