Over St. Patrick’s Weekend, I was treated to not only the Brave the Sea CD release show, but the rebirth of The Scratches. The band had been playing as a three-piece since late 2016 and recently welcomed back founding member Bethany Myers to the fold. They put on a rocking and raucous show that stirred up the crowd and brought new-found direction to the band.
“Honestly, I think I smiled more at this show than any I’ve played in years,” said bassist and singer Darby Antle.
The group came together in the summer of 2013, while Myers, Antle and guitarist/singer Jimmy Cassell were all in separate bands. Each of them were the principal songwriter and lead singer of their groups, and the idea was floated that the three of them use their powers to come together and make a better band. They employed the help of drummer Matthew Jensen and released an EP, Bite Me, in 2014. The band had gained enough momentum as The Scratches that each decided to quit their previous commitments and try to make a full time run of things.
“It worked out really well at first,” says Cassell, “rather than saying ‘this is my song, what do you think,’ it was more of ‘here’s my idea, let’s make it better’.”
But with that many egos in the room, there was bound to be trouble. The trio of writers found themselves clashing over musical direction, and ended up having a falling out with Myers. The troupe recruited Chase Duncan (now of The Phantom Grins) to play guitar and released another EP in 2016 before Jensen and Duncan left the group. Antle and Cassell wanted to continue making music as The Scratches, but were unsure where to go.
Enter drummer Nick Carter. We’ll call him “Big Nick” so as to not confuse him with the other Nick Carter…
“Big Nick essentially saved us as a group,” admitted Cassell. “We really didn’t want to start a new band, and then Nick came in, immediately learned our songs, and started helping with our songwriting process.”
The group soldiered on as a three-piece for the next two years, but always felt like something was missing. In the past year they had played a show with Myers’ band Yesterday Kids, and while drinking after the show they jokingly floated the idea of having her come back to play with them.
“Put it this way… we didn’t have to be convinced to take her back,” said Cassell. “It’s so much easier for us to play as a four-piece, too. We can be more energetic and spend more time putting on a great show!”
“It also helps in the vocal aspect, having another voice for our harmonies,” added Antle. “Each of us have distinct voices, but as a three-piece Jimmy became the de facto lead singer. Now all four of us can sing and hit each of our parts, as well as focusing more on our instruments while the others sing.”
I asked the group if trying to decide who would sing was what caused their initial dissension. They laughed and told me that they don’t need a lead singer, since all of them love doing it so much.
“It works so well because of our differences,” said Antle. “I’ve got a raspier voice, but you don’t want to hear that on every song. I’ve always felt that Jimmy had the perfect pop punk voice, while Beth can hit the higher notes and Nick hits the bassier tones.”
“Yeah, when Beth was gone I tried to do her parts… it didn’t work so well,” laughed Big Nick. “But really, we all play off of each other so well, so it doesn’t cause any issues.”
I asked Myers how she felt after her first show back with the band, and she responded with a resounding “Splendid!” I could tell the crowd was feeling it around me by the amount of people that sang along and knew the words to most of the songs. It’s always a thrill for me personally to see that happen at a local show, and the band fed off that energy as well.
“It’s been a while since we had a crowd like this,” said Antle. “It was a lot of fun!”
We talked about the band’s sound, and they asked me if I could give them a proper genre label. I honestly felt like I should’ve been at home on the couch playing Tony Hawk when I listened to them, with influences like Lagwagon, Dead Kennedys and Goldfinger. But they weren’t so much skate punk, or old school punk or even the new sound of punk rock. They were just good, solid pop punk, and honestly… what’s a label worth anyways?
“People ask us to describe our sound and we tell them our lead guitarist is our bassist,” said Cassell, pointing to Antle.
“All we have is a lead drummer and a lead bassist. Then we have our guitarists and our singers,” finished Myers.
The band is looking to record an EP and has already released their first single, titled Cracks. The trio actually wrote it before Myers rejoined them, but they immediately noticed the difference when they played it with her. And this time around, they aren’t looking to let creative difference split them up.
“We want the new EP to have at least one song that was originally written by each member,” explained Big Nick. “We want it all to evolve naturally. And regardless of whether it’s a Darby, Jim, Nick or Beth song… they’re all gonna be Scratches songs.”
“I don’t even want to bring a song to the table unless they change it,” confessed Myers. “It’s just not a Scratches song unless we all have input on it.”
“I’ll be one hundred percent honest with you. I could not replace anyone in this band. We just work too well as a cohesive unit. It feels great to be having this much fun again!” exclaimed Antle.
The Scratches – Cracks