Boise, the gleaming capital city of Idaho, has produced a great deal of excellent punk rock bands throughout the last three decades, but none of them have come close to achieving the notoriety of Septic Death.
Boise, the gleaming capital city of Idaho, has produced a great deal of excellent punk rock bands throughout the last three decades, but none of them have come close to achieving the notoriety of Septic Death. The term “horror hardcore” was invented by fans of SD for SD, and their intense brand of sonic terror still scares parents and invigorates kids today.
Little Miss and the No Names are the product of Paul Birnbaum and Jon Taylor of Septic Death, along with Corey Barner of the ferocious street punk unit Pull Out Quick and vocal-virgin Rebecca Toepfert. Toepfert and Barner weren’t of age to attend any Septic Death shows in the ’80s, but LM&TNN’s sound is an effortless fusion of past and present. The band has only been chugging along since April, but they’ve quickly made a dent in the Treasure Valley punk scene.
Along with attending their second and third ever shows, I spoke with Birnbaum and Toepfert in the noisy Café Ole Cantina on a Friday night. We were secluded in a corner painted with cartoon Banditos drinking margaritas. Just a few feet away, the bar itself was standing-room only as well-dressed couples pre-gamed their night on the town courtesy of Café Ole’s dirt cheap happy hour prices.
“Me and Corey had talked about doing a band for a long time,” says vocalist Toepfert, “but I could never get him into it because he always wanted me to do all the legwork. So when me and Paul met it was just kind of natural. We both like the same kind of music, so we just started messing around.”
“We both like the same stuff, and we’d actually kind of half-joking, half-seriously talked about doing some music,” Birnbaum, the band’s guitarist continues. “One of our ideas was to do a 999 cover band, but make it like the German, ‘Nein Nein Nein.’ Stuff like that. I think we were both thinking the same thing, but neither one wanted to say anything to the other because we were afraid of rejection or whatever. But then we decided we should probably just do a serious band.”
Taylor and Birnbaum had been playing together again for a while before Birnbaum approached Taylor about starting a project with Toepfert. Though Barner is the vocalist for Pull Out Quick, he signed up as LM&TNN’s drummer.
“It was actually a lot more ’70s-sounding before Corey joined the band, but once he joined it brought a little more juice, a little more hardcore,” says Birnbaum.
Little Miss and the No Names’ first show was at one of Boise’s most beloved local restaurants, Donnie Mac’s Trailer Park Cuisine.
“It was totally crappy, but it was the coolest first show ever. The crowd was totally young, they can’t go to the bar shows we have to play. The PA blew out, the sound was terrible. They put us in a little tiny back room, a really small space with a high ceiling. It was super hot. It wasn’t something that normally happened there,” explains Toepfert.
“The fact that it’s not a venue for live music made it a little easier for it to be our first show,” Birnbaum adds. “There weren’t a bunch of expectations about us or the sound.”
The band’s second show took place at the Liquid Lounge, a squeaky-clean bar across the alley from Boise’s Knitting Factory. With its mirrored stage, high quality lighting and hardwood floors, it’s a strange place to house as many punk shows as it does.
The bar was full for a Monday night, and all sorts of unlikely people filtered in to see the band. “Liquid was awesome. Everyone was super supportive. My bosses showed up. They’re totally conservative, right-wing people and they were stoked!” exclaims Toepfert.
Little Miss and the No Names “Death Spill (live at Liquid Lounge)”
It was there that I first witnessed LM&TNN’s brand of punk rock. Though it combines elements of ’70s punk rock sleaze and ’80s hardcore angst, it’s fresh and mean, dangerous and unpredictable. Power chords and spitfire riffs cling to pummeling, distorted bass guitar and nimble, aggressive drumming. Toepfert’s vocals are both screamed and sung, sometimes reminiscent of Dinah Cancer and Penelope Houston.
LM&TNN’s wide array of influences keeps them from sounding like a simple throwback or revival band. While Birnbaum largely considers late ’70s and early ’80s LA and Orange County punk his favorite style, Taylor is a metalhead. Barner enjoys newer street punk, while Toepfert is a fan of many obscure European punk bands from the genre’s entire lifespan.
Little Miss and the No Names “Scene Hick (live at Liquid Lounge)”
“People compare us to older music, but basically we’re just playing punk, our rendition of punk. All of the stuff that I’ve heard over the years from then ’til now, this is our version of it — this is what we come together and make. I don’t have an awesome singing voice and I don’t try to sound like any other chick, I just go out there and sing and just project the way I feel,” says Toepfert.
“It’s definitely all four of us, too. I’ll usually write some riffs, and once Rebecca writes some lyrics it changes a little bit, once Jon writes a bass part it changes a little bit and once Corey starts putting drums to it, it spruces it up,” says Birnbaum.
The band’s third show, opening for St. Louis’ Sex Robots, was moved from a Garden City warehouse and studio that often showcases big name hardcore bands to the basement of a house on Boise’s Bench. The room itself fit about 15 people, all of whom were clutching 40s, cans and mixed drinks, which left a good number of audience members out in the hall. The room was oppressively hot. When the band launched into a cover of The Adolescents’ classic “I Hate Children” it was all Birnbaum and Taylor could do to keep their microphones off of the ground. Toepfert got in the middle of the swirling group of teenagers and adults without missing a syllable. Soon enough, someone had to find a fan to cool the room down. Several other songs stirred the tiny room into chaos, and the band seemed ecstatic.
LM&TNN are just happy to play, and they’re happy to do even more than that. Partially because Birnbaum and Taylor were there for the rise of punk’s DIY ethos, and partially because Toepfert and Barner grew up with those same values, Little Miss and the No Names produce their own buttons, patches and shirts. That Do It Yourself gumption is a rarity in a community like Boise, especially with so many web-based outlets for merchandise production. Toepfert and Birnbaum also offer cheap merchandise to other Boise bands and businesses. According to Toepfert, it was a necessity, and according to Birnbaum, it opened up a few doors for his business, Imperial Body Art.
“I just don’t want to work for anybody, I just want to do my thing and enjoy life. This is something that I genuinely enjoy, I’ve been into this forever and I’m able to do it. I’m willing to put in the time and effort, and Paul’s willing to invest. We both agree that it’s super awesome. It’s just natural, just like the band,” says Toepfert.
When I asked about the band’s name, Toepfert and Birnbaum both lit up with laughter.
“We didn’t have a name yet and we were over at Jon’s. Jon has these display cases with some toys and stuff, and he had this creepy-looking doll in there and we were like ‘What the hell is that?!’ He pulls it out, and it’s called Little Miss No Name. It was back from the ’70s, it has little tears, it’s dressed in rags and it’s holding out its hands like a beggar. It’s the creepiest doll ever. A few days later we texted Jon and said ‘How about Little Miss No Name?’ and he sent back ‘How about Little Miss AND the No Names?’ and that was that,” says Birnbaum. Toepfert agreed that it is, indeed, the creepiest doll ever.
Every member of Little Miss and the No Names has a full-time job, and many of them have other commitments besides, but they’re extremely dedicated to the band. As excited as they are, they’re taking small steps.
“Right now we’ve got some local shows lined up, we want to take the time to write some new songs and then just do a really quick demo recording. And then after the winter we want to start hopefully getting out of town a bit,” says Birnbaum.
Toepfert sums it up even more succinctly, “I just want to make music that people like me can enjoy. It’s not perfect; it’s just for people like us.”