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DS Photo Gallery: Bouncing Souls and Swingin Utters from Webster Underground, Hartford, CT

If you’re like me and “of a certain age” and grew up embedded in the Epitaph/Fat Wreck Chords sound of the early 1990’s, you’ve no doubt got a special place in your heart for the Bouncing Souls and the Swingin’ Utters. And though both bands have been rather steadily plying their respective wears for thirty-ish years, unless you caught them opening for Descendents together back in 1996 or maybe at a handful of festival one-offs, you probably never got the chance to see them together. And so it was with great anticipation that the Souls announced that the Utters would be the sole opener on a quick three-day run of dates in the greater NYC area. The second of those three shows was at the tiny Webster Underground in Hartford last Saturday, and yours truly was one of the lucky ones crammed into the dimly lit glorified hallway of a black-painted-plywood walled venue for the festivities.

The Utters took the stage first promptly at 8:30pm. This three-show run opening for the Souls served as a break roughly at the halfway point of the legendary Santa Cruz band’s own eastern US headlining tour, and because there were only two bands on the bill — shoutout to two-band show bills, by the way — the Utters were afforded a longer-than-average slot. This resulted in a stellar eighteen-song (by my count) set that spanned the bulk of the band’s three-decade career. I had seen the Utters headline in New Hampshire earlier in the week and left just about as thoroughly impressed by the quartet (longtime partners Johnny Bonnel and Darius Koski joined by newest bassist Tony Teixeira and fill-in drummer Max Katz) as I had been at any time I’d seen them in the past. This show raised the bar to even loftier heights, with a varied setlist that found traditional favorites like “Windspitting Punk” and “The Librarians Are Hiding Something” joined by some of the more recent odd-tempo Bonnel-penned tracks like personal highlight “Dubstep.” Every handful of years, it seems like the Utters go through a particularly productive writing and touring phase, and based on their recent album, Peace And Love, and the two shows I caught last week, here’s hoping we’re in one of those cycles.

By the time the Souls hit the stage, the sold-out crowd had packed sardine style into the venue, and remained a frenetic ball of energy from the opening notes of “Hopeless Romantic” to the closing notes of “Night On Earth” more than an hour later. The Hartford area has been starved for good punk shows for a while – the Webster tends to draw a more metal-influenced crowd – and even though the average age was…well…clearly Souls fans from back in the day, that didn’t stop the constant whirling dervish and barrage of crowd surfers from matching the band’s energy. If you closed or eyes or at least just squinted, you’d have sworn it was 1998 all over again. “Monday Morning Ant Brigade” and “These Are The Quotes From Our Favorite ’80s Movies” and “I Like Your Mom” were fun additions to a set, and are proof that the band still maintain their goofy sense of humor amidst a set that is also chock full of anthemic rallying cries. Oh, and speaking of the band’s energy; it is not hyperbole or said with any malice to previous drummers to state that the addition of George Rebelo behind the kit equates to the most steady, rock solid lineup of the band’s three-decade career. There was obviously early scuttlebutt that they might throw in the towel when Michael McDermott left back in 2013 after a 14 year run, and boy would that have been a mistake.

Head below for our photo rundown from a night that was truly one for the books.



DS Photo Gallery: Swingin’ Utters with Gallows Bound and Michael Kane & The Morning Afters, Dover, NH

With any luck, some of you have been paying attention while something truly remarkable has been happening on the eastern half of the US and Canada for the last couple weeks. That something, specifically, is the Swingin’ Utters tour in support of their solid new album, Peace And Love.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. “Even for a master of hyperbole such as yourself, this is a new level, Stone!” You’d be correct about the first half of that statement, but dead wrong about the last. At least, that’s the overwhelming feeling I had in watching the Bay Area punk legends as they took the owned the stage at the Dover Brickhouse in Dover, New Hampshire. It was a cold, drizzly Wednesday night that saw a small crowd that gathered upstairs in the brick-and-dark-wood adorned venue that creates a vibe that’s equal parts brew pub and sports bar (especially because the flat screens showing Game Four of the American League Championship Series remained on throughout). The Utters took the stage as a four-piece, with longtime partners-in-crime Johnny Bonnel and Darius Koski joined by their newest bassist, Tony Teixeira, and by Gabe Katz, filling in on drums for Luke Ray who was away at a family reunion. In spite of the latest in what’s become a series of line-up changes, the band totally delivered from note one, in a way that’s at the very least inspiring. It might stand to reason that a setlist in such a situation would be scaled down or overly reliant on material from the new album, but that wasn’t the case. Sure Peace And Love tracks were well-represented, but tunes like “No Eager Man” and “Windspitting Punk” and “The Next In Line” and “The Librarians Are Hiding Something” were as vibrant, vital, and well-received as ever.

Support on this run (aside from three dates that find the Utters playing alongside Bouncing Souls in the greater NYC area – more on that later) came from Gallows Bound, and Michael Kane And The Morning Afters served as local opener, venturing up from Worcester, MA, for the mid-week opportunity to play alongside a venerated and influential band like the Utters. Gallows Bound, if you’re not familiar, are a five-piece from Winchester, Virginia, whose sound is delightfully hard to pin down. “Appalachian Punk Bluegrass” is what they’re billed as and is a fairly accurate description, with the acoustic-driven instrumentation and dueling vocalists (Jordan Joyes and Jesse Markle) trading duties and allowing elements of country and punk and folk and gothic undertones to meld in a unique way. Michael Kane and crew, who you may recognize as among our local favorites, are a working-class rock-and-roll band with influences that are equal parts The Clash, Tom Petty and, as evidenced by their set-closing rendition of “Born To Run,” Bruce Springsteen.

Head below to scroll through our photo gallery from the evening!

 



DS Photo Gallery: Lucero with Brent Cowles, Paradise Rock Club, Boston, MA

Lucero are no strangers to the Boston area, but it’s been a few years since they played a proper club show of this sort; 2016 saw them headlining the Copenhagen Beer Fest, last years saw them playing on a boat in Boston Harbor. At the tail end of the East Coast run in support of their latest album, Among The Ghosts, the band made a whirlwind return to the city the weekend before last, returning to the legendary Paradise Rock Club for the first time in half a decade. Lucero have played some rather legendarily raucous shows in prior ventures to the greater Boston area, and while the craziest of those days are largely in their collective rear-view mirror, the fact that the band are on a pretty great run right now and that the show took place on a Saturday night resulted in a pretty high-energy affair.

