Behind the Beat: Totally Random

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Tuesday, February 12, 2013

In the fifth season of the popular cartoon series Family Guy, there is an episode in which several members of the Griffin family are forced to take on extra jobs in order to pay for son Chris Griffin’s tuition at a private school. To do his part, family patriarch Peter Griffin begins selling “buttscratchers” at the local ball park.

While such an outlandish occupation seems totally random, the joke, consisting mainly of repeated yells of the word “buttscratcher,” works and even plays for a few laughs, a point not lost on the members of the similarly-named Western Mass punk/ska band Backscratcher.

Featuring members George Yacoub (bass), Cameron Bannick (guitar, vocals) and Mike Vuona (drums), Backscratcher calls the adoption of its name, much like the Family Guy joke above, “totally random,” and a fictional biography on the group’s Facebook page makes matters even less clear.

“Backscratcher is a fictional character, a comic book superhero created by artist Bob Kane and writer Bill Finger,” the band writes. “The character first appeared in Detective Comics number 27 [May 1939], and since then has appeared primarily in publications by DC Comics. Originally referred to as ‘Backscratcher’ and still referred to at times as ‘Backscratcher,’ he is additionally known as ‘The Caped Crusader,’ ‘The Dark Knight,’ and ‘The World’s Greatest Detective,’ among other titles.”

There is also, of course, a much simpler explanation. “Cameron just had us yell [Backscratcher] once during a cover we do and it just stuck,” the band says.

Since then, the group’s career has continued to unfold in random fashion. A first gig in New York was arranged by Yacoub before he even had other musicians to play the show with, so Bannick and Vuona played the show with him as Backscratcher. And though no album or EP with the Backscratcher name has been released, the band has recorded several songs that are available to listen to via its Bandcamp page.

The tracks “Artificial Carnival” and “Story of How We End Up Alone” each showcase Backscratcher’s love of ska rhythms, while “Call Of Judy” and “The Lonely Song” display evidence of the group’s jazz roots. A tacked-on cover of The Who’s “My Generation” is a guilty pleasure played at breakneck speed with Backscratcher’s moniker shouted partway through, and it might not be the last cover the band records.

“We may be recording on Covers for a Cure,” the group says. “It’s an album of covers benefiting cancer research.”

Backscratcher is also looking into recording an official EP, and Vuona hopes to work on a resurgence of his “metal-jazz-fusion-core onslaught known as Russian Bear.”

In the meantime, Backscratcher is available for gigs and urges those interested in booking the group to check the band out on Facebook or email Vuona via•

Backscratcher performs Feb. 21, The Elevens, 140 Pleasant St., Northampton, For more information on Backscratcher please visit and





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