B & W Photos courtesy of Adan Cedillo / Flier by Kaia Bellanca Beggs
David Tejas is the new lead singer of The Casualties now for two years running. He’s been on tour alongside the The Casualties for fifteen years with his other band Krum Bums, and his newer project Starving Wolves. Huzzah for the new guy! Read that story below.
“I wish I could give you a wild story and a fight and an argument that happened and in life you kind of realize this shit. Sometimes things just fizzle out,” explains Tejas (whose family name is Rodriguez.) “[Jorge’s] much older than us and was tired of being on the road. He has a kid and wife in New York… There’s nothing heavy I could say about it, and I think that was the biggest blow to the guys. I think they were surprised he showed up to the last show he played.”
Former Casualties frontman Jorge Herrera left amidst a slough of sexual assault allegations which led to a small boycott of the band, and stories being spread from city to city carrying the weight of disappointment which for everyone involved entailed a lot of cleaning-up to do.
“The main thing we have to understand is that everybody has the right to say how they feel.”
He recalls being confronted by two women after a Riot Fest show who upon realizing he was the new lead singer of The Casualties then had a brief, open conversation with him and in the end parted ways on agreeable terms. I think they were surprised that I wanted to listen, and wasn’t like, ‘Get out of here! I don’t believe your story.’”
“I’m not saying it’s your job, but in this day and age with computers you are obligated to be open, because people want to know,” David says while sitting at Tiki Loco Coffee and Tacos – a vegan restaurant across from Three Links where The Casualties are scheduled to play a sold out show with Blot Out (Dallas punks to add to your radar), and Strung Out.
“That’s the first time I’d been hit with any of this boycott shit.” He says, shooting his espresso and taking a sip from his bottled smoothie drink.
Fans/people have taken kindly to Rodriguez, and especially those who remember him from Krum Bums know that he’s “open-minded and here to listen to the good shit as well as the bad they have to say… The one thing I’ve heard over and over from the audience [is] ‘Now there’s four people in this band. Before it was Jake, Meggers, and Rick out there in the audience talking…’ Before the show. After the show. You’ll see me cracking up with people in the middle of the set because there’s people I haven’t seen in sixteen years!”
“The worst thing anybody has said was, ‘It’s never going to be the same,’ and that’s true. It will never be the same because I’m not Jorge. Here’s a gold star. You’re a fucking genius.” Don’t let his openness fool you. As if his street punk attire and foot-tall mohawk weren’t signifying enough, Dave Tejas has got a neat little edge to him.
He describes the demise of his old band Krum Bums, who incidentally recently played two well-received reunion shows in their hometown of Austin, TX. “That was the first time in a long time that we really missed each other. We grew up in a van and did lots of drugs and partied so hard that the world grew outside of the van and we never did. When we stepped out ten years later we were still little kids, and we were fighting, like, physically fighting all the time.”
Rodriguez describes an “organic” transition period from then till now. Being a long-time member of The Casualties “family”, he and the band have already had it out on the road. Wicked parties, hangovers, and disagreements – all entanglements which come about naturally but are necessary to overcome for any working relationship to thrive.
“To be honest,” he adds, “it’s not that I didn’t want to, and it’s not even the pressure of the big shoes [to fill] because I can have fun doing anything; but to remember all the lyrics, and to be able to give the energy – and for lack of a cooler term – the performance and power that that music needs. That was hard, but the transition was really smooth.”
His hard work has apparently paid off as he says certain fans to whom The Casualties music resonates heavily, having been aided in recovery or by finding a constant in times of loss, have encouraged David in his efforts, proclaiming, “I know that you’re new but the energy you’re putting into it reminds me of that feeling.”
