Puppykicker: We’re actually animal lovers

Tim Neuenschwander

For many college students, heading off to school means saying goodbye to high school buddies and old memories in the pursuit of a fresh start. For the four guys from Puppykicker though, going to the U has bonded the lifelong friends in the form of a rock ‘n’ roll band.

Growing up in the northwest suburbs of the Twin Cities, lead singer and guitarist Mike Centrella said the members have been jamming together for ages, but that it wasn’t until recently that they decided to take their show to the public.

Describing their sound as a blend of hard rock with a twist of punk, Centrella said they find their influences from groups such as Guns ‘N Roses, Social Distortion and AC/DC, but mentioned that there is at least one genre of rock that the band consciously avoids:

“We’re into anything that’s heavy and rocks, not this new-school metal crap,” Centrella says, citing Limp Bizkit as a prime example. “As far as what this industry has turned into today, you don’t really get to see real bands that are interested in playing rock and roll riffs with good guitar solos and good singing. These days it’s all about two chords and bad music, just something that sells.”

Puppykicker’s music comes off at a frenetic pace. A headbanger’s delight, it is led by guitars and vocals that define the fun of drunken debauchery and the reasons for lamenting relationships.

Matt Benson, who handles the lead guitars for the group, says that it was only natural for the friends to come together as a band since they had grown up with their instruments and each other.

“One of the greatest things is that I have known these people for so long that, no matter what’s going on, once we get up on stage I can look around and it’s the same people I’ve known my whole life just having a good time playing music,” Benson says.

Even though the name Puppykicker comes from an old song and is intended to be amusing, Benson says that they have taken some flack for the title.

“It’s just supposed to be funny. We’re not serious about it,” he says. “I always think of it as, if you think of the biggest scum bag possible, it’d be a puppy kicker. We’re actually animal lovers.”

While attending the same middle school has given the bandmates a familiarity with each other, none is as close as the familial bond between bassist Justin Dumont and his older brother, Chris.

“My brother is about three years older than I am,” Justin says of his relationship with Chris. “Basically, when I picked up the bass I was about 10 and he had been playing the drums for a while, so we’ve been messing around for about twelve years.”

In the two years since Puppykicker came together, the band has taken the stage at a number of local venues, including the 7th Street Entry, The Lab and the Terminal Bar. Drawing a predominately college-aged crowd, Dumont says that the shows stay true to the ideals of a quality rock performance.

“It’s all about having a good time and getting everyone nice and drunk and screaming along. All the fun stuff of rock and roll,” Dumont says. “There’s no raucous or fisticuffs or anything like that, but you’ll have people dancing with a fist in the air, a beer in the other hand and shouting along. That’s what you’ve got to come for.”

Even though Dumont said they don’t get paid much for the gigs, the rush of being on stage is enough of a reward to keep them playing for now. “It’s the coolest thing. I rock with my brother and my two best friends,” Dumont says. “There’s nothing like being up on stage and rocking for all the kids.”