The band kicked things off with the title track from Among The Ghosts, and in rather atypical fashion for Lucero, played largely the same core set they’d been playing on most nights of this particular run (albeit without a visible setlist in the house). What it might have lacked in improvisation, though, the set more than made up for in style and variation. Of course the new album was rightfully best represented throughout, but the band’s self-titled 2001 debut and sophomore album Tennessee, released the following year, combined to make up roughly half of what we’d call the “main set.” The return to prominence of underrated songs like “No Roses No More” and the more recent “I Can’t Stand To Leave You” are particular highlights for yours truly; the latter being an example of a song that, though Nichols wrote it during a different time in his life, has taken on new meaning and in light of more recent events in his life, and perfectly connects some of the grittier musical tones of early Lucero with the family-centered lyrical content so prevalent on Among The Ghosts. And fear not, old-school fans, the night wasn’t exactly formulaic — it’s a Lucero show, after all — as the quintet mixed things up in the latter part of their set, opted to play more music instead of leaving the stage and returning for an “encore,” and caved to audience-led peer pressure by pulling out “Bikeriders” late in the set.

Support on this run came from Brent Cowles and his stellar backing band, the Foxhole Family Band. Sadly, I admittedly wasn’t all-too familiar with the Denver-based singer-songwriter prior to the announcement of his opening role on this tour. Shame on me. Though small in stature, Cowles, the son of a preacher, sings and shreds with the kind of full-bodied soul that would make Sam Cooke look down and smile. Check out Cowles’ work here.

While you’re at it, check out our photo gallery from the evening below. You can find upcoming Lucero tour dates here. Among The Ghosts, as you should be aware, was released August 3rd on Thirty Tigers.

 

 



DS Exclusive: Josh Caterer on “Into The Agony,” Smoking Popes’ first ‘original lineup’ album in two decades

Sometimes when I conduct an interview with an artist I’m a fan of, I find it best to pull out a few noteworthy quotes, craft them into a story that I find interesting, and then allow the reader to click through to read our full conversation to provide some level of context. Usually, this finds me asking the subject a number of sort-of fleshed out questions and engaging in a conversation that goes somewhat as planned, and I can almost start to write part of the story in my head as we’re talking. I try to go in with more material than I need, and don’t always get to touch on all of it. But even by my own standards, I had a lot of questions for Josh Caterer.

I’ve been a fan of seminal Chicago band Smoking Popes for the last couple of decades, So when the opportunity presented itself to chat with the band’s songwriter, frontman and principle voice about their new album, Into The Agony, I jumped, even though it came with little in the way of lead time. Given that we’ve never spoken for Dying Scene before, there’s a lot of subject matter to mine: obviously I wanted to talk about the new album, because it’s stellar and upbeat and incredibly melancholy at the same time. And obviously I wanted to talk about the changes in band dynamics that came with founding drummer Mike Felumlee’s return to the band a couple years ago after a decade out of the fold. And about their sticking with Asian Man Records. And my daughter wanted to know if he actually ever broke his arm on stage. And I wanted to ask about issues of faith and politics and punk rock, particularly in the present sociopolitical climate in this country. And about the idea that Smoking Popes seem to exist at that curious intersection of “Bands That Are Immensely Influential Avenue” and “Bands That Are Wildly Underrated Boulevard.” And maybe even his thoughts on whether or not Smoking Popes were miscategorized as a “punk” band early on, particularly when held up against some of the more noteworthy alternative bands that they came through the ranks with. And while we did touch on a few of those things, a funny thing happened on the way to the Forum.

That funny thing, as it turned out, was Judy Garland.

In hindsight, had I been paying close enough attention, I should have seen it coming. A black and white picture of Garland serves as the focal piece of the cover art of Into The Agony, and the album’s halfway point is marked by a cover of “Get Happy,” a tune first popularized by Garland in the 1950 movie Summer Stock. But Garland’s presence on this album runs far, far deeper than that. It might be presumptuous to assume that most readers of Dying Scene are primarily aware of Garland due to her iconic performance as Dorothy in The Wizard Of Oz. Perhaps unsurprisingly given the “child star” nature of the early part of her life, Garland would go on to have a career that spanned more than four decades, though she became a quintessentially tragic figure (much to her chagrin), long battling issues of an unstable home life, chaotic and at times abusive interpersonal relationships, alcoholism and substance addiction, mental health and more all while desperately trying to put on a brave, happy face and bring joy to the masses through her art.

Stylistic differences aside, that’s a profile ripe for exploration by a punk rock songwriter, especially one with a penchant for crafting poetic tales of love – albeit sometimes unrequited – and loss and hope and heartbreak all with a tremendous pop sensibility. Now rest assured Popes fans; Into The Agony is not a Judy Garland-themed rock opera, not by any stretch. While the idea of diving into the agony might be the central thread that ties the album together, it finds specific inspiration from issues that are both macro and micro, political and personal. There’s despair, for sure – these are desperate times – but there’s a trademark Smoking Popes sense of optimism present in droves, sometimes defiantly so.

With that as a bit of a teaser, I decided in this case to just let our conversation stand for itself, because I found it one of the most interesting chats I’ve had in the roughly 100 interviews I’ve run here at Dying Scene. It was challenging, thoughtful (and thought-provoking), funny, and a little melancholy. We talk about the specifics behind a few tracks, for sure, and also talk about the nervousness that comes with actually revealing the backstory to a song, thereby stripping the listener of the context they’ve provided to the song. And we of course talked a little about the band’s history and the renewed energy they’ve found since Felumlee rejoined the ranks. Head below to check out our full conversation with Josh Caterer. You can also head here to check out Into The Agony for yourself, and head here to see where you can catch the Popes on the road!



DS Exclusive: Riot Fest Recap – Day Three (Alkaline Trio, Bad Religion, Bouncing Souls and more)

Day 3 started off rocky. FEAR went on stage play the debut album “FEAR: The Record”in its entirety. Actually, they started the set with “Fuck You, Let’s Rodeo”and “Honor and Obey”from their 1995 album “Have Another Beer with FEAR.” FEAR fans will tell you that the band is, well, not exactly PC, so it was interesting how the crowd will react to the album. Well, no need to worry because singer Lee Ving changed some of the words in certain songs to be a bit more friendly. But self-censorship was only one of the problems with the set, as it seemed the band didn’t do that much practicing, with the guitarist struggling during “Sanatorium”and Ving missed his cue on, well, quite a few songs, actually. A weird thing considering he’s been singing these songs for over thirty years.

 

By comparison Suicidal Tendencies were the complete opposite. The California thrash punk legends blazed through most of their self-title debut album (they didn’t play “I Want More”) completely annihilating the captive crowd with Mike running back and forth on stage, pumping his fists like a fucking lunatic off his meds. Naturally, with this much going on, one of the larger pits I’ve seen that day formed. Songs from “Fascist Pig” to “I Shot Reagan”were played with such ferocity that you forget singer Mike Muir is in his 50’s. The set ended with Mike bringing kids and adults on stage as he performed the classic “Institutionalized.”

The three-day Riot Fest experience was…good. Not great, but it didn’t suck either. There were some definite peaks and valleys in regards to the performances. Overall, I did enjoy it. Hopefully, they work out the kinks next year.

In the interim, please check out some images from a few of the other Day 3 acts, including Bad Religion, Beach Rats, Bouncing Souls and Alkaline Trio! For more coverage from the festival, check out our stories from Day One and Day Two. As with the last two days, all words by Frederic Hall and all photos by Meredith Goldberg.



