THE CLOSEST I CAME TO SEEING CATHOLIC SPRAY
Catholic Spray was a reverb-heavy punk band from Paris, France that existed from like 2009 or 2010 until they broke up a couple of years ago. Their sound was raw, jagged, and pushed the stormy limits of how much noise a person will put up with to reach the catchy tune at each song’s center. Their songs were in English, but it wouldn’t have mattered if they sang in French, English, or pig Latin; their vocals were always indecipherably in the red, and that was fine. Because what mattered was the band’s energy: clattering and careless in a way that resonated halfway across the world. My friends and I loved them.
Animal Kingdom was a house where I lived my early-to-mid twenties that threw a lot of shows and made a few neighbors very (very) angry. Over the course of two years, our basement was host to legions of Troggs-indebted garage rock bands that used to swarm Chicago like rats, a lot of ragged punk bands grinding the sleeping-on-floors-going-days-and-days-without-a-shower punk touring circuit, not many but a few modestly buzzed about bands—like Porches, Speedy Ortiz, etc.—that progressed to festival small stages and sold out rooms, and plenty of off-kilter weirdos that fit none of the above. Catholic Spray belonged to the floor-sleeping-no-showers category (but this time all the way from Europe!) and even though they never played, they were one of the most memorable bands we ever had at our house.
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Occasionally Animal Kingdom would have the cops called on us. Most of the time they never made it until the show was over or the last band was already on, but this night, of course this night, when a band from halfway across the world that would never come back to Chicago was supposed to play our house, the cops shut it down early.
That night was the closest I came to seeing Catholic Spray.
After the cops came we had to kick everyone out and just got drunk with the people that lived there and the band that was staying with us. A couple of them spoke ok-to-spotty English; my roommate Kelly knew some basic French, but it didn’t add up to a connection. We didn’t have that bridge and our conversations fell flat. So without any way to talk besides music, we played music. We all sat on the concrete floor of our basement and Catholic Spray played a couple of their songs, drumming on a guitar case and turning their amps to a low hum. Then somebody, I don’t remember who, started playing “I Wanna Be Your Dog” by The Stooges, and all of us joined in for a boozy cover that got louder and more vibrant with every passing verse and refrain. It was the one time all night we really communicated.
I even tried saying to one of the guys in the band—in the slowest, most deliberate English I could—some incredibly cheesy thing about how punks were all connected even in different cultures, but he couldn’t understand me.
He just nodded, looking vaguely frightened and confused. I think after that we just went back to playing music.