Candy Coated Evil: Dad fits right in to daughters' band

People are always telling Lexy and Syd Schlemer they need to find a younger drummer for their rock band, Candy Coated Evil.

But the sisters have no intention of replacing Dad Phil Schlemer.

"This is a family band," said Lexy, 23, of Holiday Shores, who sings and plays guitar.

She thinks fans not only enjoy the music, but also the comical father-daughter banter.

Phil and Syd like to give Lexy a hard time for being bossy.

"I'm the slave driver," Lexy admits. "I'm the pusher. I'm the mouth. I'm the one who's always harping on getting gigs, writing songs, practicing and taking it to the next level.

"My nickname is Axl (as in Axl Rose of Guns N' Roses) because I'm a pain in the a--."

In real life, Lexy is a Madison County Circuit Court deputy clerk with a marketing degree from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.

Syd, 22, lives next door to Lexy with her parents. She's the band's bass player, vocalist and "wild card."

"You never know what's going to come out of her mouth," Phil said. "It doesn't matter if we're in a room full of nuns, she'll say her piece."

Syd also is known for her armful of tattoos and long red hair with purple, blue and green highlights. She drives an ambulance with a picture of Alice Cooper.

"I used to work for a haunted house," said Syd, who is studying graphic design at Lewis and Clark Community College. "I did special-effects makeup."

Phil, 57, is the "cool dad" who has been playing drums since grade school.

The girls love and respect him, but that doesn't exempt him from teasing.

"He's a Bee Gee," Lexy said. "He has the highest pitched voice out of all of us."

One of Candy Coated Evil's trademarks is throwing out oven mitts to audiences. They like to be different.

Some people are surprised to learn band members don't smoke, drink or do drugs. Phil and his wife, Tina, met through Alcoholics Anonymous, and their teetotalling has rubbed off on the girls.

"We're the most crazy sober band there is," Lexy said. "We're enough to handle without it."

The Schlemers definitely like to joke around and have a good time. Laughter helped them cope with news this spring that Syd had salivary gland cancer.

Doctors removed a Stage 1 lump from behind her jaw. Her prognosis is good.

"It's terrifying when you hear that about one of your kids," Phil said. "I don't care how old they are, they're still your babies."

Candy Coated Evil formed in 2005. They mix original songs with covers, ranging from Alice Cooper to the B-52s, GWAR to Judas Priest, Aerosmith to Etta James, Cher to the Misfits.

"We play 'rockametalbluesabilly,'" Syd said, meaning all kinds of music. "That's the genre we've been using."

For the first five years, the band gained exposure by entering their own float in the Edwardsville Halloween Parade.

Today, they perform about once a month at private parties, bars and festivals.

"This is still fun for us," Lexy said. "It's not a money-making opportunity. We like to make money, but we have other jobs. We (play music) because we enjoy it."

Phil owns Schlemer Auction Service. His wife and daughters help with the business.

Tina and Syd also run Walt and Nel's Emporium in Edwardsville. It's named after Phil's deceased parents, who were prominent real-estate agents.

Walt played upright bass and led the Walt Schlemer Orchestra.

"The first time I ever played in public, I was about 5 years old," Phil said. "My father's band was playing at the Prairietown Homecoming, and the drummer let me play cymbals all night with a brush. It was quiet. I couldn't cause any harm."

Phil continued with school and garage bands and later a Coast Guard band in California before leading the Phil Schlemer Band from 1981 to 1992.

He returned to the stage nine years later to compete in the Route 66 Festival talent show with his daughters. They won with the song "Mony Mony."

"We won 100 bucks," Lexy said. "That was our first paying gig. It was like $33 apiece."

Today, Candy Coated Evil practices in a converted garage with bright red walls, a shiny black piano and posters of colorful characters ranging from Frankenstein to The Joker.

Tina serves as photographer, roadie, hair stylist and cheerleader.

"I love it," she said. "I love music in general, and they just have talent. But I'm basically a shy person, so I'm not in the middle of it. I'm behind the scenes."

Band highlights have included competing in a 2006 battle of the bands at Mississippi Nights in St. Louis.

The Schlemers also liked opening for Canadian blues guitarist Anthony Goins in February at the Wildey, Edwardsville's renovated movie theater.

"I saw 'The Mummy' there, and I was so scared, I threw up," Phil said. "That was the place to go when I was a kid. It was only 50 cents to get in."

Today, Phil is taking his musical career places he never would have gone if not for his daughters' influence.

"Sometimes they nearly kill me they're playing so fast," he said. "It's pretty cool, though. I like to learn."

The band's next show is at 6 p.m. June 26 at the Fubar in St. Louis, opening for Wednesday 13. Tickets cost $12 to $15. For more information, call 314-289-9050.