Riot Fest Recap – Day Two (Street Dogs, Total Chaos, Conflict and more)

Riot Fest’s second day found that bastard, the sun, at it again when California punks Total Chaos began their afternoon set. Before they began, they did treat the crowd with a quick verse from Motorhead’s “Ace of Spades”during soundcheck. The band played a blistering set of breakneck punk like “In Unity,” “Riot City” and their recent track “Street Punx”off their eponymous EP. Both the band and the crowd were wearing studded jackets, patched-up vests, Mohawks and liberty spikes.

Lower Class Brats keep the momentum going. Wearing all black and singer Bones channeling his inner Adicts with his derby hat, the Austin, Texas band covered “All The Young Dudes” as a dedication to David Bowie. The rest of the set was blessed with an insane circle pit and folks just crowd surfing.

British anarcho-punks Conflict were a bit disappointing. Keeping up Lower Class Brat’s all-black-everything look, the band tried their best to get the crowd going with a smattering of success. Even singer Colin Jerwood (the only original member), stepping off stage to sing and greet the crowd didn’t help. Add to the equation some problems with the vocal mic and the overall set was a bit of a let down.

Street Dogs, on the other hand, put on a pumped set. Even with their covers of “Guns of Brixton”, “Borstal Breakout,” and “Blitzkrieg Bop” the Boston band infused it with a kinetic energy that slammed the crowd into hysterics. Even singer Mike McColgan stage dived and kept singing while he was crowdsurfing.

 

Please check out our images below from some of the other Day 2 acts. If you missed yesterday’s Day One coverage, you can check that out here. All photos by Meredith Goldberg, and words by Frederic Hall.



Riot Fest Recap – Day One (Flogging Molly, Lagwagon, Bombpops, Direct Hit!, Pussy Riot and more)

The beer was $9. The crowd was greeted on inaugural day with a horrendous flute cover of Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On”, complete with straining and crackling high notes. This year’s Riot Fest was a gorgeous, grotesque display of gathering bodies of drunk and fucked-up folks bathed in sweat thanks to an unforgiving sun radiating degrees in the upper 80’s throughout the three-day event.

Our coverage of Day One kicked off with Direct Hit, who played an energetic set, the type where the bassist Steve Murray hops sound so you hope he doesn’t land wrong and break his ankle. The band admitted most of their songs are about drugs. Ain’t nothing wrong with that. Oh, and between songs, the singer Nick Woods something about “The Big Bitch.” Towards the end of the set, drummer Danny Walkowiak actually ran from his drum set to the edge of the stage banging his drumsticks along with the clapping crowd before running back to his kit the second the band started back. It’s cliche as hell, but people loved the shit out of it.

Pussy Riot’s set was…interesting. I’ll admit I’m not a huge fan. While I do appreciate their political message and my heart goes out to member Pyotr Verzilov, who is recovering after being poisoned(!), the music didn’t quite move me that much. However, I would say their stage performance, consisting of everybody wearing florescent green ski-masks and button-up shirts was a sight to behold. But whatever momentum they was stopped when the group exited the stage and a played an audio recording of someone – who sounded like a robotic female voice – reciting twenty-five points about the one-percent and wealth redistribution. I don’t know how long the recording was, but it felt like forever, trust me. Probably sensing the crowd is restless, the group burst from the backstage, flaying their arms and torsos while the loudspeakers blasted the most Earth-shattering bass ever. That was enough to snap the crowd out of it before ending their set.

 

Next up for us were The Bombpops. Holy shit, The Bombpops. The name is fitting since this female-fronted LA band were popping bombs of raw, sonic goodness for the hefty sized crowd that afternoon. To give you an idea of their lyrical prowess, they played a song about shitting their pants called “Dear Beer,” a song about traffic called “Brake Lights” and, at one point, they talked about the heat giving them the “pussy sweats”and “sweaty assholes”.

Shifting gears, we got old-school hip-hop trio Digable Planets. Backed up by a live band, the group played the classic debut album “Reachin’ (A New Refutation of Time and Space).” Of course they played their hits “Rebirth of Slick (Cool like Dat)” and “Nickle Bag of Funk.” After twenty some-odd years, the trio still had the chemistry that made them popular in the first place. The band were no slouches either , with the bassist just going off on the slap bass solo that make Flea nod his head approvingly.

Atmosphere’s set seemed to complement Digable’s perfectly, with Slug’s dropping bars from a more introspective place. The seminal “God Loves Ugly”and “Fuck You Lucy”were definitely bangers for the large crowd as the sun ended its shift for the day. Slug’s charisma held the crowd’s attention throughout the set, with his words being more sermon and less hype, with gems such as “I wanna have as much fun as you’re having.” He did deviate from the serious by telling the crowd to raise their hands if they ever masturbated and touch take said hand and touch their neighbor with it.

Head below to check out more of our photos from Day One, including shots from Blood People, Lagwagon, Face To Face, Dropkick Murphys and Flogging Molly!

(All photography by Meredith Goldberg. Words by Frederic Hall.)



DS Photo Gallery: Brian Fallon and Craig Finn “Songs From The Hymnal Tour,” Boston, MA

Just shy of seven years ago, I had the opportunity to weasel my way in to a Northeastern University student-only show at what was basically a slightly oversized Starbucks in that institution’s student center. The show was a one-off that featured support from Matt Pryor of The Get Up Kids (amongst others) and headliner Brian Fallon, then still very-much active in The Gaslight Anthem. It was very much a unique experience – I’m still not entirely sure how it came together – as Fallon wasn’t really doing the “solo performer” thing at that point. Accompanied only by an acoustic guitar, he came without a setlist and essentially took requests all night. Oh, and he told stories. Boy, did he tell stories; funny, insightful, spontaneous stories. Lots of stories. At one point, Fallon even caught himself realizing he was talking a lot, joking that he was going to stop playing songs and just talk because, let’s face it, it was a free show, so nobody had actually paid to be there (to which an audience member fired back the fact that it cost $45,000 a year to go to Northeastern at the time).

Boy have things changed in the seven years since that one-of-a-kind event

. Gaslight would go on to produce two more albums, go on hiatus and recently reunite for a run of The ’59 Sound 10th Anniversary shows. Divorce and children and remarriage and being interviewed by me and all of the things that come with being in your mid-30s happened. Fallon has gone on to produce two solo albums of his own: 2016’s Painkillers and this February’s Sleepwalkers. Finally, this week marked the first dates on what’s being called the Songs From The Hymnal tour, an international run that features opener Craig Finn (himself on his third solo album to go along with a successful decade-long run as frontman for Minneapolis-cum-Brooklyn rock band The Hold Steady) and headliner Fallon appearing sans backing bands. Just two men, a couple acoustic guitars, a Korg, and a collective several decade’s worth of stories.