Being of creative restless mind, to which Rodriguez claims he is never quite satisfied, it was urgent that he be able to write songs in being a full-fledged member of The Casualties. “I can’t be a karaoke singer.” He goes on, “It’s important to me that I stay grounded with the audience and I need to feel grounded politically and socially.” He reports that the band has been nothing if not supportive and, “I like to think that even though I’m writing the lyrics, that we inspire each other. I couldn’t be happier with the guys in this band…They want me to do my thing”
Tejas wrote all the lyrics on The Casualties latest album Written in Blood (2018, Cleopatra Records) except for “Fucking Hate You” where bassist Rick Lopez gets the credit. A couple of this writer’s favorites are “Ashes of My Enemies” and “Smash”.
“I love ‘Smash’ too! It’s the Pogo-y song which is fun to do.” Inspiration came from Blanks 77, Quincy Punx, and early Lower Class Brats. “It’s good to have a little bit of balance because there’s a lot of seriousness in that record.”
The Casualties have hit the road hard, playing over 200 shows since the emanation of a “new era” at Rodriguez’ inception – Fuck You We Rule (2017). “We started tour October 27 of last year with Goat Whore on the Metal Alliance Tour. Then we went directly over to Europe. We came back and went on tour with Bouncing Souls, and went back to Europe, and now we’re on tour with Strung Out.”
Until Death: Studio Sessions is a live in the studio album just released featuring Dave singing old crowd-pleasers.
“I’m tired. But that’s a good problem to have. This is what I love. You could put out a new record and be tired at home, but I’m tired on the road. It’s good.” They’ve toured all year, and it’s about time for an intermittent slow down in order not to burn out his audience as Tejas puts it, dodging contemplation of himself wearing down, “I’m willing to see how far I can go.” He laughs.
Starving Wolves will pick back up in The Casualties absence, self-releasing a new album True Fire and hitting the road in support of that. Written in Blood fans can ease their worries, though. Tejas relates that he and Jake Kolatis, The Casualties guitarist since 1993, are always down to write, and puts an approximate date for new material at around 18 months – right after another heavily anticipated year of touring, or so.
The finalization of Herrera’s days as lead singer for The Casualties came with a stipulation of the band having to proceed with not one of its original founding members. So, is this still The Casualties? A new barroom question for the ages.
“You start a band and you get your uncle to play guitars and your friend plays bass, but you have the vision. Then your uncle doesn’t have time, the neighbor has a heroin addiction, and your best friend gets his girlfriend pregnant or whatever, and you get different members. That’s kind of what happened to The Casualties.When Jake joined, and then when Meggers (Mark, drummer, 1995) joined, that’s when they started rolling. Then when Rick joined (bassist, 1998) it was a full-on machine going. That’s my point-of-view…”
“I look at this as a fucking cool opportunity that I get to do,” he exclaims. “You can leave something with a negative thought or you can look at it as a positive experience.”
At 41, Dave Tejas has been part of The Casualties touring family for nearly half his life, and at least half the life of The Casualties – a band that turns 30 years old next year, depending on how you look at it.
“This world is getting better, but only if we’re willing to open up with one another. I read on Facebook and Instagram, ‘This world is bullshit, this world is coming to an end,’ and I think, ‘well what do you think they were thinking about in WW2?’ It’s constant, but if you’re willing to fight and be open and make a difference, things are going to get better. And things are going to get worse. It’s like this. You could have the most perfect life in the world. Your dog is still going to fucking die. Your partner still has a chance of getting hit by a fucking car. Because your partner gets hit by a car or your dog dies – does that mean the world is shit? Well what about your neighbor, and what about this person? The world is only as good as we want to fight for it, and I want to fight for it.”
PMA, but also maintaining the balance, “Or DON’T!! You can do that, dude! I lived for years at the end of Krum Bums in a very negative spot. I thought my life was over and I was basically blacked out for two years. That was everything. It was dark. Lights didn’t work in my house. And it was this simple. One day I changed the lights in my house. One day I fucking washed my dog. One day I just cleaned up the house. And you know what, one day things were that much better than they were. And It took that little bit of effort.”
The Casualties have a few more shows with Strung Out lined up on the West Coast. You can catch Starving Wolves November 30 with Potato Pirates at The Bluebird Theater in Denver.