By his admission, Brian Cruse isn’t adamant about much. But there was one thing upon which he insisted: “I was like, ‘My next band’s going to be called Black Zinfandel. I hope everybody’s cool with that because that’s the one thing I insist on,’” he says. “And I have a feeling that that name’s the only reason anybody cares about us—because it gets a few chuckles.”
The moniker does elicit a few laughs, suggesting middle-aged women sipping stained wine by a pool. But the handle is hardly the only reason anybody cares about Black Zinfandel. Singer-guitarist Cruse, bassist Seth Beard and drummer Evan Williams all bring strong backgrounds with unconventional punk to the new outfit. Cruse and Williams played together in Grass Widow—not to be confused, each of them will remind you, with the San Francisco post-punk trio—before Williams picked up the sticks for Whatever Brains. Cruse took a break from bands, save a few one-offs. Beard played drums in Logic Problem and Antibubbles, and a few other short-lived indie rock and hardcore ensembles.
So far, Black Zinfandel is a low-stress, maybe-kinda-punk band. “I consider it punk rock, and it sounds like punk rock,” explains Cruse, “but I don’t know if the punks will think it sounds like punk rock.”
Most of Black Zinfandel’s plans are still in the maybe stage. They’d like to add a fourth member, but logistical barriers have already led to the departures of two guitarists, Lucius Cyrus (of The Static Minds) and Nicole Story (ex-Lazy Janes). They plan to incorporate some visual elements and instrument swapping into the set. Cruse doesn’t play drums but promises some “Moe Tucker, standing-up shit.”
It’s fitting that Black Zinfandel will play its first show on a bill with two other bands whose punk credentials feel more like guilt-by-association. Tuesday at Slim’s, the trio will share the stage with the local band Infección and Sweden’s Terrible Feelings. Infección’s jittery, clean-toned songs borrow as much from pop and post-punk as they do from obscure European hardcore bands. Terrible Feelings released their debut LP, Shadows, through the Canadian punk label Deranged Records, but they play driving pop full of dark themes and ringing hooks in the vein of Masshysteri.
Somewhere in that broadly defined vision of punk, there’s room for Black Zinfandel—even if nobody, band included, can tell exactly where just yet. “That’s the worst question you could ever be asked: ‘What do you sound like?’ or ‘What kind of music do you play?’” Cruse says, with a laugh. “If you can answer that, you suck.”