Night one of the US run took place last Tuesday at Royale in Boston, a venue that’s got a capacity approximately 500% larger than that student center cafe at Northeastern (though it also has 100% fewer working Starbucks within its walls). Finn kicked things off with a 45-minute set culled mostly from his past solo efforts: 2012’s Clear Heart, Full Eyes, 2015’s Faith In The Future and last year’s stellar We All Want The Same Things, with an old Hold Steady song and a couple of new solo tracks thrown in for good measure. Though he’s long been publicly affiliated with both Minnesota and, more recently, Brooklyn, Finn was born a short cab ride away from the Royale in Boston’s Allston neighborhood, a place he’d return when it was time for college (Finn went to BC). No matter what project he’s spearheading, Finn’s songwriting style has largely focused on storytelling anyway, having created characters and scenes and interactions and feelings that mirror the struggles of trying to get by in the world. To that end, a performance like this was right in Finn’s wheelhouse. One of his new tracks, “Magic Marker,” is one of the most compelling tales I’ve heard performed in a live setting, grabbing the listener and forcing her/him to pay attention to the story. The most relatable moment I have to compare it to was the first time I heard Dave Hause’s “Autism Vaccine Blues,” which was a new song he’d been woodshedding on the road prior to recording 2013’s “Devour.”

After a standard length set changeover, Fallon strode downstairs to the stage, picked up his acoustic, and strummed his way into a subdued version of “Forget-Me-Not,” the lead single from Sleepwalkers. Normally an up-tempo sing-along, this version was a more delicate (almost unrecognizably so) ode to his relationship with his wife. The setlist from there was a bit more structured than the Northeastern show seven years prior, but not by a lot. Where Finn’s set seemed thought out and his stories were focused, Fallon seemed to opt for more of a “rough outline” approach, seemingly allowing his stories to meander and to feed off some of the spontaneous feedback from the crowd. Some of Fallon’s stories are raw and painful, particularly when dealing with death or with his break-up (which wasn’t necessarily mentioned specifically, except with a nod to the crowd who “have been around a while, most of you know the story at this point.” Some of the stories were funny, especially when the razor-witted Fallon was riffing off-the-cuff. I’m not going to divulge many of the specific details, because I feel like that takes away from the experience for those who haven’t seen a show on this tour yet.

But in case you were wondering, the set was comprised of songs from Fallon’s solo career obviously, plus a handful of Gaslight favorites (“Great Expectations,” “Film Noir”) that came with particularly insightful oral histories. “Ladykiller,” from Fallon’s The Horrible Crowes side project with Ian Perkins also made an appearance. There were a handful of songs from the written setlist (3 of the original 19 tracks) that didn’t appear, as it would appear Fallon ran out of time because some of his stories took some lengthy side roads. It was a fun and memorable and compelling night that allowed both songwriters lyrics to take on new weight and gravity due to the stripped down musical accompaniment. While both men have storied careers fronting high-powered rock bands, both are equally capable of commanding a stage with little additional support. Go see this tour. Seriously.

Head below for our photo recap!

 

 



DS Photo Gallery: Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls with Bad Cop/Bad Cop and Sam Coffey and the Iron Lungs, Hampton Beach, NH

So a funny thing happened last Friday night, and I know that’s a peculiar way to start a story that’s supposed to be a show review, but, well, here we are. The latter stages of Frank Turner‘s Herculean tour in support of his latest album, Be More Kind found their way to a Friday night stop at the Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom in Hampton Beach, New Hampshire. Though it had been a few years since I’d been in the area, I’m a native of New Hampshire, and as is requisite when you’re a Granite Stater, I’ve spent many, many hours eating Blink’s Fry Doe and perusing the airbrush t-shirt shops up and down the strip at Hampton Beach. I’ve taken in a handful of shows at the Casino Ballroom in years past, though the last of those was a Sevendust/Drowning Pool/Stereomud show as a recent college graduate a week prior to 9/11, which is a statement that provides a lot more context than you might realize.

A lot, obviously, has changed since then. I’ve lived in Massachusetts for a decade-and-a-half with my wife of fifteen years (the night of this show marked our anniversary) and, more recently, with our just-about eleven-year-old daughter. The three of us headed to the Seacoast on this particular evening, and immediately upon reaching the top of the stairs inside the venue, the feeling of deja vu made its first appearance. This wasn’t a nu-metal show, and I wasn’t 21, and I was with my wife and my kid and yet, immediately everything started to feel familiar. Due to a bit of a snafu at the ticket window (also not the first time) the show had already started — Sam Coffey and the Iron Lungs were 3/4 of the way through their first song — so I got into normal position in the photo pit and went to work  and it kinda went away for a bit. I’d never experienced the Canadian sextet in person before, and they were a lot of fun. The spandex-and-sequin adorned Coffey led his denim-vested band of misfits through a high energy set that owed more than a little bit to T. Rex and would have been right at home on an arena stage several times the size at the 2000-capacity Casino Ballroom.

Bad Cop/Bad Cop were next up as the tour’s direct support, and as I’ve said many times on these pages, they’re one of my favorite bands for myriad reasons. When the California-based quartet put out their sophomore album, Warriors, in June of last year, it presented as one of the first albums to fire a direct shot across the bow of the newly-inaugurated Trump administration. It was powerful, angry, defiant, righteous, raw…everything a classic punk rock album should be. They’ve been boldly and continuously flying the flag since, and this set was no different. Pulling from both of their Fat Wreck studio full-lengths and their Boss Lady EP, the band’s set was not only well received by the Turner diehards in the crowd, it seemed especially fiery given the day’s breaking news surrounding the week-long postponement of Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation vote in the US Senate in favor of what, it seems, was a sham investigation. It is frustrating that we’re still at a point where the foursome don’t have to look far and wide for new ways to be inspired and fired-up, but damnit we’re lucky to have them.

Frank Turner took the stage for his headline set and, though he was accompanied by his full band, the Sleeping Souls, the lights were low and Turner dove into the first notes of set-opener “Be More Kind” accompanied only by an acoustic guitar. It was a bit of a delicate other side of the coin to the firebrand BC/BC set that preceded it, that was an equally poignant rallying cry amidst these crazy times. The full band kicked into high gear on the set’s next track, “1933,” and I’m paraphrasing a bit, but there’s a line at the beginning of the song’s second verse that makes reference to the idea of surveying the landscape and thinking “we already did this.” As that line bounced around my head for a second while I was switching lenses in the photo pit, the deja vu came roaring back. In the song, that line has a negative connotation, drawing a direct parallel between the events going on in the West now and those that the Greatest Generation witnessed building in the pre-World War II lead-up. As it relates to this story and this show in particular, though, my brain twisted that line to a more positive context.

