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Black Valley Moon

Started in 2019 by Down By Law guitarist Sam Williams, Black Valley Moon is a guitar-centric, garage rock band. A unique musical blend of surf, rockabilly, horror punk, indie pop and goth, the band released ‘The Baleful Sounds Of Black Valley Moon’ LP and ‘Spectral Melodies’ EP as an instrumental trio before joining forces with vocalist Ray Vega. With Ray up front, they released the 3 song ‘Vampirella’ ep. Their first vocal-fronted full-length, ‘Songs From The Black Valley’, was released in the Winter of 2022. With an aesthetic and lyrical focus on drive-in horror movies and comic books, Black Valley Moon are on a quest to bring their brand of retro-inspired tunes to the world live. One show at a time.

Brooklyn Based Hardcore Act MAAFA Releases Track-By-Track Breakdown of Upcoming Debut Album “Because We Are”

NYC hardcore act MAAFA are releasing their debut full length album Because We Are this coming Juneteenth on Fuzz Therapy Records and to get you hyped for that impending release, the bad-ass Brooklynites sent over a track-by-track breakdown, giving insight into their writing process and the inspiration for each song. Read through this exclusive ‘peek […]

NYC hardcore act MAAFA are releasing their debut full length album Because We Are this coming Juneteenth on Fuzz Therapy Records and to get you hyped for that impending release, the bad-ass Brooklynites sent over a track-by-track breakdown, giving insight into their writing process and the inspiration for each song. Read through this exclusive ‘peek behind the curtain’ provided by lead vocalist and lyricist Flora Lucini whilst enjoying their latest Single ‘Welfare’ and remember to snag the LP on Tuesday!



1. “Origém (Intro) 

The word “origém” translates to “Origin” in Portuguese and it is also the name of my father, Leonardo Lucini’s (Bassist/Composer) Brazilian Jazz band which he shares with my Uncle Alejandro Lucini (Drums/Composer.) For their album, they used their grandmother, Dora Muniz’s, painting (she was a painter) as their album cover. She thankfully lived long enough for me to spend time and live with her before her passing when I was a kid. Every morning before school I would sit next to her while she painted at our breakfast table. So, the artwork in the album for the page dedicated to this song is of one of her original paintings. 

When I started MAAFA, I knew that I wanted to incorporate/reference these influences on the record and tribute my paternal family, but I also wanted to tribute my maternal family as well which leads to the music. 

Originally the song had a sample of this style of music called “Tambor De Crioula” from my mother’s hometown in the northeast of Brazil São Luis, Maranhão. Which both myself and all the women in my family grew up dancing and participating in. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get permissions for that sample in time for this release. It was going to start with that sample from Brazil into the intro with Batá that you hear on the track now, to showcase the similarities and connection of the traditions through its African origins.  

The Batá drums and rhythm on this track reminds me of the instrumentation and even some of the drum patterns found in Tambor de crioula. It’s very similar in the sense that both traditions use 3 double headed drums, “small, medium and large” that are all assigned different functions and both traditions are African Traditions brought through “THE MAAFA” to Brazil and Cuba (then to other parts of the diaspora later) and used traditionally in African traditional religious ceremonies. This was one of the ways to incorporate a tribute to my mother’s hometown as well. All the references from the album art to the actual musical styles point to my “Origins” in some way. 

I also split playing the bass on this track with my Bassist Ray Russell. He plays the majority of the bass lines on the intro and I play the Tumbão Groove in the second half of the “Batá” section in the intro. 

2. Welfare

This was the first song I ever wrote specifically for MAAFA. The lyrics really embodied where I was/still am politically and in terms of what I wanted the message of this first record to convey. 

I wrote all the songs on this album on classical/acoustic guitar because I couldn’t afford an electric one at the time. I also just write everything on acoustic LOL. 

Welfare was not intended to be an “anthem” like song but it has definitely grown to that. I was trying moreso to mash up some of the more traditional styles of Hardcore and Punk into one song while the lyrics ushered in a perspective that called out a lot of the more problematic ideologies that plagued/continue to plague both our scene and our society, seeing as how music is a reflection of culture. 

3. Deficit

The intro to Deficit was written before the song was. I had this idea for the intro after being inspired by a call and response pattern I had heard in an African Drum and Dance class in 2008. I slowed it waaaay down and translated the inspo from it into a heavier style. I had always heard Kora in the intro too and am so glad it worked out where the professor of the class, Amadou Kouyaté, who is also my friend of almost 20 years and is one of the original members of MAAFA is playing Kora in the intro. He is also playing a series of drums such as 2 Djembes, Dudunba, Sangban, Segesege and more. This same Djembe pattern repeats in the outro and slows down even more as it transitions to a more typical “beatdown hardcore” feel which is when the gang vocals start screaming “Reclaiming my time.”

I wrote the lyrics after a frustrating experience with a former colleague who kept abusing their access to me by constantly bombarding me with requests to correct their problematic behavior, specifically around racism and homophobia. They never asked me, they demanded, they never offered to pay me for my intellectual labor, they never gave me credit for said labor and the entire interaction was transactional and unwarranted. Just kind of kept messaging me over and over again until finally I had to block them.

This led me to reflect on the history of QTBIPOC interactions with folks like that, especially sense this happned during the height of social unrest around the murdering of unarmed Black folk. It remonded me of how often we all are constantly being put in positions like this to do all this labor and are expected to do it for free. 

This song was written in 2017/2018, around the time that U.S. Representative Maxine Waters (a Black Woman)  went viral for standing up to her problematic colleagues in government by “Reclaiming Her Time” during a house committee meeting.  She was coined #AuntieMaxine shortly after. The visual of a Black Woman in power stating “I’m Reclaiming My Time” from problematic “colleagues” fit perfectly with the messaging of this song. It’s really about paying BIPOC for their labor, self-advocacy, boundaries and self-care.

3. Libation

There is a theme about water here: cleansing, ritual, baptism, sacrifice, rebirth, death, legacy, tribute and worship. Libation is a reflection on the legacy of what our ancestors have left for us and what we are responsible to build moving forward as the descendants/survivors of Chattel Slavery. It’s about ancestral worship, ancestral memory, a moment to reflect on our loved ones who have passed. 

It is part poem, part prayer, part ritual and of course, part call to action.   

I wanted to give myself space to write a song both musically and lyrically where I can depart from the typical lyrical styles and song structures we find in Hardcore but while still pulling from influences like Spoken word, Reggae and Hip-Hop influenced-Hardcore. For example, Lyrics like “Black is the river now. So much flesh in the waters, the waters have changed.” Was inspired by a statistic I read that said so many African bodies were thrown overboard into the Atlantic Ocean during the middle passages/ The Maafa, that it changed the temperature of the water forever. 

