DAVID YOW is sitting in a bar in Austin, Texas, working on his first beer. He's supposed to be with his bandmates, of the recently reconvened '80s noise weirdos Scratch Acid, who are rehearsing. "I don't need to practice," the vocalist explains over the phone. "I know the songs."
Yow really is taking the reunion (or as he calls it, a "reenactment tour") seriously. Missing rehearsal was actually the result of a delayed flight rather than any irresponsible decisions. He adds: "But I do hope they spank me."
This isn't the first time the Austin quartet has reformed. They did so in 2006 for the 25th anniversary of their former label Touch and Go. This time, all it took was an invite from enigmatic Neutral Milk Hotel frontman Jeff Mangum to make an appearance at the forthcoming All Tomorrow's Parties festival. More dates were soon added and rehearsals were scheduled. "The main thing is it had to be fun first," Yow says. "If it's not fun, I'm not doing it."
Scratch Acid is the lesser known of Yow's musical projects, but it doesn't dilute their importance. It simply comes down to timing. The Jesus Lizard that made a name for themselves in the '90s underground was bolstered—slightly—by a split single with a little band called Nirvana in 1993 (and along with it, the once ballyhooed "Cobain bump"). Then there was Scratch Acid—a band eons ahead of its time, whose self-titled debut came out when Reagan was still king, a year after Shout at the Devil. Their influence is all over any '90s recording that is worth a damn—including, not surprisingly, Nirvana's In Utero. Their performances were sweaty freak shows that often ended with an unhinged Yow in various states of undress.
"It's weird. There are times when people point out bands and say, 'This sounds just like you,' and I don't hear it. I'm not very cognizant of that, I guess because I'm too close to it," Yow says of the band's unexpected influence. "It's really flattering. I never really felt like when I did music I was looking for approval. But when you get approval for something you're proud of, it's really nice."
Yow is taking a rather non-punk rock approach toward this whole "reunion" thing, a concept once relegated more often than not to dollar-eyed arena-rock has beens. There's no "it just felt right" smoke being blown around. Money is part of the equation, and Scratch Acid are playing larger venues than anyone could have ever imagined 25 years ago. But the band—which includes guitarist (and the Jesus Lizard cofounder) David Wm. Sims, bassist Brett Bradford, and drummer Rey Washam—is not taking any of it lightly. Washam and Sims have been rehearsing in Austin since May. And Yow—now a visual artist and budding actor—has been getting into fighting shape.
"Whenever we finish a show, I'm thoroughly exhausted and usually lying on the floor catching my breath. I've actually learned to reserve my energy, which might be disappointing to some. But c'est la vie."
But the dozen and a half reunion dates are where it stops, and Yow insists there is no new Scratch Acid material in the works. And I believe him. Then again, anything's possible.
"When Scratch Acid broke up I'm sure I said never again," he says. "And when the Jesus Lizard broke up I'm sure I said never again. I've learned to quit saying never."