Grindcore—an extreme mix of punk and metal—can be intense.
There’s guttural screaming; incomprehensible lyrics being shouted over blast beasts and down-tuned guitar-chugging; and band names like Napalm Death, Pig Destroyer, Cannibal Corpse and—excuse my language—Anal Cunt.
And now we have the grindcore trio named … Plain Oatmeal? Yes, it’s true—and it’s safe to say this Reno group is out to accomplish something different.
Gus Rivera, Joey “Boey” Stout and Tucker Rash make up Plain Oatmeal, a band where heavy punk collides with nonsensical and humorous lyrics, creating the funniest mosh pit you’ll ever be a part of. Their self-titled release offers the Death Grips-reminiscent “Spit in My Mouth,” featuring an Autotuned rant about McDonald’s ketchup packets, while follow-up album Silly Crazy Love is filled with moments of some of the heaviest music you’ve ever heard, including song names like “Beef Supreme” and “Paper Bag.”
Experience this unique mix in person when Plain Oatmeal performs alongside Golem, Ultra and Mescaline Maniacs at 7 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 25, at the Holland Project.
“There are many phases of Plain Oatmeal, and this modern version is definitely the longest-lasting,” Rash said during a recent Zoom interview. “Plain Oatmeal started originally, before I joined the band, with Joey and Gus here.”
Stout elaborated: “Gus and I were in high school together, and we used to listen to a lot of the same music, and we’d make a bunch of videos. Then we started trying to make music. He was playing Fortnite one time and got killed by someone named Average Soup. He thought that would be kind of a cool band name and said, ‘What if we did Plain Oatmeal or something?’”
Added Rivera: “A lot of our influences back then were things like Nirvana, and that was kind of it, but nowadays, we use bands like Dystopia and heavier stuff like that to really influence our sound.”
After a few pre-pandemic releases, Plain Oatmeal decided to take things more seriously.
“Early in 2021, we were all living together in the same house, and we started really trying to focus on our sound,” Rash said. That’s when we released that self-titled album. We’re hella proud of that album, because it’s sort of the beginning of us coming into our new current sound. I feel like we’re starting to play a little heavier, and trying to write the songs that we want to hear and have fun with it.
“Things really accelerated for us later that year when we played Holland’s Halloween show as the band Mayhem. We covered them, and learning those old-school, fast-black metal songs taught us the discipline we needed to actually cultivate the kind of music that we’ve been wanting to play this whole time. … Everything after that, like Silly Crazy Love and the split with Golem (Petri Dish), was us really trying to write the kind of heavy shit that we wanted to listen to—and I feel like we really succeeded.”
Rash said the band wants to inspire “an energy” in people.
“When it comes to hardcore, grindcore, powerviolence, it’s really easy to fall into the same sort of tropes and just sort of rewrite songs that have already been written over and over again,” he said. “I think what’s cool about Plain Oatmeal is we take the foundations from those kinds of songs, but we’re still willing to have fun and be goofy and make it a more unique sound. We try to cultivate something that you haven’t necessarily heard before. … We want to make something that’s not only fun to play, but at least a little forward-moving, and has energy and ethos.”
Combining these seemingly polar-opposite worlds came naturally as the trio grew closer. As Rivera put it, the trio “opened up our inner oat.”
“We share a really unique friendship that I really appreciate,” Rash said. “When we write songs, we don’t really need to put much effort into it; we kind of just blast out a song in 20 minutes or something, and we’re always pretty stoked on it. I feel like the three of us have a similar mentality when it comes to creativity. We’re not necessarily trying to take ourselves too seriously, and the most important thing for us is that we’re having fun ourselves. Fortunately, that energy translates into what other people perceive when they listen to us, or when they come to our shows. We’re not trying to be tough guys; we’re not trying to be the hardest of the hardcore or whatever. We’re just trying to have fun.”
Some of the comedy in Plain Oatmeal’s lyrics can be missed, because the vocal phrasing is mostly screams. I asked for some of their favorite lines from songs, and Stout picked: “Microsoft microwaves are lies / My Minecraft is mine.”
From “Hospital Kill,” Rash selected: “‘SpongeBob SquarePants / Clifford the Red Dog / SpongeBob is my dad and I love him / Take your GED.’ That’s one of our gnarliest songs, too, in terms of the breakdown, and the fact that Joe is screaming about SpongeBob being his dad while we’re playing that—it’s so sick to me.”
Yeah, the lyrics are bullshit. But the band members said that it’s special bullshit.
“You relieve that pressure from yourself when you’re not trying to make something too serious,” Rash said. “Kind of counterintuitively, you end up creating something that feels a little more truthful to whatever you’re trying to express. … This band is very cathartic, and it’s like a release every time we play a song.”
A Plain Oatmeal live show features more energy than laughs.
“It gets violent,” Stout said. “There are a lot of kicks and punches, people jumping on you and drums being thrown.”
Added Rash: “In a fun way. No one’s actively trying to hurt anybody. We totally break shit, but the thing is, the violence or the aggression or whatever is nothing that we’re trying to do. We’re not saying, ‘Oh, dude, wouldn’t it be sick if we tackled each other onstage?’ If we were to plan out our performances like that, it would feel so contrived. It’s just a natural expression of the music, and the physicality of it just comes effortlessly and ends up being pretty aggressive.”
The band attracts a younger, intense crowd.
“There’s hella young people who are super into the stuff that we’re doing, and I’m honestly super-inspired by them,” Rash said. “These are high school-aged kids who are seriously taking charge and leading the next wave of music in Reno and music in general. … I don’t take responsibility for these things as our band, but it is pretty apparent that we’re at the very beginning of a new scene or new movement or a new appreciation of heavier music. I just feel like a lot of kids are Plain Oatmeal fans, and they’re like, ‘Dude, we can make this shit, too.’ That inspires me and makes me want to keep making stuff.”
One example is Golem, with whom the band is playing at the Holland, and who is featured on Plain Oatmeal’s split EP Petri Dish, released late last year.
“They’re some of the high school kids we met because they were coming to our shows,” said Rash. “They’re trying to make their own take on mincecore (a simpler version of grindcore), but all of them are good rappers. … We hung out with them one time while we were about to record the split together, and we’re like, ‘Let’s just all read some bars and put a beat together and make this funny song real quick.’”
Plain Oatmeal will perform with Golem, Ultra and Mescaline Maniacs at 7 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 25, at the Holland Project, 140 Vesta St., in Reno. Tickets are $8. For more information, call 775-448-6500, or visit hollandreno.org. For more information on Plain Oatmeal, visit instagram.com/plain_oatmeal.