Naming the song “Libation” was inspired by the history of the Black American ritual that some of us do when one of our loved ones passes away i.e. “Pour one out for our homies” and the fact that some in the States who practice that and learned that from Hip-Hop didn’t or don’t know that pouring Libation is African Ancestral Memory, it can be traced back to many of our ancestral nations on the continent as an important ritual across many religions and cultures it is also not exclusive to Indigenous African Nations but also to Indigenous Nations in the West. It has been said that for many Africans & her descendants “Nothing important happens without Libation.

I am of Yoruba (Nigerian) descent, and a lot of the lyrics reference ritual/aesthetics still present throughout my family and that can be found in some African Traditional Religions (ATR’s for short) such as Black American Hoodoo/Brazilian Candomblé, Cuban Lucumí/Lukumi etc. But also Black American Christianity/Southern Baptist + Pentecostal references. 

I wanted the overall feel to take the listener on a journey and for it to be like spoken word meets hip hop influenced hardcore in the verses then the Reggae part allows you to meditate then finally resolving on a metal/opera like ceremonial vibe that centers hope in the end. 

It was important to me to make a moment for meditation that musically centered the real, Black African tradition of Reggae. The whole song touches on the connection of the spiritual and the political being in balance for true resistance. Which we see in historical victories such as The Haitian revolution, for ex. Very rarely do I hear true stories about uprisings and revolts of enslaved Africans where we did not seek the guidance of our ancestors and the spirit world/our religions to see them through. 

All the way to the civil rights movement and how a lot of organizing happened in the church, (regardless if everyone was actually Christian or not.) So many of our diasporic African religions are practiced under the guise of Abrahamic Religions because we were forced to hide our practices during enslavement. Take the saints of Catholicism for example (i.e. where “santeria” came from and that many feel should not be the appropriate term to use) in order to avoid being murdered by slave owners because our religions were considered “savage, primitive and of the white Judeo-Christian Devil.” Our political resistance and our god(s) have always and to this day remain connected for many of us (with all due respect to our very powerful atheist siblings who fight very hard on the frontlines and some even while trying to heal from religious trauma) and this song sheds light on that. Which is what “Libation” is really about: how the spiritual and political are connected when it comes to our living, our afterlife and our fight here on earth against systemic oppression and religious (ATR) prosecution.

The breakdown pays tribute to the traditional Rastafari community I grew up around in D.C that are responsible for some of my earliest exposure to Pan-Africanism and Militant Black Liberation Politics very early on in life.

The end of the song is an extension of the meditative reggae break, but the vibe changes into a more metal influenced, almost operatic style to evoke the feeling of a ceremony/ritual chant for the hope of where we are headed as a people and that the deaths of our ancestors were not in vain, instead their legacies fuel our resistance and our “big dreams” to this day. One that factors in the entirety of our history and “The Legacy They Left Here for Us” (the very last line of the song) a lot of our traditions teach us that when we die we then are promoted to “ancestor” and have to begin our duties as an ancestors over our descendants that are still here on earth. The overall feel is about hope and how we must carry on to a better world, which is a great segue into the next song “A Luta Continua.”

5. A Luta Continua (Interlude)

“A Luta Continua” translates to “The fight goes on” in Portuguese. This interlude was an instrumental bass and percussion duet I wrote and am performing on. It is a duet featuring me playing the bass (everything you hear on this track that is not vocals or percussion is the bass. There are no guitars) and me singing/harmonizing with myself. The only other musical instruments are Traditional Brazilian percussion played by my friend Everton Isidoro who is also from Brasil. The style of music is a mix of Traditional Capoeira percussion & rhythm and the lead Bass lines were inspired by a style called Baião .

Overlayed is a sample of Councilwoman Marielle Franco’s speech (SPEECH HERE) at a hearing on violence against women in the Favelas, given about a week before she was assassinated. This interlude is to usher in the song “Filha Da Luta” that also features Afro-Brazilian Musical elements. 

6. Filha Da Luta

“Filha da luta” translates to “Daughter of the fight” in Portuguese and is a saying I saw become popular on protest signs during uprising against Bolsonaro’s election and when Marielle was assassinated. “Filha da luta” is a play on words for the insult “Filha da puta” (which translates to what in the U.S. we would say “son (Filho) of a bitch” but in this case it’s daughter(filha) of a bitch lol) activists changed it from the cuss word “Puta” to “Luta” which means fight. “Puta” is also a misogynistic slur in Portuguese for Slut/Whore. 

The song’s intro features a rhythm called “Samba-Reggae” that is very popular in Brazil during carnival especially in the northeast of Brazil so places like my mommy’s hometown and Bahia, considered the “Black state of Brazil” which has similarities we can find in some Afro-Caribbean cultures. 

My friend Everton recorded the Brazilian percussion for this song as well, he played a bunch of the traditional instruments that go along with this style like the surdo, agogo, pandeiro, atabaque and more. 

The choruses and the breakdown at the end features a rhythm that is very dear to my heart called “Afoxé”  (Here’s a video of my cover of that Afoxé song I arranged, choreographed and sang for Harry Belafonte at my Almer Mater, Berklee College of Music) which is an African-Brazilian Rhythm that my dad uses a lot in his songwriting and which has a long history with Black resistance and enslaved African uprising during the Maafa. It is also a rhythm that primarily is used in religious ceremonies and rituals in the ATR- candomblé. (Video of my uncle and friends back home in DC playing Afoxé)

I dedicate this song to Marielle every time we play it live and to all Black/Brown, Non-Cishet male activists globally that we’ve lost and whom are still here fighting and organizing. 

7. Not Your Exotic (CW: Sexual Assault) 

The inspiration for this song’s title and for some of its lyrics is the poem “Not your erotic, Not your exotic” by Palestenian-New Yorker poet, Suheir Hammad. She and I have become really good friends after I wrote this song when one of her homies happened to come to one of our shows and connected us. This poem changed my life and finally made me feel “seen” and most importantly she found the words I had such a hard time formulating over the years. It unlocked my voice about this issue, and I owe it all to her. 

The song is simple, straight to the point heavy punk rock. I wanted to write a groovy, still “Maafa” style punk song, that emphasized the lyrics more than anything else. 

The lyrics are about the violence that Women/Femme identified and presenting Black and Brown people like me face from being hypersexualized/fetishized/Other’ed etc. 

