Andrea Lutz and Andrew Trester seem as huggable as a couple of thrift-store sock monkeys. They match up well in their big, plastic-framed glasses and hand-me-down sweaters. They're playful in conversation, asking me if I grew up near alligators when I tell them I'm from Florida. They even study clothing design and textiles in UW-Madison's design studies department.
Their musical history is much more cracked. In the band A Haircut, Lutz yelps over fat, fuzzy guitar tones and Trester's simple drum patterns. Titles on their eight-song demo include "Lizard Skin" and "A Native Scalping." Before forming A Haircut, Lutz played in a Milwaukee folk duo called Audrea, which once covered Misfits' "Last Caress," singing about a baby's death over cheerful tambourine and harmonica. Trester's drum kit includes parts salvaged from the trash.
"I've played folk music my whole life," Lutz says. "It was slow and quiet, and I always wanted to do something crazier. I would feel a lot better once we got more riled up."
In their two-year history, A Haircut have mostly played in basements and other unconventional spaces, the one exception being a March 9 show at Mickey's Tavern.
Lutz and Trester find house shows to have a friendlier atmosphere than club shows and point out that these events help younger bands and listeners deal with Madison's lack of all-ages venues.
"There are bands that are under 21," Lutz says. "They can play bars, but they have to leave right afterwards."
The only downside to off-the-map shows is that the general public has fewer chances to hear some worthy new bands. A video of a show at a local skate park captures the recently formed punk trio Tiny Daggers, who sometimes play at conventional bars and clubs but just as often don't. And as A Haircut demonstrate, under-the-radar bands are doing a lot for abrasive music.
Some of A Haircut's harsh immediacy springs from unlikely influences. Lutz initially bought her fuzz pedal of choice, the Swollen Pickle, because she read that Bethany Cosentino of the significantly cuddlier Best Coast uses it. Other inspirations make more sense: Lutz says she's been listening a lot to the great L.A. punk band Circle Jerks, who told a crudely hilarious story about getting a vasectomy on the song "Operation."
"He's like, 'I hate the world so much, I'm getting fixed!'" Lutz says.
Lutz's conflicting tastes strike a balance on tunes like "See You." Even as her voice breaks into a scream, she gives the song a fiercely catchy, swinging hook.
Lutz and Trester are currently rerecording their demo songs, and some new tracks, for a cassette they hope to release by the end of the month.
As aggressive and needling as the songs can be, the project is ultimately the product of playful collaboration.
"I write the songs, and then Andrew writes the titles," Lutz says. "'A Native Scalping' is about hating somebody, and in the beginning it's like, 'I want to rip out your hair.'"
Yet they admit the music turns out to be pretty revealing, almost in spite of itself.
"Even though we don't take ourselves that seriously, the lyrics end up being true to who Andrea is as a person," Trester says. "This is just our entire core coming out at one minute. That's what I get off on, seeing people put all they have into the music."