Let’s start with this: When legendary U.K. punk band The Damned performed at the House of Blues in April 2017, Emmett and Cullen ended up on stage with their idols during the sound check, tearing through “I Just Can’t Be Happy Today” and “Suicide.”
“I was just really hoping I wasn’t going to screw up,” Emmett says with a smile as he recalls the unexpected collaboration orchestrated by The Damned keyboardist and friend, Monty Oxymoron, and guitarist Captain Sensible. “I was locked in with the bass player, zoned in.”
For Archie and the Bunkers’ growing fan base, that’s not surprising. They released a 7-inch via Jack White’s Third Man Records in 2017 and issued their newest single, “The Traveler,” via the well-respected rock ‘n’ roll label Norton Records.
The band has toured Europe twice and rubbed shoulders with big names such as Iggy Pop and Echo & the Bunnymen at festivals. Locally, they recently sold out the Beachland Tavern in advance for a concert celebrating “The Traveler” and Cullen’s 17th birthday.
The siblings grew up in an artistic household. Their dad, Marty, is a painter who also played drums in local punk acts (most notably the Aggravators) and had a jazz-fusion band in high school. Their mom, Jen, was a professional ballerina who now teaches dance.
Nineteen-year-old Emmett started playing drums at age 5, while Cullen picked up the bass at age 7 or 8, and later taught himself to play organ. Although the brothers listened to all types of music, hearing punk rock at age 13 changed Emmett’s life. “All the raw rock ‘n’ roll stuff clicked,” he says.
Both members of Archie and the Bunkers are voracious music fans.
“We weren’t playing video games at all,” Emmett, adds. “We would listen to music, and then we started to buy records — and then we started to make music, and then make records.”
Cullen jokes that he didn’t really know how to play the keyboard when the brothers first started jamming together. Meanwhile, Emmett zeroes in on how much their intuitive musical connection has helped the band grow.
“There will be times when we’re practicing in the basement, and he’s made no indication of what song he was going to play, and I knew exactly what he was going to go into,” says Emmett, “[even if it’s] a song that we haven’t played in a year.”
Such chemistry translates into ferocious, raw and exciting concerts that have caught the attention of veteran artists, including King Khan. The brothers affectionately call the psychedelic-soul icon “Uncle Khan.”
For his part, Khan has dubbed them “my adopted nephews” and praises them for keeping punk rock’s rebellious spirit alive.
“Archie and the Bunkers are finally putting Cleveland back on the map again, reviving its serious punk rock roots,” Khan says via email. Then he references a local ’70s cult band: “[They’re] awakening the [Electric] Eels and making them all come out of hiding.”
Archie and the Bunkers themselves are certainly going to be everywhere in 2018. The band is marking the release of its forthcoming second full-length, Songs From The Lodge, with an April 28 show at Mahall’s 20 Lanes.
“[The record] definitely [has] a fuller sound without being too produced,” Emmett says of the LP, which was recorded at Crushtone Studios with Jim Wirt and is being released via Dirty Water Records.
“Each time we’ve gone into the studio, it’s been different,” Cullen adds. “These songs sound a lot different than the ones that were on our first album. It’s a progression.”
The band is also plotting out-of-town gigs on the East Coast and Canada and releasing a four-song EP via another hip label imprint, In The Red Records. The premise? Covers of tunes from The Damned.
Archie and the Bunkers chose less-obvious songs for the EP — a reflection of the originality that’s become a hallmark of their approach.
“The music our peers were listening to, it didn’t interest us at all,” Emmett says. “All the music that we liked was stuff that you can’t really see anymore.”
Cullen murmurs in agreement, as Emmett continues. “We were just like, ‘Let’s just do it ourselves.’ ”
8:00 AM EST
April 13, 2018