Hypersexualized for being a Black Woman, A Brazilian woman, lightskinned/mixed race presenting Woman/ for my body type etc. You name it! We’ve heard all the gross and highly offensive things “Spicy, Sassy, pretty for a Black girl, Pretty for a fat girl etc.” my darkskinned siblings have to then add colorism on top of that like “Pretty for a Darkskinned girl” or fetishized statements like “You’re the Only/first Black/Fat/Brazilian etc. Girl I’ve ever been with/liked” etc. or “why are you so Angry/Emotional/Hysterical/Crazy/Irrational/Sensitive/Moody” etc…AND the FAVORITE one they use for Black Women: “You have an attitude.”  

The album art for this song features the song title super imposed over a picture of one of the signs used to announce the auction/arrival of an enslaved Black Woman named Sarah Baartman aka Venus Hottentot who was enslaved and treated by her capturers as like a zoo animal they paraded around the world naked, on display like a circus freak show/side show so that white people can come and stare and violate at her “exotic” body. (This is a gross over simplification of her life and legacy, due to the sake of time.)

It’s wild to think this actually happened and that a body type that is extremely common amongst Black and some Brown folk (and that she and I both share similarities with) is somehow “exotic” and “freak-ish” “abnormal” or a “deformation/illness” that it needed to be literally caged and put on display. 

DISGUSTED is the first word that should come to mind, which is exactly how I feel and how many folks like me feel regularly. Sexual harassment is part of my everyday life. My safety is something I have to factor in when I get dressed, what time I leave my house, what kind of clothes I want to wear or go shopping for etc. Shopping is a lot of “Damn, I shouldn’t wear that, I COULD GET HURT.”  I have been assaulted more times than I can count, I haven’t taken the subway alone in 6 years because I was sexually assaulted on the train 3 times in broad daylight. 

I, like many BIPOC femmes, have survived sexual assault, being followed to my house, to my car, to public bathrooms, physically sexually assaulted at shows, cat-called on the street, etc.  My friends have to literally make sure I make it home all the way in the door when dropping me off in an Uber. I’m required to check in via messages with my homies as soon as I’m in the house just so they know I’m ok and they are also required to do the same. None of us drive off until everyone is inside their homes with the doors locked and accounted for in the group chat. If one of us forgets to check in, we can absolutely expect several missed calls the next morning. 

In fact some of my girlfriends and I have a group chat that we all send “I’m home” or “I’m on so and so street, with so and so, his/her/their license is…and I’m wearing…. etc.” even though we all live in different states. We all have access to our parent’s/spouses’ information, address, emergency contacts etc. and we all carry emergency contact and information cards with info like “I’m allergic to penicillin.”

Having to live like this since I was little which was taught to us by our mothers/sisters/elders/community and theirs to them and so on for survival, is absolutely normalized. And this song feels like a collective “exhale” for 2 minutes and some change that we can all take and scream all the pain and frustration we feel that is constantly being dismissed. 

NOTE: Most CisHet masculine Men and Boys NOT having to ever think about stuff like this is a type of privilege I speak about in “Welfare”: “To Inhabit your skin without fear (white privilege) / To inhabit your body without shame (Fatphobia/skinny privilege/Masculine body privilege) / To love who you want (Hetereosexual Privilege) /  TO WALK AT NIGHT ALONE (that part) / To be standing on the outside looking in / THAT’S PRIVILEGE!” 

8. For The Culture

My hometown here in the states is Washington, DC. And D.C. has its own original style of music called GO-GO that I grew up on. Go-Go and D.C. Hardcore have a lot of history together and sometimes , many many moons ago traditional Go-Go bands would play Hardcore shows.  

So this song musically is a love letter to my hometown. Go-Go, like Hardcore, has also evolved tremendously; for example, THIS is one example of what modern Go-Go can sound like with more rock influences. I love everything about Go-Go, especially all the obvious ancestral memory you see in every element, down to its own dance called “BEAT YA FEET.”

The artwork on the album for this song depicts the Bucket drummers that perform at the metro stations in DC that I also grew up listening and dancing to – also another example of ancestral memory. 

“For The Culture” is a phrase some Black folks use when we are acknowledging something that is being done strictly for the sake and the betterment of Black culture and Black people. 

The lyrics are calling out gentrification, posers and people that want to exploit how “trendy” being Black and “punk” or “alternative” is now a days all of a sudden. When most of us grew up getting beat up or harassed for listening to “White people music” and it was actually dangerous for us to “dress punk” back in the day. Oftentimes the violence came from our own people as well as racists that we faced at shows, so we caught it from both ends. But now a lot of those same people want to dress like us and study what we’re doing in our scenes cuz they think it’s “cool and trendy.”

The song was inspired from my rage against corporate “alternative music” festivals that exploit the word PUNK and the people in the community in order to chase “clout” and be trendy, when their festivals have absolutely nothing to do with our communities and do nothing but erase actual Black punks and Hardcore kids like Maafa and our sibling bands.

9. Dichotomy

This is my break up song, but you know I can’t do a break up song without making it political lol. Relationships bring out things in you in a way that only they can, because of the unique things it forces us to face when having to deal with other people in a romantic way, like during talks about the future, children, expectations etc. It will bring up your own traumas and sometimes your partner can treat you so badly that they become a trauma themselves that you’re forced to heal from. Which is in part what happened here as well: this was written after I got out of an abusive relationship.

Things like infidelity & betrayal trauma are also experiences that inspired this song. It’s my most vulnerable song & most personal.

Basically, the inspo for this song is how a break up was the catalyst to my journey with mental health that saved my life and how during that journey the issue of mental health in the Black community came up i.e. still not having a therapist or the right meds because they’re low income; how HR from Bad Brains is/was treated/talked about during his battle with mental health; and the stigma in the Black community around mental illness and seeking help, especially amongst Black men. 

My experience with depression and anxiety during this period felt like I was possessed by a demon or something really dark that had more control over me than I did so there are moments in the lyrics that reflect that down to the very last line that says, “Release Me, Please,” as if pleading with the demon to exorcise itself from my mind/body. But the song is also about healing and about taking control and responsibility for my healing which is how I reclaimed my power over the “demon.” Which is also reflected in the lyrics and in the aesthetic of the album art depicting items one would find in an apothecary to symbolize healing with medicine and healing with spiritual/religious ritual. 
My parents and I are best friends and my father is my guide post in all things “life.”  So to tribute him and how much he supported me during that time I made the song’s intro my interpretation of the intro and outro of my dad’s song “PEGA” – the sample is from the outro of the video in that link, so the Jazz sample at the end of the song is actually my dad and his band playing.