I’ve been privileged to shoot Turner and his supremely talented crew more than a few times in the last half-decade most recently at a date on the weeklong Boston run that closed out the first US leg of the Be More Kind tour. Though I’d never seen him play some of these specific songs and had certainly never done so at this venue, in this State, with these people, I was overwhelmed with a sense of familiarity that I’d never quite experienced before. Turner and his band have long been quintessential road warriors in every sense of that phrase, rather famously having played well over 2000 shows at this point in their respective careers. The “Frank Turner And The Sleeping Souls” live show is inspiring not just in the message of the lyrics — if you’ve never heard “Be More Kind” or “Recovery” or “Get Better” or even “Four Little Words,” you can probably paint an accurate picture of their content based on title alone — but in how honest the unit are as performers. Each of the band’s five core members (yes, though the pictures don’t prove it, they were all present, but the lighting sucked worse than my self-taught photography skills) are the musical equivalent of the athlete who “leaves it all on the field every night.” The bulk of the night’s set – seven of a total of 23 songs – was culled from the band’s most recent release, but in typical Turner fashion, he dug WAY into the vault for a solo acoustic rendition of “Wisdom Teeth” and even FURTHER into the archives for a rather poignant take on “Nashville, Tennessee.” Though he’s from across the pond — “Olde Hampshire,” to be exact — Turner has become one of the most dependable and familiar lynchpins of the US music community, trying desperately to inspire the world around him to wake up and fight to keep this country from falling off an all-too-familiar cliff. If only we’d be able to stop having this same conversation again and again.

Anyway, head below to check out our full photo stream from the evening!



DS Exclusive: Frankie Piessens on The Radiator Rattlers’ Upcoming Full-Length, “Hold On”

By the time you’re reading this, Haverhill, Massachusetts’ The Radiator Rattlers will be less than 24 hours from the official release of their newest studio full-length. It’s called Hold On, and it’s due out Saturday (September 29th) and it makes the group’s first full-length since their self-titled debut dropped back in 2015. Now, if you’re saying to yourself “wait just one good god damn minute…who are the Radiator Rattlers?” well…that’s partially my fault. The octet — that’s right, there are eight Rattlers — have been slowly and steadily building up a following in the area north of Boston over the last half-dozen years, playing a souped up version of good-time punk rock run through a rockabilly-Hank Williams-cowpunk filter that’s ways that could only come from a band that includes a washboard player on vocals, a mandolin player, a banjo player, a stand-up bass player, and a pedal steel-playing pirate among its ranks.

One recent weeknight after work, yours truly took a ride into the working-class heart of the Merrimack Valley to catch up with Rattlers’ guitarist/vocalist Frankie Piessens (pictured above) at the tattoo shop he owns and operates in order to shed some light on Hold On. In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve been a patron of the shop for years, and Radiator Rattlers’ vocalist/washboard player Kenny Turner did my most recent piece. As fate would have it, Piessens just happened to be finishing up a sleeve on Rattlers’ original bass player Mike Bastek, which gave some pretty good insight into the history of the band. Here’s a quick recap:

It all started out six years ago. Piessens, Bastek, and Rattlers’ mandolin player Travis Boucher lived together in a multi-family house affectionately known as South Central in Havehill, Massachusetts. Having all been in myriad bands throughout the incestual Merrimack Valley music scene for more than a decade at that point, the trio figured playing music together was a no-brainer, at least as a way to hang together after work. What made this project different from previous bands, however, is that 2/3rds of the lineup didn’t know how to play their instruments. “It started basically because Mike got a stand-up bass and wanted to learn how to use it,” explains Piessens. “We started covering Stones’ songs, Pogues’ songs…just fun songs so they could learn their instruments, because Travis didn’t know how to play mandolin either.”

As time went on, more people were added to the mix. Matt Pepp on banjo. Carla Pierce on acoustic guitar and, at times, accordion. Kenny Turner on vocals and, because he didn’t play a stringed instrument, washboard. Luke Williams on percussion, which is generally drums but has also include various household objects including but not limited to a suitcase. “At one point or another, we all lived in the same house. We didn’t even have a name,” says Piessens. “We were hanging out in this living room, drinking beers and playing songs. It was an old house, and everybody that lived in the house was people that we knew and worked with. We had gotten to the point where we were going to maybe play an open mic just to get it out of our system. And Jed, our neighbor upstairs, he called when we were practicing one night and he was like “yo, man, you guys are like totally rattling my radiators right now.” And it was like “there’s the band name!”

The seven-piece played their first open mic at a venue called the Chit Chat Lounge in their hometown of Haverhill. Having received a modicum of positive feedback, things progressed in a natural, organic fashion. The band played parties and other open mics, and started to develop a local following, without having any pretense that they’d turn into the next big thing. “We all have careers, we all have shit that we want to do,” Piessens explains. “But for us to get that feeling of playing music like we used to when we were kids and having fun, that’s what we were chasing.” Eventually the band decided to start recording original tunes and to narrow down a sound. Enter: The Pirate.

Jonee Earthquake, that is. Earthquake is a bit of a local legend in the southern New Hampshire/northern Massachusetts music scene. He’s been playing in bands and recording music and putting on shows in the area since 1979. For comparison’s sake, that’s also the year Bad Religion started, and the year I, your resident old Boston-area fart, was born. Earthquake joined the Radiator Rattlers about a year after the band started, taking on the role of pedal steel player. He recorded the band’s music, and brought with him a sense of professionalism (well…it’s punk rock and he dresses like a pirate, so professionalism might be an overstatement) that got the now eight-piece to focus. As Bastek interjects: “You don’t want to disappoint the pirate!”

As Piessens figures, the band started to hit their proverbial stride after two or three years as a unit. They recorded and released their self-titled debut full-length in 2015. They also recorded enough material for a second full-length, including a few songs that ended up on their 2015 Summer’s Over 7-inch.  “We recorded the last one and this one at the same time, and just knocked out as much as we could,” says Piessens. There was only one problem: “the computer shit the bed,” he explains. “We lost everything. The only shit we still had was the two songs that were already on the 7-inch. We had to go back and record everything else again.”

The result of that follow-up session is Hold On, which is due out tomorrow on Earthquake’s Spiral Records label. It consists of ten tracks that find the band refining slightly their garage punk/alt-country/rockabilly infused sound, a natural occurrence given that the band’s members (Bastek has been replaced on bass duties by Jimbo Ritchie) have all learned how to play their instruments. Most of the band’s songs start out with Piessens working on a song or a riff at his house. Once the basic structure is cemented, Piessens will bring the song to the practice. “There’s a bunch of wild cards!” he exclaims. “Usually I’ll work it out with the “core group” – the drummer, Carla the acoustic guitar player, maybe a mandolin or a banjo. Then we’ll bring in the rest of them and they add their own little flavor to the song. Jonee especially, when he adds the pedal steel over that shit, it just changes completely where the song goes. Once a song goes through the eight members, it might totally change what I thought it was going to sound like.”

At the end of the day, the Radiator Rattlers are still a punk rock band. A large, multi-instrumental punk rock band. “You’re throwing as much as you can at a wall and seeing what sticks,” Piessens explains. “They’re all cowboy chords, really, so they’re pretty open to going in either a punk rock direction or a country direction or whatever. We can cover anything from Johnny Cash to CCR to Ramones or Minor Threat or Fear. It’s all shit we like, it doesn’t matter if it “fits the band” or not. It’s punk rock, you can smash that fucking square peg into a round hole.”

