Please tell us about the history of your band and its members.
Belushi Speed Ball started as a wild idea by Vinny Castellano in 2013, with the band’s first performance taking place in 2014 with Castellano on bass and vocals, Alex Rosas on drums, Chase Bensing (whom Castellano formerly collaborated with in The White Lotus) on guitar, and Señor Diablo, the “manager” of dubious background, in charge of the stage shows . We struggled quite a bit to get our foot in the door of the Louisville music scene at first - for that first show, we couldn’t convince another band to join the bill and the intimate audience mostly consisted of close friends and family showing their support (but we take no shame in that start - measuring it against our pre-pandemic audiences of several hundred, it helps us measure what has worked and what hasn’t).
As time progressed, and we found our own voice in terms of both our music and our stage show antics, our audience grew and we came to play with other bands whom we regarded as sibling bands, for they, like us, did not take their personas or music seriously. One such band, Dick Titty Blood Punch, accompanied us on our first tour to the east coast in summer of 2017. Shortly thereafter, two of the members of the band, Rosas and Bensing, bowed out so that we could play shows with greater frequency (conflicting schedules enabled us only to play out about three times per year, leading a lot of locals to believe we were an out-of-town band). Members who gradually joined the band as it gained momentum and Vinny shifted roles to guitar were Daniel Neel on drums, Jazzy Romans on bass, as well as Kyle Phelps on guitar. Other rotational members of the band include Ryan Bohr and Chase Palmer - both of whom are drummers, with each possessing a style unique from one another and from Neel. As a result, some of Belushi Speed Ball’s songs are drummer-specific, leading to many performances where all three drummers are present and swap out with one another during the set list. Mixed in with all of this current lineup is a wild mix of regular performers and videographers in the stage shows which Diablo concocts (described more below).
How would you describe your style? Which bands influenced your music?
Belushi Speed Ball is a crossover thrashcore band. Simply put, we mix charactheristics of thrash metal, punk, and hardcore into our songs. The greatest influence to our music has been Toxic Holocaust, Municipal Waste, D.R.I., The Misfits, Gwar, and Dick Titty Blood Punch.
Why should a metalhead buy your demos/albums?
Besides the fact that our albums are released on unique media outlets (i.e. Gameboy advance, Furby, tapestry, etc.), metal heads should buy our albums because we do not take ourselves serious. The music is fast pace, traditional, cliché, and full of all the generic 1980s goodness. However, the subject matter is all about fun. Most our songs are based on 90s cartoons, video games, and pop culture. Not to mention, our choruses are sure to get stuck in your heads.
What have you released so far and how were your releases received by the public and the media?
The band has currently released six EP albums to date, with a seventh and eighth EP (the double EP, Stella 1 and Stella 2) slated for release through SonaBlast! Records on January 21, 2021. The first three albums, Face Schmelted in Eight Minutes or Less (Sept. 2014), Regretfully Endorsed by Señor Diablo (October 2015), and Belushi Speed Ball 3: Another EP? (March 2017), were supported by those who were fans at those stages, but admittedly, largely unnoticed apart from that. Albeit at the time, the band was evolving to a lineup that provided for show opportunities more frequent than 3-4 times per year (as described above), and it was also developing show themes that were more outlandish (as described below). Also a factor was the fan base (and number of guest appearances on the show by other Louisville musicians) for The Señor Diablo Show was growing (also described below).
By the time our fourth album release took place (The Frank Castle Picnic, April 2018), all those progressions intersected. We had played almost the same amount of shows with our new lineup in the prior six months that we had with the original members in the first three years of the band. The stage show had grown in absurdity to the point that Jesus was resurrected to bless a full-size lifecast of Vinny’s head, cast in chocolate, so that it could be served as communion to all in attendance (all of whom we’d forcibly dressed up in their “Sunday best”) by Diablo, who was wearing papal regalia crafted from Arby’s bags and was flanked by others dressed as Easter rabbits who were also serving drinks of Listerine (ie. we went from throwing out silly string to forms of crowd interaction that sometimes borders on cult behavior). The season premiere for the third season of The Señor Diablo Show, featuring three musical guests apart from Belushi Speed Ball also coincided with the release. In short, the many paths of growth for the band intersected for that fourth album, which was also released on comic book for absurdity’s sake.
This album grabbed the attention of local paper LEO weekly which praised the band for being “as silly as they are ready to kick out the fucking jams.” This led to a full-spread interview by the LEO Weekly leading up to our fifth album release - Prepare for Trouble (April 2019), which was picked up by Gubbey Records. Not only was it released on CD, but GameBoy Advance as well (not only can one listen to the album through the GameBoy Advance cartridge, but it can be played as well, with Diablo in a side-scroll Double Dragon fighter). Physical copies of this album sold out quicker than any prior release, for it was stacked with all the longtime crowd favorites on one EP, from “Are You Feeling It Now, Mr. Krabs?” to “Glass Bones and Paper Skin'' - songs that better represented our crowd interactive aesthetic (ie. you can learn the lyrics halfway through and sing along with the rest of the crowd...not too many such songs like that exist on the first three albums). It was also well received by a number of outlets, including The Circle Pit, which made us laugh at their summation of the album: “ I really can’t properly compare this record by the same parameters that I usually use while writing a review because this band lays outside those parameters in terms of my enjoyment. This new record from Belushi Speed Ball is so many things – silly, fun, nerdy, stupid, enjoyable, comedic, creative, energetic, etc. For that reason, this one gets a solid ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ out of 10.”