10. Blindspot 

White boys get to make angry chugga chugga music to “bitch” about the things they hate all the time and they get praised for it, even though 99.99999% of the time the things they sing about hating are people and ideas that are different than them. They also love to gatekeep Hardcore for white straight men who are hyper masculine and violent. Well, this is MY angry chugga chugga song about the things I hate the most which are problematic white boys who make chugga chugga Hardcore and are put in a position of power to control the entire narrative of who and what Hardcore is and looks like and then, being true to their nature, they cry victim and get defensive when someone calls them out on how they protect and perpetuate harmful ideologies and behaviours in our scene. Hence: DECOLONIZE HARDCORE. 

Now, I absolutely love and grew up on chugga chugga hardcore MUSIC* ( i.e. Beatdown Hardcore/ Traditional NYHC/ or my favorite as I like to call it “That Castle Heights shit” lol) so I’m not coming at the music, I’m critiquing SOME of the bands and their content, who are really the minority in the scene but because of privilege and supremacy are glamourized as not only the majority, when they’re not, but as the only “true” definition of Hardcore. As I often say, it’s “bullshiterious.” (I got that from a Black Feminist FB group) 

Decolonizing Hardcore is also about reminding Black people in our scene and those who are new to our scene that they should NEVER have to negate their Blackness to be here. Manipulate their appearnce or the way they “talk”  just to “assimilate.” That it’s about re-educating my own people about the Black history of Hardcore and Punk, that everything hardcore is and stands on comes from Black people who invented rock n roll, call and response, oral history keeping, communicating through dance without words, singalongs and pile-ups and spinkicks. 

OUR FOOTPRINTS AND EXCELLENCE ARE EVERYWHERE and in EVERY INCH OF THIS CULTURE. 

This is a house our ancestors built for us too, we are not guests here, this is part of our birthright and if anything, like any other subculture, it’s usually the descendants of our colonizers and the ones who benefit from white privilege who are the “guests.” 

Decolonizing Hardcore is about centering the QTBIPOC presence visibly and loudly and unapologetically reclaiming not just our time but our rhythms, our dances, our styles, our languages, our lands, our spaces and our scene.

NOTES
Batá Drums, Yoruba Tradition, Babalawo, Lucumi religion (aka Santeria, we do not Call it Santeria because that term is a colonial term and can be seen as offensive. The actual name of the tradition is called “Lucumi”or “Lukumi” Loo-koo-me)

The Batá drum is a double-headed drum shaped like an hourglass[1] with one end larger than the other. The percussion instrument is still used for its original purpose as it is one of the most important drums in the yoruba land and used for traditional and religious activities among the Yoruba.[2][3] Batá drums have been used in the religion known as Santería in Cuba since the 1800s, and in Puerto Rico and the United States since the 1950s.[4][5] Today, they are also used for semi-religious musical entertainment in Nigeria and in secular, popular music. The early function of the batá was as a drum of different gods, of royalty, of ancestors and a drum of politicians, impacting all spheres of life in Yoruba land.[6][7]

The drummers on Batá and Djembe for the intro song. One of them is Jabari Exum. He and our Friend Amadou Kouyate who is not only my former mentor but my former professor and one of my best friends and is an original and current member of MAAFA, he is on this album, they both were best friends with Chadwick Boseman from The Black Panther Movies (Wakanda Forever) so when it came time to make those movies Chadwick hired Jabari as choreographer, Lead Djembefola and to be his right hand man meaning every time he was on set, at a red carpet etc. Jabari, who is on this album, was playing Djembe next to Chadwick. Jabari was also in both movies in several Djembe scenes and as an extra in a few scenes in the second movie. 

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Don’t Sleep

Don’t Sleep is a hardcore band from the East Coast that features Dave Smalley (Dag Nasty, DYS, Down By Law, ALL) and members of The Commercials (Blackout Records), Junction (Art Monk Construction) and Admiral. The band has releases on Mission Two, Reaper Records, and Unity Worldwide Records

Don’t Sleep‘s sophomore album See Change is out now on End Hits Records and Deathwish Inc. The band fronted by Dave Smalley (Dag Nasty, DYS, Down By Law, ALL) recorded with 9-track LP with the Grammy-nominated team of Carson Slovak and Grant McFarland (August Burns Red, Silverstein). Check it out below and buy the record here (US) or here (EU).



Down By Law

Los Angeles punk band started by former ALL frontman Dave Smalley in 1989.

Down By Law cancel European tour

Down By Law have canceled their upcoming Euro tour. In an Instagram post, the band stated: "Lamest of news update, friends. Euro dates cancelled, for now. We’ll call it indefinitely postponed. Since we hope things return to normal, one day. As it stands, it seems people are still a little hesitant to go to concerts. The FL dates with Dave and Sam are still fully in effect. And it appears the only live show we will be doing as a full band this year is Oct 9 @newworldbrewery if you can make it."

DS Band Spotlight: Meet Sweetie, Chicago’s Local Lipstick-Punk Band

Sweetie is a Chicago-based lipstick-punk band with a femme fatale ferocity and a French influence. Voted a Top 5 Punk Band in the Chicago Reader two years in a row, Sweetie has found a niche in playing shows in the punk scene and drag shows alike, including venues such as the Metro, Green Mill, The […]

Meet Sweetie.

Joe

Bass

Birdy Vee

Guitar and vocals

Ryan

Drums

Sweetie is a Chicago-based lipstick-punk band with a femme fatale ferocity and a French influence. Voted a Top 5 Punk Band in the Chicago Reader two years in a row, Sweetie has found a niche in playing shows in the punk scene and drag shows alike, including venues such as the Metro, Green Mill, The Egyptian Theatre, Reggie’s, Cobra Lounge, Last Rites and Liar’s Club.

Dying Scene is thrilled to interview this local band and talk about drag queens, the queer community, new music releases and some hard-hitting questions that you do not want to miss.


What do you love most about being in Sweetie?

Joe: Honestly, I enjoy the spectacle of our live show. The band is always pushing ourselves to perform our very best and engage with our audience. So many rock songs are pretty simple 3 or 4-chord progressions, but it’s all about the raw power that you play those chords. And raw power is something that Sweetie brings to the table in spades!

Ryan: All the fantastic folks! Making friends with all these incredible bands, venues, and not to mention Birdy and Joe has been an absolute pleasure.

Birdy: I love the wide variety of opportunities to express myself creatively. Writing music is one of my favorite creative outlets, and it is an even bigger high when you take that song you wrote and perform it with your bandmates for the first time. The feeling of that tiny idea turning into such a big sound gives me goosebumps! Also, I ADORE performing. I really love being on stage and interacting with the crowd.

I also love finding new and creative ways for Sweetie to perform. We often perform in spaces that can be considered atypical for a punk band. We’re the house band for the Rocky Horror Picture Show in Dekalb and have performed at countless drag shows. I really like to find ways to take the idea of the typical punk show and elevate it: collaborating with a different variety of artists and performers and giving it that variety show feel.

