RICHMONDERS LANCE BANGS PREP TO PARTY ON THE ROAD

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INTERVIEW BY JOE FITZPATRICK

PHOTOS BY HENRY ARCHER AND YONEL BEAULIEU

Formerly known as COLLIN THIBODEAUXX (CTXX), named after guitarist and vocalist Collin Thibodeau, the Richmond, Va. trio now recognized as LANCE BANGS love to party, especially in a house or basement — the dirtier, the better. The  band recently rebranded to reflect the focus on the band as a collaborative effort rather than a solo project when drummer Drew Lanzafama and bassist Joel Alicea took a more active role in the band’s creative process.

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THE SPLIT SECONDS FIND THEIR SWEET SPOT IN D.C.

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INTERVIEW BY JOE FITZPATRICK

PHOTOS BY AMANDA LIN AND MIKE DOBBINS

Hailing from our Nation’s capital,  THE SPLIT SECONDS have graced the stages at a multitude of the District’s well-known music venues including DC9, Tree House Lounge, and The Wonderland Ballroom, among others.  THE SPLIT SECONDS dabble in the punk rock of the 70s while also adding in some modern-day flair with undertones of 60’s pop and garage rock. 

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MÉNAGE À GARAGE BRING THE JAMS AND GOOFY FACES TO D.C.

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INTERVIEW BY JOE FITZPATRICK

PHOTOS BY FLASHBAND AND KRYSTINA GABRIELLE

Even though they are on the verge of middle-ish age, the bubbly pop rock of MÉNAGE À GARAGE combines fast punk with a little post-punk flare in the vein of JOY DIVISION. Based in the District, drummer Mike Mastrangelo, bassist Jenny Thomas, and guitarist John Nolt form the punk-pop power trio. Since April 2015, they have been crushing venues across the region with their heavy, yet simple, melodic rock beckoning a return to the music of previous decades.

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DISTRICT PUNK BANDS HOPE TO “BREAK EVEN” WITH NEW FEST

INTERVIEW BY JOE FITZPATRICK

PHOTOS PROVIDED BY STEVE ROVERY

What do you get when you combine 13 punk bands, a trendy venue in D.C., and a ton of supporters of the DIY music and cultural scenes? Bryan Flowers and Steve Rovery of AMERICAN TELEVISION seek to answer that question on March 4 and 5 with the premiere of Breakin’ Even Fest, whether they make a profit or simply break even.

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BAD KOREA HELP BRING SKATE PUNK BACK TO VIRGINIA BEACH WITH A BLAST FROM THE PAST ON DEBUT ALBUM, II

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INTERVIEW BY SHAUNA CROWLEY

PHOTOS PROVIDED BY RYAN LOFTIS

Built on the premise of being a band that should have existed in the 90s and listened to by an older brother, BAD KOREA out of Virginia Beach is a blast from the past. They are not trying to be the band to make a bunch of money from their music; however, they do want to be a band to have fun and recreate what they felt going to concerts. They want to be able to keep the fun of punk rock alive and not judge others while doing such. BAD KOREA has released Mean Gesus and II, both of which are currently available for download. We spoke with the “bad Korean” himself Keith Baillargeon (guitarist/vocalist) about the origins of the bands identity, the response to their debut album II, and their humble goal for the success of this band — don’t be assholes.

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PRIESTS LOOK TOWARD THE FUTURE OF WASHINGTON, D.C. PUNK TO PAVE THEIR OWN WAY WITHOUT FOCUSING TOO MUCH ON THE DISTRATIONS OF SOCIAL MEDIA

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INTERVIEW BY JOE FITZPATRICK

PHOTOS BY ALI DONOHUE, SARAH L. VOISIN, AND MICHAEL ANDRADE

On May 30, 2014, the Washington City Paper published the now infamous article titled, “The Punk Sacraments,” and the world was introduced to Katie Alice Greer, Taylor M, G.L. Jaguar, and Daniele Daniele, better known as PRIESTS. Since then, they have exploded all over every music publication and blog with half a brain to recognize not only the level of talent this band has, but also the aggression and energy they deliver and the positive attention they bring to Washington, D.C., which already has a rich history in the punk scene. However, the members of PRIESTS are established to bring their own message to the masses. We were fortunate enough to correspond with Greer, M, and Jaguar to discuss their political views and cultural values, their reasoning for staying off Facebook, and the good things happening in the D.C. music scene.

On your Tumblr page, it says that you are a “real life non internet band.” Can you explain what you meant by that?

Katie: When I wrote that, I barely used the Internet. I’m personally less of a luddite now than I once was, but all four of us, I think, prefer to not get too wrapped up in things that don’t feel “real.” The Internet is of course a great tool, but if you don’t use it the right way, it can just be distracting.

