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Re-animated Renfields are back with new album, new attitude

WANT TO GO?

The Renfields

With Miniature Giant and Calendars and Kerosene

WHERE: The Sound Factory, 812 Kanawha Blvd. East, Charleston

WHEN: 10 p.m. Saturday

COST: $5

INFO: 304-342-8001 or www.soundfactorywv.comCHARLESTON, W.Va. -- When you hear Renfields singer and rhythm guitarist Vincent Renfield talk about his band, The Renfields, you hear how important horror movies and punk rock are to him.

For the uninitiated, the horror movie-inspired, Ramones and Mummies-influenced band, which has an elaborate backstory, dresses up as monsters for live shows and loathes breaking character. It didn't at its first practice over a decade (and many undead members) ago or its first show in 2002, but at a recent interview, fresh from a photo shoot and ready to talk about its soon-to-be-released record, "GO!" the band slipped a little bit.

The Renfields perform Saturday at the Sound Factory with Miniature Giant and Calendars and Kerosene. The 14-song "GO!" is due online at the end of March.

While zombie Vincent, mad scientist Dr. Herbert Von Renfield IV, mummy Dick Ramsses, mongoloid The Fiend and werewolf Lucio, were in costume, the varying accents and characters seemed distant, as the members talked candidly about the band over the years: the highs and the lows, the movies and the punk rock.

The Renfields feel like they're better than ever. These days, things are pretty good, but such was not always the case.

"I get an idea and think it's the greatest idea in the world, and sometimes no one else does," said Vincent, who recalled "sitting around watching horror movies one day" and dreaming up the concept of The Renfields.

"That day, I said, 'We're all gonna paint our faces like pumpkins and be called The Renfields, and I wrote these five songs, and let's do it, and we have a show next week.'

"And everyone quit."

It wouldn't be the last time a character in the band would be killed off.

Vincent started the band as a bedroom studio project in 2001 with a guitar, 4-track, drum machine ("the Invisible Man") and samples from the movies he wrote songs about. In the years since, he has kept the band together with help from his friends.

"A lot of times it wasn't me keeping the band together," Vincent admitted. "Who knows what would've happened if the right people hadn't been there to pick up the flag and go with it when I had to put it down for a while?

"Every person at this table, especially Dr. Von Renfield IV when he joined, talk about low points. When he joined, it was right after everything had fallen apart. His enthusiasm, I didn't have it. He carried the band for like a year, when I didn't feel like I could do it."

After an ill-fated Huntington show in 2010 for the release of "Stalk and Slash Vol. 2," the band lost The Fiend, Lucio and a mummy guitarist that night. (Both Lucio and The Fiend have been killed off and re-animated many times over.)

Over the course of 10 years and releases like "The Night THEY Came Home," "Bastard Sons of Ed Wood," "Stalk and Slash Splatterama" vols. I and II and last year's two-disc box set, "All the Stuff and Gore," The Renfields have displayed their affection for turning scary movies into fun, wholesome punk rock fit for all ages.

Winning new fans is a fun challenge, and it can indeed be a challenge given the gimmick of the members' costumes. Vincent recalled one particular experience.

"We played in Delaware, and we walked into this bar. They just stared at us like, 'Who the [expletive] are these grown [expletive] men in costumes?'

"And then we played, and everyone was our friends. That's what we like to do now, convert people who have not seen [the band]."

Dick Ramsses, wrapped in mummy bandages, seconded that.

"Walking into that bar was one of the most awkward experiences I've had with this band," he said. "There was a guy in the back of the bar talking. I know he was just being loud and obnoxious to get under our skin, talking about how he hates gimmick bands and dressing up.

"And it was so funny. We got done playing, and everybody seemed like they had a good time. Everyone was talking to us. It changed that guy's mind, I think. That's what I like."

"Some of the best shows we play, no one knows who we are," The Fiend added.

After welcoming the current Fiend on bass and lead guitarist Dick Ramsses in recent years, the band has attempted to steer its undead pogo punk hearse away from recording in "blood-curdling mono" like in the past.

Providing a theme song for Eamon Hardiman's movie, "Porkchop," provided the impetus for the band to go back and re-record some old fan favorites, like "Prom Night" and "Machete a Go-Go," as well as a few new ones, on "GO!"

"One of the things about the songs on this CD," said Dr. Von Renfield, "I've been in the band for like six or seven now. These songs are like my children."

At some points over the years, it may have appeared that The Renfields were dead. However, with perhaps a little help of some re-animating agent, the good doctor said "GO!" brings the band to a new beginning.

"These are not only The Renfields' greatest hits as far as I'm concerned, but there are four new songs, so it's like, 'This is what The Renfields were, and this is what The Renfields are.'

"To me, that's why we've put a year's worth of work into this album. This is our fresh start."

Reach Nick Harrah at wvrockscene@gmail.com.


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