I also love the connections I have made with people in the scene! I have made some really wonderful friendships with other musicians and performers in the scene, many of whom have been so supportive in so many ways. Sweetie would not exist today without the care and support of these people. AND I LOVE connecting with new people at our shows. I am a huge people-person and love to meet new folks.


How would you describe the music you typically create?

B: If Edith Piaf was reborn as a punk musician, that would be Sweetie. Our music is hyper-emotive, almost to a fault, and is often about love and longing through a female lens, with nods to subculture, queer culture, and the underworld nightlife. All just completely smeared in red lipstick.


Ryan, you were a music major with a heavy background in jazz music…did you ever picture you’d be playing in a glam lipstick punk band?

R: Well, I knew some type of rock band was inevitable, as that’s what came first in my life. I’ve been a jazz guy since high school, and I think that’s really influenced the way I play all styles of music in terms of style, phrasing, improvisation, etc.; so as far as the punk aspect goes, I see the jazz background as an asset to my playing. As far as the “glam lipstick” aspect goes, that’s a new one for me but I’m diggin’ it!



Birdy, you spearheaded the amazing local music fest Hands Off Our Fest (H.O.O.F.), can you tell me more about it, and will we expect it to come back in 2024?

B: Hands Off Our Fest is a music festival celebrating the women, femmes, and thems of the Chicago punk scene, featuring a drag show consisting of some of the area’s finest drag queens, kings, and things. I created this festival to help the women, femmes, thems, and queer folks in the local punk scene to bond with one another, network, and to create space. I have often felt stifled and uncomfortable as a woman in the punk scene, and the feeling can be very isolating. Also, there are so many local femme and queer acts locally that so often get overlooked and replaced with these cis-male fronted bands. I wanted to create a fest to celebrate these amazing talents and voices, while also just having as much fun as possible. The festival was such a success and every time I bump into a fellow HOOF performer when out and about, it’s always such a treat! I’ve definitely made many new friends as a result, and I ABSOLUTELY want to keep this festival going in the years to come. You can DEFINITELY expect HOOF to return in 2024.


Joe, you use an electric bass for your other bands but an upright bass for Sweetie. Any reason why?

J: One of the most important things that I have learned as a hired-gun/studio musician is that you should always serve the song. While there is definitely a level of flash to showing up to a rock gig with an instrument almost matching the size of the drum set, my intention is not to draw away from the songs and compliment them the best I can. I originally joined the group as a “fill in” for a few gigs for the band. When I was sent over demos and videos to learn the songs for these upcoming shows, Birdy was playing a 335/semi-hollow style guitar. This sound instantly brought me back to the classic rockabilly and Elvis records that I loved as a kid, while still being punk rock!

Of course, I showed up to the first band rehearsal/audition with all the songs learned on the electric bass, but I asked about what Birdy thought about me playing upright the next time we got together. I’m pretty sure that her response was, “I’ve never thought about how that would sound, but sure”. I fully believe that she was thinking that I was planning this only for the upcoming show to make it a large surprise spectacle, not that I was dead serious about taking the bass role on this instrument. I also don’t think this instrumental change took too much convincing after hearing it in application and has absolutely shaped some of our own Sweetie sound (even if Birdy changed over to her Flying V guitar).


At your show at The Metro with The Lawrence Arms, you brought out a drag performer (who was fantastic!) and I’ve noticed Sweetie does a lot of stuff related with drag performers. Any reason why?

B: That was my drag mother, Sindy Vicious! Since really early on, Sweetie has been collaborating with drag performers as often as we can. It all started out when we had a residency at a queer comedy variety show called T-Time at the Comedy Shrine (Rest in Peace Comedy Shrine). This was run by Penelope Torres and was a quarterly variety show that featured queer stand-up comedy, drag performances, and music by Sweetie, the resident band for this event. At our very first show, we met drag performer Sindy Vicious, who later approached me with an idea for a music video for our song ‘Devil Girl’. Her and I immediately began working together and this formed a creative collaboration and friendship that has persisted ever since. I am actually in the Haus of Vicious now (a Haus being a drag family in the community) and Vicious is where the Vee in Birdy Vee originates! She directed and edited the video for Devil Girl, Mamma, as well as the music video for our new single, Showgirl. The video also features drag performer and my dear pal, Kai Valentine. I love performing and collaborating with the drag community and hope to continue to do so in the years to come!



You are about to release a new single! What’s the inspiration behind the song?

B: The new single is called ‘Showgirl’, and there is so much inspiration behind this song. Firstly, the title is a nod to the movie Showgirls (1995) which is one of my favorite cult films of all time (after the Rocky Horror Picture Show, of course). At the time that I wrote the song, I was starting to feel the isolation and frustration that can come with being a performer. You are putting your whole heart and all of your energy into this thing, pouring your guts out on stage, and then when it’s all over, what’s left? The song also parallels a relationship that is in the same vein- something that you are pouring your heart into and from which you are getting very little back. But in the song, there’s also that tone of resilience, with a focus on women in the music industry. The stress that women in the music industry are under, and well as the constant criticism that they face can be shattering. The statement of ‘this will not break me’, which a lot of times is easier said than done, helps the song end on a high note. Ultimately, ‘Showgirl’ makes it through and comes out stronger in the end.

When can we expect the next album?

B: The new album is called La Vie en Rouge (which means Life in Red), which is a reference to Edith Piaf’s ‘La Vie en Rose’. The song La Vie en Rose is about being in love and seeing ‘life in pink’. The idea of La Vie en Rouge takes that idea but intensifies it. When you’re seeing life in red, there is passion, there is rage, there is fire. That is what I’m trying to channel in this album. Also, Sweetie’s most recognizable color is red, so the album title is a nod to that as well. We are so proud of this album and it is projected to come out in June 2024.


Now for the hard-hitting questions…would you rather fight one horse-sized duck or 100 duck-sized horses?

J: While I would ideally not like to cause any harm to these proposed majestical creatures. My gut instinct would be to choose the 100 duck-sized horses to see if we may be able to reach some sort of diplomatic resolution without violence. But on the other hand, a horse-sized duck head would look pretty sweet mounted over a fireplace mantle…

R: Horse-sized duck is out of the question. I’m already afraid of geese and they’re not much larger than ducks. On the other hand, what’s a duck-sized horse gonna do? Kick me? Okay.