It bears mentioning that the listener and/or showgoer should not let the number and type of instruments fool them into a preconceived notion of what the band sounds like. The Radiator Rattlers’ sound owes more to the sound of Hank Williams than it does to fellow Boston-area band Dropkick Murphys. Piessens explains: “We all come from bands where we have Marshall stacks, and we can’t have Marshall stacks in this band…A) because there’s not enough room on stage, and B) because you can’t have eight Marshall stacks on stage…this isn’t fucking Motorhead!”

While nobody in the band seems to have delusions of grandeur surrounding the Radiator Rattlers becoming a full-time operation, there does seem to be a sense of pride – and relief – that Hold On is now seeing the light of day. “We’re all happy with the lives we have. We’re all happy with the musical things we’ve done in the past,” Piessens says matter-of-factly. “It would be great to play on a bigger stage so we could all fit comfortably someday. That would be sick! I wouldn’t even give a fuck if it was opening up for Hootie and the Blowfish or something. It’s cool to be 35 and to be able to play music like I was when I was a teenager. And to put records out? It’s fun!”

The Radiator Rattlers’ play their record release show in Haverhill tomorrow (September 29th) with a stellar lineup of local heavyweights that includes Tigerman WOAH and Michael Kane & The Morning Afters. Head here to pick up your own copy of Hold On…and stay tuned. “We’re slated to record a new album December 1st,” explains Piessens. “We have the songs ready to go, and we’ve got a new 7-inch that’ll be coming out. We take all the money we make from one record and put it toward what comes next.”



DS Photo Gallery: Face To Face and Austin Lucas at Boston’s City Winery (9/23/18)

Face To Face brought the US tour for their recent Hold Fast (Acoustic Sessions) EP to its Boston stop at City Winery last Sunday night. If you missed the abridged backstory behind this latest release, it goes a little something like this: inspired by the positive vibes that came out of the acoustic VIP pre-show sets that they performed on last year’s EconoLive ’17 tour, the pioneering SoCal quartet hit the studio, emerging with new versions of some previously-recorded tracks like “All For Nothing” and “Shame On Me” and “Keep Your Chin Up,” tracks that didn’t normally see the light of day during the band’s normal punk rock set. (And “Disconnected,” a song that the band has seemingly recorded at least once per year since its appearance as their debut single 27 years ago.)

Instead of merely playing the original tracks close to their respective vests and simply re-recording them as straight-forward acoustic tracks, the band opted to strip each song down and re-imagine it in new and sometimes surprising ways: boot-stompers, Lucero-style alt-country jams, sort of Jason Mraz-style adult contemporary-ish ballads, and so on and so forth. The results may be – in this writer’s opinion – mixed, but they may also represent the band’s most “punk rock” effort since their 1999 album Ignorance Is Bliss. And they also make for a pretty fun, occasionally raucous, and enjoyably different type of Face To Face show. With a stripped down set, there’s very little room for error, and that’s magnified in a venue like City Winery with its crystal-clear sound and clear sight lines in spite of its long rows of family-style tables that run the length of the venue perpendicular to the stage. This puts extreme focus on the band’s musicianship; Scott Shiflett has long been known as one of the premier bass players in the scene, and he played with a much smoother groove than the normally in-your-face “lead bass” style we’re accustomed to from him. The setting and the country-ish rock and roll style fit pretty perfectly in Dennis Hill’s lead guitar playing wheelhouse. Danny Thompson, rock-solid behind the drum kit during the band’s normal set was perhaps the hardest-working member of the foursome on this occasion, employing castinets and an electric cajon and a washboard and a variety of other percussion instruments that lent unique flavor to the different tracks that composed the hour-long set. And while frontman Trever Keith has always played guitar in the band, it’s his voice that’s been a large portion of the band’s trademark over the last quarter century, and it had plenty of room to soar and to whip up the occasional singalong (some of them admittedly half-hearted, though that was our fault, not theirs) in the process.

Support on this leg of the Hold Fast (Acoustic Sessions) tour run comes from Austin Lucas. The Indiana-based troubadour grew up a punk rock fan in small town America, and has become one of the more hard-working, road-tested members of the country-punk set in the last decade. The City Winery style lends itself well to the solo singer-songwriter, and Lucas, ever the story-teller (and wildly underrated as a guitar player) took full advantage of that. While I’ve never set foot in Indiana, Lucas’ songs paint a picture that’s not unlike the main streets and backroads of New Hampshire where I grew up before moving south, so there is an instant, funny familiarity that makes his work so engaging.

Head below to check out our full photo gallery!



DS Exclusive: Jared Hart on Mercy Union’s unorthodox origin and the road to “The Quarry”

When last we caught up in any official capacity with Jared Hart, the New Jersey native was somewhere in Florida in the midst of a support run, opening up for Frank Iero’s project at the time. Hart was mere weeks away from the release of his full-length debut solo album, Past Lives and Pass Lines, a collection of songs that were written over the previous handful of years that didn’t really fit the anthemic, street punk stylings of his “day job” band, The Scandals.

At the time, prevailing wisdom seemed to be that Hart would try to settle into a groove of spending six months a year working with The Scandals and six months a year working on solo activities, achieving some semblance of perfect creative balance. And while Hart has stayed steadily busy over the course of the last three years, it’s safe to say that the bulk of that work has not exactly gone as planned. Early 2016 brought with it the start of what turned out to be a year or so on the road across most of the globe as part of Brian Fallon’s backing band, The Crowes, in support of Fallon’s own debut solo album, Painkillers. Then there was the release of the stellar, Fallon-produced Scandals EP, Lucky Seven. Then there were solo European dates for Hart, a follow-up solo EP featuring reworked tracks from Past Lives + Pass Lines, scattered Scandals dates, and a few shows filling in on guitar for fellow Jersey punks Lost In Society.

In the process of working on ideas for what would theoretically be a second solo full-length, Hart would reconnect with an old Jersey musical acquaintance: Benny Horowitz, best noted for his work in The Gaslight Anthem, but also part of other noteworthy projects like Bottomfeeder, Wax Bottles and Antarctigo Vespucci. “I had a good handful of songs and a handful of riffs that were starting to come together,” explains Hart. At one point, I hadn’t seen Benny in a while, and he was saying “come by, we’ll get coffee or lunch, or if you want to jam or something, you could bring a guitar…” It seemed like he wanted to stretch it out a little bit, so I was like “you know? Fuck it, I’ll bring the guitar over and we’ll see what happens.”

Once the duo got together, things progressed quickly. Perhaps unusually quickly. “Immediately, we were fleshing out a full song,” says Hart. “He was like “what have you got?” and I pulled a riff that I had forever out, and then all of a sudden there was a structure, and there were these parts, and things he was playing were making my guitar go a certain way, and I remember thinking “this is interesting…this doesn’t usually go like this.”

