Romeos share punk history

"Can you use any of this?"

Fair question.

It’s posed a bit after 9 p.m. on a recent Tuesday as a bunch of old friends talk up a new project over brews and busted chops.

There’s an open mic comedy night in the room next door at Choices, a homey west side pub, but the punch lines are flying in much more rapid-fire succession here in an adjacent showroom where members of the Naked City Romeos are holding court, jabbing at one another’s egos like boxers working the heavy bag.

It’s a tangent-filled couple of hours, hence the question above, voiced by singer Eric Hill to the journalist recording it all, as this quartet of Vegas punk lifers reels in the years — and beers — reminiscing about growing up in a scene they were instrumental in creating.

"You’re talking to people who were there when this scene was being formed," says bassist Cory Naff, gesturing toward bandmates Hill, Dirk Vermin and Gerald "Turbo" Proctor, veterans of such seminal Vegas acts as Bad Habits, M.I.A., F8 and The Vermin, to name a few.

In the Naked City Romeos, their long, shared histories combine into hooky, classic, late-’70s-style punk.

Some of the tunes actually were penned by band founder Hill at the tail end of that decade, finally making their way onto a record for the first time in the form of the Romeos’ recently completed debut, which will be out in about a month.

Like tonight’s conversation, the tunes are loose and uninhibited, an off-the-cuff blast of dirt-beneath-the-fingernails rock ‘n’ roll.

Clearly, it’s an album that was done for kicks, a chance for this well-traveled bunch to do something familiar and different at the same time.

"I wanted to be a guitar player, because I’ve always been a frontman," says the heavily tattooed Vermin, best known as the singer/guitarist of the band that bears his surname. "I wanted to be Johnny Thunders. I fell back in love with my guitar more than I had in years."

"All the bands I play in, they’re fun," adds Proctor, who’s also a member of The Vermin, along with the Kamikaze Prophets and has done time with a host of other projects. "But this is a blast."

As for Hill, the man who started it all, he’s among Vegas’ first punk frontmen.

Back in the day, he prided himself on being as in your face as possible and regales with tales of drunken show antics.

Tonight, he’s drinking water instead of booze, but he still has an edge to him.

It’s just that the grins outnumber the grimaces these days.

"I hadn’t written with anybody in years, really, like what we’re doing. And we came up with some cool stuff," he says. "It’s fun for me. And that’s all I want to do. I just want to have fun."

Contact reporter Jason Bracelin at jbracelin@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0476.

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