B: Do I get some sort of weapon? I’m pretty sure I could fight off 100 duck-sized horses with a broom or a hammer or something. But one horse-sized duck? They’ve got all those little teeth and they can fly and hunt you down… But then the 100 duck-horses could kick you to death with their little hooves. If I get a weapon, I’ll choose the little duck-sized horses.

Lastly, if you went on a national tour, how many pairs of pants would you bring with you?

J: My serious answer would probably be 3 to have a solid rotation, but I would be an advocate for shorts (weather dependent) to require less fabric to dirty up and for a higher level of comfort.

R: We don’t believe in that sort of thing.

B: No.


Anything else you want us to know?

B: Women, femmes, thems, and queer folks in the punk and alternative communities need to take up more space in our scene. Keep punk rock queer.



Check out the gallery below for more live photos of Sweetie and be on the look out for their new song release and album!


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DS Exclusive: Already Dead unveil punked-up version of classic labor protest song, “Bread And Roses”

Happy Friday, comrades! Today’s Dying Scene Exclusive is not only timely, but it’s for a song and a cause that are near and dear to my heart. We’re fired up to bring you Boston’s Already Dead doing their take on an old classic. The song is called “Bread And Roses”, and in its original format, […]

Already Dead’s Dan Cummings w/ Bread & Roses Festival organizer Felipe Collazo

Happy Friday, comrades! Today’s Dying Scene Exclusive is not only timely, but it’s for a song and a cause that are near and dear to my heart.

We’re fired up to bring you Boston’s Already Dead doing their take on an old classic. The song is called “Bread And Roses”, and in its original format, it’s a 100+ year old hymn and poem dedicated to the women and children striking for better working conditions in the old mill city of Lawrence, Massachusetts. Eugene Debs himself referred to the “Bread & Roses Strike” as “the most decisive and far-reaching ever won by organized labor” at the time. This version is Already Dead’s punked up version, which is especially fitting given the band’s roots in Massachusetts’ blue collar trade unions. Here’s what Dan Cummings, who’s not only Already Dead’s vocalist and guitarist but is also a union pipefitter, had to say:

“It aligns with what I hope Already Dead projects as an ethos. And that’s standing up for yourself and for your fellow people and to fight for what is fair. In my opinion, there is evidence of that in all class struggles.”

I know that I tend to go a little heavy on promoting bands from the Boston area, but this one is especially cool to have a part in premiering because I spent close to a decade working in downtown Lawrence, give-or-take a hundred yards or so from the Washington Mill, which was the epicenter of the Bread & Roses strike, so I know the area and the story and the people and the cause very well. And oh-by-the-way, if you’re in New England anyway, you can catch Already Dead at this year’s annual Bread & Roses festival in Lawrence on Labor Day, September 4, alongside fest director and collaborator Felipe Collazo (who also appears on the track). 

Check Already Dead’s “Bread And Roses” below on Bandcamp or Spotify!

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DS Exclusive: Frank Casillas on The Hardyville Stranglers, leaving Voodoo Glow Skulls behind, Arizona, and Bicycles.

Frank Casillas founded Voodoo Glow Skulls with his brothers, Eddie and Jorge Casillas, along with Jerry O’Neill. He left the band in June 2017, making the announcement during a VGS performance at Long Beach, CA venue, Alex’s Bar. DS: Before we get to your new project, let’s go back to where you left off with […]

Frank Casillas founded Voodoo Glow Skulls with his brothers, Eddie and Jorge Casillas, along with Jerry O’Neill. He left the band in June 2017, making the announcement during a VGS performance at Long Beach, CA venue, Alex’s Bar.


DS: Before we get to your new project, let’s go back to where you left off with the Voodoo Glows Skulls. After so many years leading that band, how did the decision to leave come about at that moment in time?

FC: Well, I didn’t really plan a time and place to leave the band. It just kind of happened at a time when we were doing some weekend gigs here and there along the west coast, close to home, and some incidents that had occurred from within the band (ongoing arguments within the three brothers, differences between other band members, etc.) during this time just prompted me to just quit on the spot.

DS: How long did it take to make the decision to leave? Was there anything in particular prompting it?

FC: I had actually been thinking about leaving the band for at least five years prior to me actually doing it. For me personally, I was just burned out on the whole thing. We weren’t really being productive with writing new material, and it seemed like it was taking forever to record a new album. I didn’t really like the direction of the new material either. It just seemed like we were getting further away from the VGS style and sound that we were known for. Since we started the band, I was pretty much the main guy handling just about everything in the band business wise since day one, even when we had high profile management and everything. There’s always got be at least one person speaking for the band and making decisions on behalf of the band, and that was me for the longest time. Not only that, but I wore many hats besides just being the front man. I drove and maintained the vehicles, I was the tour manager, I organized and ordered the merch on top of also being a performer in the band. I also had a family with children, and I sacrificed a lot just to keep the band going when other guys in the band didn’t really care about anything else but playing and getting paid. We were constantly on the road being ran by a booking agent and it just became very routine. After a while, it just sucked everything out of me. Especially the creativity, and productivity aspect. I just wasn’t into it anymore and I felt like the band wasn’t really being productive and progressive like we used to be. I didn’t exactly leave on the proper terms and that struck a nerve with the remaining members in the band and some fans. But then again, I have never really heard of anyone giving a two weeks’ notice when they leave a band. My gut instinct just said it was time to leave and focus on me personally.


DS: Was there ever a time, either in the immediate aftermath of leaving the band or in the years since where you have had regrets about that decision or doubts that it was the best thing for you?

FC: “I helped start this band with my two younger brothers, and a neighborhood friend who was pretty much considered a brother. It obviously wasn’t an easy decision to leave after 27+ years. We accomplished a lot for just being a high school backyard party band that happened to tap into the youth of that era and play music that suburban kids could relate to. It was something that came natural to us, and we were just a product of our environment. It was hard for sure, and yes, for the longest time there were some mixed feelings of regret and guilt for just leaving like I did. But I also had my mindset of just moving on with my personal life and pursuing just me for the sake of the long-term, personal satisfaction, and personal well-being.


Photos bv Stoned Spider Photography

DS: Is there anything you miss about being on the road with the VGS / with your brothers specifically or just being on the road and in a band?

FC: I miss the fans! I don’t really miss the travel aspect, or anything related to that. When you’re young, that shit is cool! But as you get older, it gets harder to accept some of the accommodations that are handed to you on tour. Of course, I miss my brothers. But at the same time, I can’t help but feel some sort of betrayal by them. I fully understand that I didn’t exactly leave on the best of terms. But I wasn’t okay mentally and physically and instead of being concerned about me possibly not being okay, they pretty much slandered me on the band’s social media and made me look an unstable person to our fans. I think that I deserved better than that regardless of the situation. I had done so much for our career, and I feel like my efforts and sacrifices as not only the front man, but a managing member went totally unappreciated and disrespected after all these years.