What became apparent seemingly early on is that the new music the pair were creating wasn’t new solo music, and it wasn’t new Scandals music; it was becoming its own thing. “As the riffs kept coming, Benny was like “you know, we have a record here. Should we do an EP?” says Hart, explaining that he was initially gunshy to bring in old material he’d had in the bank and risk messing with the collaborative, spontaneous jamming. Eventually, he relented. “And I was like “well, I have all these other songs too…” So we started jamming on those, and then all of a sudden, after a couple months, we had a full-length.”

As it became apparent that the new music was a new project, that meant that the new project needed new members. “It was just me and Benny (at first) and we had all these songs, and we got to say who we wanted to play with us. And I was like, oh, fuck…that’s usually not a question that gets asked, usually you have the band all there first (before developing music).” Hart and Horowitz recruited fellow Garden Staters Rocky Catanese and Nick Jorgensen to the mix. Catanese, himself a veteran of the criminally-underrated Let Me Run, has been a friend and collaborator of Hart’s for years, so including him in the new band only made sense. “Our first tour together was in 2012,” Hart explains. “I used to fill in for Let Me Run once in a while, he has filled in for EVERYTHING that I’ve ever needed…any time the Scandals needed something, he’d hop in, and we’ve always just kind of had each other’s backs in that sense.” So I said well “of course Rocky has to be in it, because he’d be filling in anyway!”

When it came time to get their new material recorded, the newly-formed quartet holed up with none other than Pete Steinkopf at Little Eden studio in Asbury Park. Catanese and Jorgensen put their own respective touches on the music that Hart and Horowitz had crafted, and the recording process moved efficiently. Each of the band’s members has had experience in bands playing fairly diverse sounds within this punk rock realm, but Hart says there was never a discussion about musical directions when it came to the new project. “I wanted to make a record that I wanted to hear. I felt like I was lacking hearing some of these songs myself, and even just the sound of it, where it sounds sometimes like you’re in the room with the band playing…that’s kinda what I wanted to be able to do. I’m super proud of that,” he explains. “The actual process of writing and recording was really cathartic to do it like that. To not worry and to not stress and to let it just kinda roll…The only reason that something sonically or tonally or structurally got changed was how it fit into the context of all of the other songs (on the record), not anything outside of that. That was really fun to do.”

As the recording process was winding down with Steinkopf, and before Hart would leave for a solo run through Europe, the band got word that they’d landed a spot opening up a handful of dates for Racquet Club on the veritable super-group’s first real US tour. Initially billed as “Jared Hart with Full Band,” it wasn’t until Hart was overseas, their album already in the bag, that the band settled on a name. “Picking the name was probably the hardest thing of this whole project. That was the most anxiety I’ve had in general,” laughs Hart. “I was in Europe. We had a day off, and I had to pull over and just sit there. We made the name and I sent the t-shirt design in the same day. I sent it in to get printed that day and I had like a full-blown panic attack about the name. Because now it was done, it was printed. They sent me a picture of the screen blown out, and I was like “oh my god, what if this isn’t good?” My cousin is 18, and he was sitting in the passenger seat and he was like “dude, it’s fine!” I had my head against the steering wheel like “I’m not good with change and this is so permanent.” He had to kinda talk me off the ledge there.”

That name, of course, is Mercy Union. The band are slated to release their debut full-length, The Quarry, next month. And their doing it themselves via Hart’s newly minted Mount Crushmore Records. Evoking his mom’s “if you want something done right, do it yourself” motto, Hart determined that releasing the album on their own made the most sense, however nerve-wracking an endeavor that might be. “Starting this label up and trying to do everything the right way and through the right channels…that aspect of it has been stressful. But the band part of it and the record and the songs has been way less stressful than anything else…I know that if something goes wrong, it’s going to be my fault, and I prefer it that way.” Hart determined that he’d acquired enough experience over his fifteen years in the music business to make it work, not only for himself but for other friends that might have music to put out down the road. “I want to learn how to do this right and be prepared for whatever comes down the line. I’ve been talking about it for years, to have an outlet for friends to be able to share their music when they can’t get anybody to put their shit out.”

The dozen songs that make up The Quarry have some familiar notes, but those notes combine in a way that produces a new and unique sound, which was exactly the point. “As a writer, I’ve never been able to totally force songs into molds, and that can be a hard thing about being in a punk band that’s strictly a punk band or a pop-punk band or whatever you want to call it. When you step too far out of that realm, everyone’s like “whoa, what are you doing here?” Hart formed The Scandals almost a decade-and-a-half ago and it’s been his baby ever since. But there aren’t songs on The Quarry that would fit in the Scandals catalog, or even that would have fit well on Past Lives + Pass Lines. “(These songs) couldn’t be forced into that mold, and I don’t think that would be fair to any of us. With that kind of music, it’s easy to tell when something is forced, and I love that band and I love those guys and I can’t just force a record that sounds like everything else.”

Mercy Union’s forthcoming debut album, The Quarry, due out October 19th on Mt. Crushmore Records. Pre-order bundle options are available here, but they’re going fast, which is a welcome sign to calm the potential nerves of a new project. “It’s kind of always been a fear of mine, to start something from the very beginning,” Hart says. “I started The Scandals in 2004, and just the sheer sense of that you’re going to do this whole new thing out of nowhere was daunting, but sometimes you just need to stop and take a breath of fresh air and see what happens.” 

Head below to check out our full Q&A!

 



Dying Scene Radio – Episode 10 – Band Spotlight: Allout Helter

Mira!! Mira!!! Los culeros are back with another installment of Dying Scene Radio! In this episode (number TEN?!?!) AP meets up with Denver based melodic hardcore stalwarts, Allout Helter to talk about their ten year anniversary celebration, the growing punk scene in The Mile High City and of course 80’s one-hit-wonders A-Ha. Not only that, the guys will also bring you all of the news you were probably too lazy to read and play some rad tunes from emerging artists that you were probably too lazy to discover! They do all the work for you! So, turn up the volume, kick back and stream  Episode 10 of Dying Scene Radio, below!



People Corrupting People (Ska) Releases New EP “Red Herring”

Denver based ska troupe People Corrupting People is back with the latest installment of their Animal Farm Chronicles series. The newest six track EP, entitled Red Herring is the the sixth in the series and keeps the anti-capitalist, anti-establishment theme alive! When we talked to the band about the recording process, they told us: “We had originally planned to book  time at our old studio, Ocean Tides Audio, but life got in the way in a hurry and we had to go a different route. Enter: (guitarist/vocals) Nate Nepsky – new producer/sound engineer/pretty much everything on this record. It was his virgin voyage, only ever having recorded years ago using a shitty laptop and Garage Band. Things have changed. Now, he has a shitty PC console and Ableton live. Literally everything you hear was recorded, mixed and mastered in Nate’s bedroom, and he doesn’t have fuck all knowledge of what he’s doing.” Well, if that doesn’t personify the punk rock, DIY work ethic, we don’t know what does! Check out the debut track “He Dwells Within” (featuring members of The Bourbon Brawlers), below!