Our most recent release, This is What We Look Like, was slated for release on March 28 of this past year, and was intended to be the kickoff for the band’s fourth tour. However, Covid restrictions shuttered all musical venues in Louisville on March 16. Regardless, the EP was released on both 7-inch vinyl through SonaBlast Records, with a single-only release on Furby of “The Spinelli’s Slam.” And the band still performed the album through live stream on the original slated date.
Do you play live as well? How’s your live activity so far?
While Belushi Speed Ball’s musical popularity has grown exponentially in recent years, any true fan of the band will contest that live performances are the only proper way to enjoy the band, largely because we are crowd interactive at our core. Every single live performance features an entirely unique stage show, which is never again repeated. The Leo Weekly once aptly described that “watching a Belushi Speed Ball performance is a lot like going pro-wrestling event.” Attendees, be they first timers or long-time veterans, never know what the theme of the show is going to be, what props will be distributed, who or how many others in the audience are plants for the planned antics, or whether they themselves will be unwittingly recruited and drug on stage before the set is over. You may find yourself taking part in a Scholastic book fair, or donning a sock puppet and destroying a miniature city in front of a green screen and multicamera setup. You could end up engaging in a parody of the orgy scene from Eyes Wide Shut, helping fake a moon landing sequel, becoming a pirate so you can plunder and destroy office equipment, helping dinosaurs crowdsurf pizza, or accidentally resurrecting the ghosts of other undead Nascar racers in an attempt to conjure Dale Earnheart Sr. And whether we are dressed as demons and leading you through all the stages of Dante’s Inferno, or whether we are legally marrying a couple during a blood-soaked, murder-filled ceremony, or any other hare-brained theme not described here, our goal is always the same: we want our audience to feel like they are kids again. Granted, our music does that to a degree, with songs about Spongebob Squarepants, Sega Genesis or Dragonball Z, but when you’re at a show in person, that goal becomes immersive, and almost unavoidable - especially if you are watching from front and center, an area nicknamed “the splash zone” by fans. Sometimes the antics go too far, and the band finds itself not quite welcome at a venue for a stretch, but for every spurned adult, there are a dozen or more new fans who found their inner imagination reawakened.
What should labels, zines and promoters know about your band? Why should they be interested in it?
Apart from the unparalleled, crowd-interactive stage shows described above that characterize the band’s live performances, and the offbeat mediums the albums have been released upon, the band also has its own [adult swim]-inspired series now entering its fifth season - The Señor Diablo Show. During the mania of any given live show, up to three videographers are maneuvering through the pit and around the stage (Jazzy’s husband Josh Romans serving as the primary cameraman), as well as directly interacting with the crowd at the venue. If you get caught in the lens of one of these cameras, odds are you’ll turn up in an episode. Hours of this raw footage is transferred to VHS for editing, processed through multiple VCRs and manipulated into an ongoing, psychotronic documentary of the Louisville underground music scene by Diablo collaborator, filmmaker Beau Kaelin. Each episode is filled with music videos, interviews with bands and sketch comedy that’s in the vein of shows like The Eric Andre Show or Check It Out! With Dr. Steve Brule, but stylistically reminiscent of early 80’s MTV and Saturday morning programming. A large majority of the mayhem that Belushi Speed Ball brings in its live performances is captured within the episodes, and the series itself follows the band through house shows, music festivals and everything in between, both preserving and showcasing much of the scenes talent. The series currently holds a cult following within town, especially musicians who make a ritual of watching episodes post-band practice while buzzed. Currently the series boasts 64 episodes, each approximately 30 minutes in length - a binge watch will not only give a curious viewer a better sense of Belushi Speed Ball’s journey of growth, but they will also be left feeling as if they are part of the Louisville music community. The full series can be found at the band’s YouTube channel: Señor Diablo Show, or one can use the Top 40 episodes playlist (as picked by the fans) as one’s guide.
What plans do you have for the near future as a band?
Future plans? That’s a tough question, given how uncertain 2021 looks for live music. In 2020, for the shows we played during Covid restrictions, we found ways to use our gimmicky, stage show nature to our advantage. In one scenario, we turned a live stream event into an interactive murder mystery, with a crew of about fifteen guests who were also suspects, wildly casting suspicion on one another in true Among Us fashion, with viewers in the live stream throwing out accusations and votes that whittled down suspects to the ultimate conclusion. In another, we rented a moving van and multiple generators, decked it, ourselves and accompanying vehicles in proper, Mad Max: Fury Road post-apocalyptic style. From there, we drove from one location to another, “attacking” venues (who knew nothing of our plan) with live music (and hastily fleeing each time as peeved neighbors called the police).
So the question is how many different ways can we craft a unique stage show for our fans with current restrictions, should they continue. We have a live stream event planned for our next album release - a double EP entitled Stella 1 and Stella 2, which is slated for release digitally on all streaming platforms on January 21, 2021. And, just as the last three album releases all offered an absurd option for purchase, this album will also be available in tapestry form, complete with informative documentary on VHS that details the allegorical nature of the imagery on the tapestry. As for the gimmick behind our album release performance after that, we never like to spoil the stage show for the fans, so you’ll just have to wait and be surprised. (Beau Kaelin)