DS: How aware were you of the reactions from the fans of the band?

FC: The fans have always been great to me. Of course, I got some mixed reactions after leaving. Especially after I was blasted on the band’s social media for quitting. But I still get fans asking me to return. I get feedback from fans telling me that that it’s just not the same anymore without me, etc. There are also a lot of ex-fans who wrote me off. But that is to be expected, I guess.


DS: You spoke of great legacy when you announced you quit the band, how would you describe that legacy?

FC: We started off as just kids learning how to play instruments along with our vinyl records. We managed to tap into suburban kids and relate to their lifestyle through music that was pretty much inspired by our environment. This came at a time when we didn’t exactly have social media or the internet at our fingertips to help get exposure. It was all done organically and by word of mouth for the most part. Not only that, but we managed to transcend underlying racial boundaries and write bilingual ska/punk songs that Mexican, Chicano, and Anglo-American kids could relate to equally. We managed to do that for at least a couple of decades strong. If anything, I’m proud and happy that the band is still going strong without me. They have managed to reinvent themselves with a new front man and continue with their own version of VGS. It’s a different band for sure now.


Frank Casillas by Photo by Dana Krashin

DS: Please tell us about Tiki Bandits. What was it like to go from VGS to the TB? What were some of the most interesting differences you found, and any similarities?

FC: Tiki Bandits were never really a serious project for me. I started TB with some local friends in Arizona while I was still very active with VGS. It was just a side project for me, playing “punked up” cover versions of 50’s & 60’s tunes and an opportunity for me to stay somewhat creative and keep my musical chops up. I never really compared the band to VGS, as it was strictly just another musical outlet for me to just have fun and play gigs with no strings attached to a record label, a booking agent, or the industry in general. Sadly, we no longer exist as of 2021.

DS: Please tell us a bit about the origin of The Hardyville Stranglers.

FC: The Hardyville Stranglers are my newest and current band that came together in 2022 between myself and some local friends who share musical interests in Punk Rock music. Nick Fielding, our bass player has a strong punk rock musical history and played in the band Narcoleptic Youth for 6 years before moving out to the desert like me. The guitar players Steve Blanks and Bobby Narmaki have musical roots in the So Cal punk scene and have also played in several local bands. Jose Ibarra, our drummer has played in some local area bands and was also my drummer for Tiki Bandits. Somehow, we all ended up meeting and coming together musically out here in our area where we all reside. We all live in the Bullhead City area, and Hardyville is what Bullhead used to be called back in the old Wild west days. That’s how we came up with the name of the band.

DS: How much, if any, of your work in this band has been affected or influenced by the decades with the VGS?

FC: I don’t really think about that to be honest. My experience obviously helps with logistical things like organizing stuff for the band. But we don’t really consider ourselves a real working band or anything. We’re just having fun making music without any boundaries. It’s a breath of fresh air being able to play music just for fun and without any expectations from anyone. It’s reminiscent of when I first started playing with VGS, and that makes it fun and exciting for me again.


DS: Are there any songs on this record you personally connect with.  “Nobody Likes” for instance, is a song I think we all can relate to at different points of our lives.  Even if our self-perception may not be accurate.

FC: “Nobody Likes” is just a song poking fun at how it’s so easy for people to just complain about anything nowadays on platforms like YELP or leave negative reviews, and just be a Karen or whatever. No real strong meaning behind it. Just a stupid observation, I guess. Lol

DS: How did some of the other songs on the EP come to fruition?

FC: Nick our bass player had some songs in his back pocket that he wrote years ago, and we brought them to life. That motivated us to start figuring out our own sound and go from there, to write a few of our own tunes collectively as a band.

DS: What was the inspiration for this album?

FC: Just a group of four guys getting together on Sunday evenings to play music and see what comes out of it. That’s really all it is!

DS:  What are you looking forward to with this new group record.

FC: We really don’t have any set goals or anything. We can’t really tour extensively or anything because guys have jobs and families to feed. We are doing this just for fun and if we happen to gain some sort of popularity or success with it, I don’t think anyone in the band will be upset.

DS: What has the early reception to the record and the Hardyville Stranglers been?

FC: The reception has been great so far. We all commonly agree that punk rock has gotten soft nowadays. Punk used to be aggressive, anti-establishment a rough around the edges. Now it just seems polished, sensitive, and woke. So that pretty much influences us to just write stuff off the top of our heads and not really care about how it’s going to be received. So far, I think that it’s been working in our favor. We have gotten some good reviews claiming that we are a breath of fresh air for the punk scene.


DS: What is in the immediate or long-time future for The Hardyville Stranglers as far as you know right now?

FC: We are just playing locally right now with no real expectations or plans. Luckily with social media and the internet we can share our music to a much broader audience without having to go on tour or anything else. However, we are not opposed to doing a weekend here and there or traveling if the opportunity is there and most importantly, worthwhile for us.

DS: How has age and family/having children affected your approach to performing and all the related elements of being in a band.

FC: It gets harder as you get older. I don’t see how some of these guys are still out there doing this fulltime well into their 50’s and 60’s. I had small children and a family for a majority of my career in VGS and that made it extra hard to be gone all the time on tour. That was the hardest thing to deal with.

My kids are grown now, and I went through a divorce. I am just recently married again, and I have two step daughters that I am helping raise. I couldn’t see myself being able to leave on tour nowadays. Not only because of my new family, but my business as well.

DS: The final lyrics to “Disappear” are “Don’t Give A Fuck If I Live Or Die, I’ll Drop a Gear and Say Goodbye.” Again a sentiment it seems many people have had at some point in their lives. How do you relate to this sentiment, and does it bring you back to any specific moments or feelings in your life?

FC: I am and have always been a motorcyclist and enthusiast. I currently own three motorcycles and I live in a place where outlaw bikers are for real and part of the history here.  That song is a biker song mainly, but it is also highly relatable to other non-bikers, I guess. I never really thought it that way to be honest.


DS: Why Arizona? Specifically, Bullhead? What went into the decision to leave CA for AZ?

FC: I left my hometown of Riverside, California for Bullhead City, Arizona in 2000 mainly so my kids could grow up in a safer and less influenced environment. I felt like California was just getting overpopulated, dangerous and super expensive. Pretty much how it is today! In my eyes, Bullhead City is paradise and still far enough, yet still within arm’s reach of my roots in California. We have the desert, mountains, the Colorado River running through town, and you just have more access for outdoor, recreational opportunities here in general.

DS: What are the differences you have experienced between the two states and the similarities. Same goes for Riverside v Bullhead?

