Dec. 22 isn’t a full moon, but The Varsity in Baton Rouge is in for a Werewolf sighting nonetheless. The legendary ’80s cover band Werewolf has been resurrected and is hungry to regain its place as the premier purveyor of ’80s hits in Baton Rouge and beyond.
The band is based in Baton Rouge and is comprised of Rhett Guillot (singer/bassist), Matthew Snowbarger (guitars/backing vocals), Dennis Buchman (drums), and Jonathan Jenkins (keys). The first and most important question the new incarnation of Werewolf had to face was this: Is there any song too ’80s to cover?
“Well, it depends. You have to look at who your crowd is and think about what you’re trying to get across. There are a lot of songs that are way too ’80s to cover. I personally love Depeche Mode, but if you play something like ‘Strangelove’ it will totally separate you from your crowd,” Guillot said.
Crowds are one thing Werewolf knows all about. Before the band broke up a few years ago, it was almost supernaturally popular for a cover band.
“Werewolf used to be big -- really big -- in Baton Rouge a few years ago. Then they just broke up, and a few of the guys went to work on animation and other things and moved to L.A.,” Guillot said.
“I’ve known Matt, the guitar player, for years, and he always wanted me to be in a band with him, and I’ve never had the chance. He just kept bugging me and bugging me, and one day, offhand, I said that the only way I would take the time I don’t have and put it in a band is if he got Werewolf back together. He said, ‘Hold on,’ and 10 minutes later he came back and said, ‘Done. Let’s talk about songs,’” Guillot said.
Narrowing down the vast library of ’80s hits into a single show’s setlist is no small task.
“You have your standards like ‘The Summer of ’69’ and ‘Don’t Stop Believing,’” Guillot said, Then you also have the very peppy pop hits like ‘I Melt With You’ and ‘I Ran.’ We play ‘Straight Up’ by Paula Abdul with a punk rock-y, metal sound that’s pretty cool, too.”
Guillot said the band likes to put a new spin on the classics.
“For example, we play ’Just a Friend’ by Biz Markie, and one time I literally made it a seven-minute rap song,” he said. “I rapped the first verse, and then I switched from ’80s rap to modern rap. Some of these synth pop songs don’t have guitar at all, so we’ll put guitars over everything. It still gives the girls something to dance to, and guys like guitar and guys like girls dancing, so everybody wins.”
Guillot has a theory about the seemingly unsinkable popularity of ’80s music, even among younger generations.
“The reason I think ’80s music never really went away is because it’s either sing-along or something anyone can sing. On top of that, the song structure is really simple, so there’s a lot to grasp onto due to that simplicity. And everyone enjoys it, because it’s just well-written,” he said.
Werewolf doesn’t bank on their good reputation or the enduring popularity of the ’80s. They bring a level of musicianship to their live shows that they hope will help them win back fans of the band’s first incarnation.
“We’re an energetic live show. It’s not the same thing every time. There’s no video synch to our show, so we don’t have to play along with our video or whatever. We do a light show, but it’s not over the top. I’d rather the energy we give off and the music speak for itself rather than relying on parlor tricks.” Guillot said.
The reborn Werewolf has a lot of work ahead of them if they want to regain their former glory. Guillot recalled one Werewolf show from the band’s heyday a few years ago.
“I remember the parking lot packed, like 850 people out the door. It was crazy,” he said. “We’re trying to build back to that, and it’s going to take a while. But literally, every show we’ve played we’ve had more people show up, and now people are like ‘Oh my god, Werewolf’s back!’ So, 2013 is the time to take back Baton Rouge.”
Barring the end of the world as predicted by the Mayan calendar, Werewolf’s Post-Apocalyptic Party will take place at The Varsity on Dec. 22. The doors open at 8 p.m. More information about the band can be found at https://www.facebook.com/werewolf80s