Your band has achieved a great deal of success without a Facebook page. Do you think bands rely too much on social media to promote their music?

Daniele: No, I think social media is one of the few ways artists can control their image in the public sphere; we just chose not to use Facebook ’cause it seemed kind of cheesy. So much of a band’s exposure to the public is mediated by companies like Pitchfork, Rolling Stone, Brooklyn Vegan, etc. The artist has little to no control (unless it’s an interview) of how they are portrayed. I think it’s good that artists have spaces like Twitter, Tumblr, Bandcamp, etc. in which to create an image that more closely resembles what they want to project to an audience. All that said, social media is perhaps more insidious in some ways than traditional/broadcast media platforms, because it creates the impression that artists/users have control over their image when in reality the structure of these platforms heavily dictate how one can project themselves outwards, and in doing so, train us to think in certain ways that may limit potential, creativity, subversion, etc. In addition, there’s also the huge issue that all these companies, and at the end of the day that’s what they are — companies profiting off our participation, have no problem sharing all our info with the [National Security Administration] and other government agencies which is not only really creepy and big brother-ish, but also is terrifying if you think about the implications it has for silencing political dissent.

priests 2Katie: I don’t know much about what works or doesn’t work for other bands; everyone has their own unique ideas they’re trying to communicate. Facebook seems like a hassle to me. But, people have told me that sometimes they have a hard time finding out stuff about our band online. I really don’t know what’s best.

If you saw someone on their smartphone at a show, how would you react to that?

Daniele: If they were taking a picture of me, I’d try to look real cute.

What are some of the most important political issues relevant to your band?

Katie: What is important to us? I guess just dismantling and understanding power dynamics, like everything is interconnected. I’m personally interested right now in better noticing my privileges, or someone else’s, how they color the way we interact with each other on a daily basis. Interpersonal stuff, I guess.

I heard through the grapevine you all really like to read. Does that impact the content of your songs?

Katie: Yeah, we all read a lot I guess. I personally love being inspired by a writer’s voice, their word choices and imagery. I’m not exactly sure how it influences my songwriting, but I know it does.

What is one of the most powerful moments you have experienced during a show?

Katie: At our last show in Baltimore, we played a bunch of new songs. There’s a new song called “No Big Bang” where Daniele wrote the lead vocal part and Taylor plays this super catchy repetitive bass line. So when the song started, I was just kind of rocking out for a minute feeling like. “Oh man, I love this song,” and thinking, so this is maybe what it feels like when you get “lost in the music” on stage, as they say. I don’t usually feel that way yet, priests 5so it was nice.

Since releasing Bodies and Control and Money and Power on June 3, 2014 through Don Giovanni Records, have you been working on any new music?

Katie: Yes, in fact, we’re working on demos this weekend of new material. We really like how it’s all sounding.

Your music has been described as both “pop” and “aggressive.” Is that the direction you will continue to take with your next record?

Katie: That’s awesome. Definitely.

What are your thoughts on the D.C. music scene?

Katie: I love it here. My friends make some of my favorite music, and there are lots of people I don’t know who they are, lots of diverse sounds. The history of music in D.C. is super interesting: jazz, punk, go-go. Lots of stuff to dig through.

G.L.: This recent year has been very nostalgia heavy. With such a vibrant and prolific history, often lots of music gets overlooked, both past and present. While talking to people I meet on tour, often they want to talk about fabled bands of D.C.’s past, but there is so many exciting bands right now, here in D.C. It is exciting to tell people about them in our travels. Great things are happening here.

For more updates on PRIESTS, be sure to follow them on Tumblr, and listen to Bodies and Control and Money and Power on Bandcamp.

AFTER ALMOST 20 YEARS TOGETHER, THE UNABOMBERS STILL EMBODY THE PUNK ROCK SPIRIT OF DIY AND PROMOTE A MESSAGE OF FIGHTING AGAINST OPPRESSION FOR ALL PEOPLE

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INTERVIEW BY JOE FITZPATRICK

PHOTOS PROVIDED BY THE UNABOMBERS AND ROB BURLINGAME

In 1995, the music scene in Virginia was very different than it is now. Prior to the rise of mainstream use of the Internet by bands to promote their music, THE UNABOMBERS formed in December of that year. Consisting of guitarist and lead vocalist Trey Gares, drummer Greg Wise, and bassist Forrest Lucien, set their eyes on the road to give their music a true test. Almost 20 years later, the band has three full-length album releases under their belts, as well as features on multiple compilations. They have been praised throughout Virginia and beyond, and they have received multiple accolades for their high-energy live performances. We spoke with Gares regarding their perspectives on the local music scene and how it compares to when they started, the messages they promote, and their passion for the DIY ethic

On your Facebook page, your band is described as “Roots Rebel Street Rock.” Can you explain what you mean by that?