FC: There is quite a bit of similarities between the two here. Most residents here have roots in California and have just ended up here to live by default. I have felt more sense of freedom living in Arizona and it seems like there are far less restraints living in Mohave County. The cost of living here is generally less and you don’t have as many outside influences living in the desert. Even though, things are rapidly changing because of the sudden high influx of people leaving California and moving here. It still has that small town and tight knit community vibe.

DS: You operate a bicycle shop – Rad Stop. Why bicycles?

FC: I grew up on my bicycle and they have always been a passion of mine.

DS: Please tell us about the business? Is there a story behind the founding of the business?

FC: I  got my 4-year-old son involved in BMX racing as alternative to organized team sports. He took a liking to it immediately, he became very good at it, and when the local BMX track here in town opened, we had already been racing for a few years in nearby Lake Havasu. Parents at the newly opened track saw that my son was already advanced in the sport, and they started approaching me about helping them get their kid set up with the proper bicycle and equipment. After a few years of doing that, I realized that there was a need for a credible and reliable bicycle shop in the area. The rest is history, and I have been the longest and only operating shop here in my immediate area and within a 60-mile range for over a decade.

DS: Have there been fans of yours not aware that you run this business, come to the shop as customers and what has the reaction been if that has happened?

FC: Yes, it happens almost daily, and I have even had fans come through on vacation just to stop by, say hello, take photos and get an autograph.

DS: How often do you get out on a bicycle, and when did you learn? Do you remember your first bicycle and what kind was it? Banana seat, as was mine?

FC : I honestly do not ride a bicycle very much at all anymore for leisure or recreation. However, I test ride customer bicycles daily after repairing them. But I spend so much time working on them, that it’s the last thing I want to do on my limited spare time. My first real bicycle was a Schwinn Stingray with a banana seat and a stick shifter that I got at the age of 10.

DS: What went into opening this shop up and running it?

FC:  I opened my shop on a shoestring budget of one thousand dollars and a plan to set myself up with a backup plan to have something to fall back on after my musical career. I took on a job as a bicycle assembly technician for Kmart during some downtime with VGS and gained most of the knowledge from that, and a friend that was already in the business. I was running my shop via satellite while still actively touring with VGS and relying on others to help. It just never really got off the ground until I decided to leave the band in 2017 and pursue it fulltime by myself.

DS: Is there anything running a business has in common with leading a band.

FC: Yes, you must have leadership, management, and communicative skills to run any business. Being the leader and main negotiator for the band most certainly taught me how to be self-employed and take risks involved with being successful.

DS: You also ride motorcycles?

FC: Oh god yes!

DS: What is your main ride currently?

FC: I currently own 3 motorcycles. I had 5 up until just recently. But my favorite is my 2000 Kawasaki Ninja ZX750R sport bike.

DS: How often are you able to ride and do you take longer trips on it?

FC: I ride at least a few times a week, weather permitting. Which is pretty much year-round here where I live.

DS: Ride solo? How often in a group?

FC: I do ride solo occasionally, and that seems to be the most therapeutical. But I prefer to ride with a buddy for safety reasons, and no more than 2-3 people because group rides can be dangerous in my opinion.


DS: Please tell us anything you want to about family life and what you like to do when away from both music and the shop.

FC: Life is uneventful and slower paced nowadays. My bicycle business is a labor of love and a passion. I get pure enjoyment seeing people react when I can get their bicycles looking nice a working properly once again. As I mentioned before, I am recently remarried, and I am thoroughly enjoying being a family man again. I look forward to Sundays when we get together at my shop to rehearse and create new music with my friends in this new band.

DS: Does your son Cid play music or shown interest in performing?

FC: My son is a very talented independent hip hop artist. He’s a finance manager for FORD and that consumes most of his life and cannot pursue his music full time. But look him up! I have been to a couple of his local shows. El Cid or NTFB, on Spotify

DS: Cid is an advanced BMX rider. Were you a BMX rider at any point in your life?

FC: I grew up riding my BMX bike in the late 70’s and early 80’s when the sport was just getting started. I was fortunate to grow up in the same neighborhood and go to school with a lot of the early pros who went on to become legendary in the sport. My son is a natural and still races at the age of 24. He is a mentor at the local track and in my eyes a local BMX legend.

DS: Thank you.

FC: Thank you.


Hardyville Stranglers performance photos by Stoned Spider Photography LV. Other Frank Casillas performance photo by Dana Krashin as indicated. All other photos courtesy of Frank Casillas.

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DS Exclusive: Jason Cruz and Howl debut new video, “Good Hands,” from upcoming album, “Wolves”

I’m pretty excited about this one, gang. Jason Cruz and Howl are about to release their very long-awaited sophomore album, Wolves! The Strung Out frontman’s outlaw folk project are slated to release the record this spring on a new label known as Liars Club, a collaboration founded by the inimitable Amigo the Devil and indie […]

I’m pretty excited about this one, gang. Jason Cruz and Howl are about to release their very long-awaited sophomore album, Wolves! The Strung Out frontman’s outlaw folk project are slated to release the record this spring on a new label known as Liars Club, a collaboration founded by the inimitable Amigo the Devil and indie powerhouse Regime Music Group. Wolves will serve as the follow-up to the band’s debut record, Good Man’s Ruin, which somehow came out nine years ago (and has been in constant rotation in yours truly’s collection ever since).

What’s even better is that we get to debut the video for the lead single, “Good Hands”! Here’s what the band’s frontman, the one-and-only Jason Cruz, had to say about the track.

This track is definitely the most ‘polished’ song on the album. I actually threw it in the trash at one point, because I had re-wrote and tweaked it so many times. Eventually it turned out to be one of the best songs on the record.

Astute viewers will notice that Howl features a retooled lineup that now includes Cruz supported by Chad Kulengoky on lead guitar, Jason Nielson on bass and Kris Comeaux on drums. Here’s what Cruz had to say about the new record:

This record was born of loss. Before the pandemic, I had lost my best friend and bass player, Chris Stein, to cancer. It took me years to start writing a new Howl record again. This new record is a reflection of me not being afraid anymore. I’ve always tried to be that way when it comes to art and music, but with Wolves I felt more free than I ever had before and just embraced it. This album is a reminder nothing ever really dies; it just turns to something else. Sometimes pain can help fuel you creatively, and in turn, guide you out of the darkness. Wolves is a record of healing, taking chances, and a new beginning.

Check out the video for “Good Hands” below, and after you’ve given it a few spins with the volume way up, check out pre-order options here.

You can also stream the Liars Club reissue of Good Man’s Ruin down below if the spirit moves you (as well it should)!

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