Shock value


May 11, 2001



It was the sort of show that would quickly pass into legend on the local underground rock scene. The biker-rock duo Evil Beaver was playing a benefit for Radio Free Chicago, a weekly show on Loyola's college radio station, WLUW-FM (88.7). Realizing that they were the only women on the bill, they decided to make a statement.

Bassist-vocalist Evie Evil walked onstage at Metro sporting nothing but pasties and a G-string. Never one to be outdone, drummer Laura Ann Beaver wore a glitter-speckled bathing suit and a sash proclaiming her "Miss WLUW." She made her entrance sitting astride the shoulders of a male "slave"--and things only got wilder from there.

"I'm sick of seeing shows where people just stand up there and play," says the percussive dynamo, who's also known as Laura Ann Masura, legendary scenestress, former president of the Smashing Pumpkins fan club, longtime waitress at the Twisted Spoke and the former drummer with Motorhome and the Prescriptions.

"This is Evie's first band, and from the beginning, I encouraged her to go wild. I think I did way too good of a job, because I've had a hard time harnessing her ever since! But she's been great. Between Motorhome and the Prescriptions, I had two other people onstage who just stood there. Now I finally have somebody who outdoes me by taking her blouse off or falling off the stage."

Bosom buddies Masura and Evil (her real name is a well-guarded secret, "and besides, it's Greek and you probably couldn't spell it anyway," Masura says) started playing together about two years ago, around the time the Prescriptions were disbanding.

A former music student at the University of Illinois at Chicago, Evil has a powerhouse vocal style that recalls Courtney Love and a complex and melodic approach toward playing the bass. After buying her first drum set from Jimmy Chamberlin, Masura quickly developed into an extremely musical and vastly entertaining drummer. ("I've always looked at drums as a lead instrument," she says.) She and Evil quickly decided that they really didn't need any other musicians to flesh out their sound.

"It's literally like a dream come true because it's two friends who are just seriously having a really good time and it happens to be catching on," Masura says. "I had some guy stop me in the restaurant the other day. I was waiting on him, but when Evie walked in, he put two and two together and all the sudden his eyes got really big and he was just like, `It is an honor to have you waiting on me!' I was just laughing, like, `Yup, my "real" career is supported one burger at a time!'

"As far as being a duo, you have to think about it a lot more because there's only two people. But after all of the drama and the crap I went through in all of the other bands, I was just thinking, `Wow, one less person to vote. One less person to feed, one less person to pay!' That was an upside, but the truth of the matter is it was all about the music. Evie's style is so full that there really isn't room for anything else. We could have gotten some noodley, Jesus Lizard-esque guitar player, but we just weren't interested in that. It sounds great, it sounds full, she does a great job, and it just took off from the very first show. We toe this line in between all of these different genres: We have the metal and the pop and the indie rock."

In typically twisted fashion, Evil Beaver made its recording debut with a live album taped at the Manhole and released on Johann's Face. The group proceeded to issue a Christmas disc and then a single, "Cherry Master"/"Wasted Milo." It finally got around to releasing its first proper album last month on its own Frooty Nation label, distributed via Chicago's Four Alarm Records.

"What we had as a vision was to do our first album as a double greatest-hits disc, like, `Let's do it all backward!' " Masura says. "But we put out a four-song sampler, and everybody just went so crazy that we thought, `Let's hurry up and do one more session with Dave [Trumfio] and get this out now, because Chicago is so fickle, we've got to strike while this is happening or there'll be another Evil Beaver right around the corner!' "

"Lick It!" is an impressive explosion of estrogen-fueled frenzy, though pop-minded producer Trumfio helped assure that the girls didn't skimp on the hard-rocking melodies in tunes such as "Enter Beaver," "Superbird" and "Muff Control Unit." Think AC/DC after a sex-change operation, or L7 with a little more metal and a little less punk.

"We both just wanted to bring rock 'n' roll back," Masura says with endearing earnestness. "We go across the country and all these clubs will give us $50 to play, but they find out I'm a DJ from Chicago, and they'll say `We'll give you a thousand dollars if you spin after your show!' Everything across the board is sort of making it real difficult for the kids right now--rock is dying and it's really sad. That's why with the touring thing I was like, `Ev, we have to get out there! If we don't get out there and keep it alive, it's going to totally die.'

"I mean it: I want to be the next Guns 'N Roses. I don't mean that on a major-label level, but being the band that brought rock 'n' roll back. Quite honestly, if it wasn't for GNR, there wouldn't have been a Nirvana because people would have still been listening to that keyboard crap from the '80s."

The obvious similarities in larger-than-life frontwomen and brazen displays of in-your-face sexuality have earned Evil Beaver comparisons to equally outrageous underground phenoms Nashville Pussy. ("Who?" Masura asks sarcastically.) But the Chicago duo actually has a much sharper and smarter sense of humor--they're sort of like the Monster Magnet or Urge Overkill to Nashville Pussy's Ted Nugent.

"We didn't walk into this thinking shtick," Masura says. "We love camp. I'm just a huge John Waters fan, and I think Evil Beaver is just a way for me to channel my campiness.

"As far as the name, being Evil Beaver has pluses and minuses. Either people see our package and they're like, `Evil Beaver? Heh-heh. I gotta listen to this!' Or it's, `This must be a joke,' and they throw it in the garbage. But it does help the merchandise, that's for sure. Whether people like us or not, they want an Evil Beaver T-shirt, so I'm not complaining."

She also isn't kidding. In addition to several different styles of T-shirts, the band even has logo underwear available through its Web site, (As far as I know, Guns 'N Roses never had logo underwear.) Stardom may well be within Evil Beaver's grasp. And for attitude and marketing savvy as well as their hard-hitting sounds, the duo is well-deserving.