Going Insaints

The Insaints' former lead singer left some pretty big shoes to fill. Is Miss Eva von Slut up to the task?

At a recent Insaints rehearsal at Oakland's Soundwave Studios, the quartet roars into "Carry On," one of its signature thrashy, pounding numbers, and the look on DeLeon's face is tender -- not what people expect from someone with a pompadoured mohawk, a Necromantiks T-shirt, and a long history in street punk. Understandably, it's quite a nostalgia trip for him, ripping through these angry songs with the same two guys on bass and drums but with such a different woman on lead vocals. In the liner notes of the recently released Insaints CD, Sins of Saints, DeLeon wrote an afterword about Anderson, explaining, "I saw her as my best friend, my sister, who I loved very much. Her angelic voice echoes through my mind every day."

That angelic voice now echoes through Soundwave's practice space, note for note, snarl for snarl, only it's coming from von Slut, whose stage name takes on new meaning as she tackles songs like "Whore," in which her maddened voice plays off sharp guitar riffs, quick throbs of bass, and deceptively complicated drum work. "I am a whore/ I will play out all of your fantasies, but I won't give it away," the voice screams, ripping the defenseless word "I" into fluttering shreds. It's classic punk, flawless in its fury.

"One thing people get wrong about us is that they concentrate on the sex-show thing," says Langston, who notes that the nudity and such was actually a relatively short phase in the band's history. More important, he exclaims, "We were a rockin' band!"

Marian Anderson (left), the Insaints' original lead 
singer, and Miss Eva von Slut, her replacement.
Marian Anderson (left), the Insaints' original lead singer, and Miss Eva von Slut, her replacement.

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Sins of Saints may come with a booklet you probably won't show your mom, but its musicianship, songwriting, and recording are surprisingly professional and polished. DeLeon's guitar is confident and stinging, and the songs show influences ranging from reggae to blues to classic rock. And Anderson, while able to whip out a growl, a spoken bit, or a scream anytime, was clearly a talented vocalist, not some fuck-up screecher; she was from the Exene Cervenka school of wailing, and an admirer of the Avengers' Penelope Houston.

"The master tapes to our recording were lost for about 10 years -- it's a miracle that we were able to find them," DeLeon e-mails, explaining why the new album took so long to put out. He also says he now has enough material to fill several future Insaints records. Would he like to have a tall, brazen von Slut along for live performances supporting those? "Oh yes, I hope and plan on keeping Eva for all upcoming Insaints shows!" he writes enthusiastically. "I think she's Marian's vocal twin."

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