The Screaming Tribesmen emerged from Brisbane (Australia) in 1981, from the remnants of two bands, The Fun Things and The 31st (these bands also provided members for The Hitmen, Hoodoo Gurus and Died Pretty).
Led by singer/guitarist Mick Medew and featuring The Fun Things’ rhythm section of John Hartley on bass and Murray Shepherd on drums, the band debuted with a poorly recorded but spirited EP in 1981.
With their pals in The Hitmen spreading the word, The Tribesmen were welcomed in Sydney, and their debut single Igloo (June 1983) was the most popular Australian independent single of the year.
A Mick Medew/Ron Peno co-write carried over from The 31st, Igloo was one of the great Aussie singles of the ’80s – a cryptic, drop-dead ode to alienation (Peno’s speciality) floating on a guitar sound like a space-age heavy metal Byrds.
Live, the original Tribesmen played a modest and metallic mix of ’60s and ’70s garage-rock and pop, and included in their set covers of The Black Diamonds‘ obscure Aussie ’60s Beatlepunker See The Way and US power popper Paul Collins‘ Walking Out on Love.
By the time the band released the like-minded follow-up – A Stand Alone – it had all but disintegrated. Bass player John Hartley disappeared from sight while Murray Shepherd kept his hand in with a succession of bands before rejoining brother Brad.
This remodelled Tribesmen hit back hard with the Citadel EP Date With A Vampyre in ’85. With mentor Chris Masuak now ensconced in the band, together with ex-Lipstick Killer Michael Charles on drums and former Grooveyard bass player Bob Wackley, they were a big sounding outfit with strong hooks, lethal guitars and commercial potential galore.
While the EP’s title track was a fun throwaway homage to Roky Erickson & The Aliens, whose Two Headed Dog was a feature of their set (together with great versions of The Dictators‘ Stay With Me and Television‘s See No Evil), the spiteful and crunching Ice was definitely the pick of the litter.
With new drummer Warwick Fraser (ex-Hoi Polloi), the Tribesmen would eventually make an impact on the US college circuit in ’87 on the back of their belated debut album Bones & Flowers.
Splitting not long thereafter, Masuak rejoined Kannis in a revamped Hitmen before forming the blues-rocking Juke Savages.
Medew fought on into the ’90s with yet another new Tribesmen.