DS Exclusive: Johnny Bonnel and Jack Dalrymple talk Swingin’ Utters talk “Peace And Love”

(L-R: Dalrymple, Bonnel, Koski, Ray and Teixeira)

As I write these words, we’re less than thirty-six hours away from the release of Peace And Love, yet another killer release from seminal Bay Area punk band Swingin’ Utters. The album is due out this Friday (August 31st) on Fat Wreck Chords – naturally – and as is par for the course with the Utters, there are an awful lot of modifiers we can use to describe the album: the ninth studio album in the band’s thirty-plus year career; their first album in four years; the first album since the departures of both bassist Miles Peck and founding drummer Greg McEntee; the most overtly-political album in the Swingin’ Utters library; et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. Perhaps the most appropriate descriptor, though, is that the album is really, really great.

We caught up over the phone with both frontman Johnny Bonnel and guitarist/occasional vocalist Jack Dalrymple to discuss all things Peace And Love, and what was readily apparent from the outset of both conversations is just how excited the band and its members are to have people hear the new material. “This was a really fun one,” says Dalrymple. “Every album I’ve done with those guys has been a weird process, but this was a fun one, man.” Bonnel, for his part, is even more emphatic. “This is probably the most excited I’ve been about a record by the Swingin’ Utters,” he explains, that excitement clearly evident in his voice.

Now, it’s a given that most band members are going to be excited about new material, particularly in the promotional run-up to an album’s debut; that’s the whole point, obviously. But the Utters – Bonnel specifically but more on that later – have a lot to be proud of this time up. As alluded to above, there are a handful of new faces among the ranks of the Swingin’ Utters. Greg McEntee departed from the bands ranks after the release of Fistful of Hollow and was replaced by Luke Ray, probably best known here from his days playing drums for Cobra Skulls. Miles Peck, who himself took over for longtime bassist Spike Slawson in 2012 and had taken on a more active songwriting role recently left last year. Peck was replaced by Tony Teixeira, Ray’s rhythm section sidekick in Cobra Skulls and, more recently, Sciatic Nerve.

While they didn’t factor into the meat of the songwriting process, Ray and Teixeira’s presences are very much an integral part of the sound of Peace And Love. “I think they’re amazing musicians and they’re great dudes, so we’re super stoked on that,” explains Bonnel, who himself is no stranger to having a long-time partner in the music-making process as he and Utters’ guitarist Darius Koski are nearing the three-decade mark as a team. Dalrymple elaborates, relating the connection between Ray and Teixeira to his own connection with Peck (whom he also appears in toyGuitar with): “They’re awesome! They’ve been playing together since they were kids, dude. Me and Miles were kind of locked in, because Miles is my buddy, and you get to this weird spot where you’re in each other’s heads. I know what he’s playing and what he’s thinking and what he’s going to do, and that’s the same way with Tony and Luke. They make this solid rhythm section, man.”

If you put your Swingin’ Utters discography playlist on “shuffle,” you don’t have to wait too long to encounter a few songs that sound nothing like the songs that come before or after them in the queue. That’s readily apparent on Peace And Love of course — see the Koski-penned Ramones ode “ECT,” or the surf-goth-Beatles-esque “Seeds Of Satisfaction” for proof — though more than in the recent past, some of those new directions and sounds come from Bonnel himself. While he’s always been an idea man, Bonnel wrote more on guitar than he has in the past. “I like that he’s WRITING writing now,” says Dalrymple. “It’s awesome, man. He comes in and he’s got these crazy, weird guitar riffs and we kinda work around those. It’s so awesome, man. (The Bonnel-penned “Louise And Her Spider”) is my favorite song by the Swingin’ Utters in a long time.

Hearing his songs in their end form on the album is a source of pride for Bonnel, leading to his greater-than-normal sense of excitement leading up to Peace And Love‘s release. “A lot of the songs I wrote are all me,” he explains. “I didn’t collaborate as much on the writing process necessarily; I played them for the band and then the band took off with them. So yeah, (that excitement is) probably because it was more of a solo writing process for me.” That increased focus on solo songwriting from Bonnel also brought with it some nervous moments, especially when it came time to bring some of his more atypical ideas – see the appropriately-titled “Dubstep” – to the group. “I thought they’d think they were stupid,” says Bonnel half-jokingly. “Your brain kinda goes crazy worrying about that stuff, but as soon as I showed it to them and explained that I wanted (“Dubstep”) to be fairly tribal and dance-able on the drums and bass.” All the anxiety was, of course, for not. “They went for it. I really love what they did. They changed the songs from what I thought they would be and escalated them to something that I thought would never happen. I’m super pleased with the end product, and Luke and Tony had a lot to do with that.” Dalrymple, who shares co-writing credits with Bonnel on a few of the album’s tracks for the first time, glows about his partner’s input. “He’s the most artistic out of everybody. That dude is a real artist in all senses of the word. He’s quick, and he’s got this weird awesome vision that’s just different, man.”

Dalrymple, for his part, not only sings lead vocals but also has solo writing credit’s on Peace And Love‘s closing track, “H.L.S.” As you might imagine given the title, the song shares an influence with another Dalrymple-fronted track, albeit by a different project: toyGuitar’s “Turn It Around.” That, of course, is the 2015 passing of Dalrymple’s former One Man Army bandmate Heiko Schrepel. Dalrymple was gun-shy about including the song. “I think I was kinda nervous, man,” he explains, with some hesitation apparent. “It felt too raw, and maybe like it was too much. I didn’t really want to release it.” After playing an early version of the track for a few people, it was Koski who convinced him to give it a go. “He was like “I’ve got this idea. Hear me out! Hear me out!” And I didn’t even want to fucking do the song. In my world, that song would have been like after the record ended and two minutes of silence go by, then maybe that song starts. And Darius was like “no, fuck that, we gotta do it this way!”

The end result is a sweet, haunting, largely acoustic track, that provides a poignant, meaningful endnote to an album that’s pretty important album both within the band’s ranks and in the scene in general. Not only were Bonnel, Koski and Dalrymple able to overcome the loss of a few important contributors inside and outside the band, they were able to do so in a way that’s as charged-up and inspired as ever. In penning a few of their most outspokenly political songs to date in “Yes I Hope He Dies” and “Imitation Of Silence,” the Utters also plant their flag firmly in the camp that’s emphatically critical of what’s going on in the White House and at large. “Racism in the White House is a pretty serious thing,” states Bonnel. “I mean, racism is a thing that’s gone on since the beginning of time, but it’s at the point where something needs to be said. Things need to change, and we’re not the only ones doing this, for sure. It’s got to be a group effort.”

Head below to check out our conversations with both Bonnel and Dalrymple. Make sure you pick up Peace And Love on Friday!