Basically, “roots” stand for the heart, as does any good music that I like. All good music comes from the heart versus cerebral, which is the brain. Now as far as “street,” our band is not just about me, it never was; it’s about a message and, not to sound facetious, a movement. It’s what we believe in, and as far as the “street,” we think we give voices to people that don’t have voices. We talk about stuff that other bands don’t talk about, and it’s for the people. We don’t look at THE UNABOMBERS as just three people; THE UNABOMBERS are the people. That’s the way it’s always been, and the “rock” part is because we rock the fuck out.

What sort of message are you trying to promote with your band?

I grew up in the [Washington], D.C. area, and when I moved down here to start a band, there had been a tolerance of Nazis. People said that they weren’t with them, but they tolerated them. So one of the first things we did, not just by ourselves but also with a bunch of other people, we removed them by force and haven’t seen them around for 13 or 14 years. It’s about fighting against oppression, and it’s about actually taking action versus just talking about stuff. It’s the realization that the world is pain and the world is tough, but what are you going to do about it? We believe that we can make it better step by step.

Since you mentioned that you are originally from D.C., I noticed you guys also have a pretty solid fan base in Washington, D.C. Do you play up there frequently?

We do as much as possible. We are actually playing there this weekend.

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Your band has been around for almost 20 years. How has the Hampton Roads music scene evolved over time since you guys started making music together?

It’s actually a lot easier for bands to get shows now. I think it more like a worldly view [of the music scene]. I’ve never really looked at us as a “local band.” We travel, and I think that is the ultimate test of any band. Me being not from here, I think certain bands can fall into traps of playing their hometowns too much. When you listen to your friends, they are going to tell you what you want to hear, whereas to test your band, you have to go on the road. I was never from here, so it was never a big deal for me to play around here.

As far as evolving, it’s much easier to get shows. Back when we started, anytime you booked a show you would have to send a package off through the mail to whatever club you wanted to play at, and you weren’t always going to be successful. It was hand written because we didn’t even have a word processor when we started — none of that, much less even the Internet. It’s so much easier to get your music out there now, but I think people take it for granted. If I wanted to be heard in New York, we had to go to New York when we started. So we did. Whereas now you can just upload a song, and it can be heard in China, Germany, and all over the world. I also think clubs are much more open to booking punk rock bands around here now. They still flinch at us, but that’s because we have a reputation for not putting up with bullshit. There’s also a ton more bands than when we started, so I think that’s a good thing.

I definitely agree. What are your thoughts on the current state of the Hampton Roads music scene?

I think there as many bands as their ever were. I think that focus needs to be more on getting out of town, like I was alluding to earlier. We’ll play with what I call “hobby bands” that do it for the weekend or just for kicks, but we look to our peers for bands that we really hang out with and support — bands that actually travel and put their music to a test. Places like a burger joint down the street, or Tap House or Belmont [House of Smoke] seem like the only places bands in Norfolk play. I don’t think there is a hard edge to too many bands that I would like to see, and in light of all the protests that have been occurring around the world in the past month or so, rightfully so, I don’t see many bands touching on that subject or even talking about it in between songs. That’s kinds of upsetting and almost offensive to me. Bands can talk about getting fucked up, or sleeping with whomever, but anybody can do that. It takes more [courage] to take a stand, and I wish bands would do that more often. But as far as talent wise, we do have some bands that are as good as any from around here. On the hardcore side, we’ve got PUSHING ON, PAPER TRAIL, CONQUERING ROME, DIE FASTER, and all these incredible bands. On the bar punk side, THOMAS MCDONALD AND THE RECORD COLLECTION, AGENDAS, and tons of great bands are around now. … I just think sometimes people get complacent very quickly. Your head can get gassed up, and that’s something that I had to deal with when we were starting out. … Hopefully, we’ve never been that band.

Has your band been self-managed the entire time you’ve been together as THE UNABOMBERS?

DIY is one of our laurels. It’s something we take very seriously, and I think a lot of bands turn to DIY because they get turned down by labels, which is not really DIY in my opinion. You are falling back on DIY [before] you embrace it. But from the get-go, we’ve always been DIY. We got money for one of our releases, but we’ve turned down multiple labels because at the end of the day, I don’t want to get 30 copies of the record and have someone else controlling everything. There are so many comps that w’re on that I haven’t even gotten a copy of, and people have heard us on the radio that didn’t know it was us without doing the background research. But DIY is our ethos, and we put our blood, sweat, and tears into it. It means more because it’s 100 percent ours. … We are the top tier guys, and we control everything. We’ve always been that way, and we always will be.

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I saw on your Facebook page that this past Halloween you guys played as 138, a MISFITS tribute band. Do you guys do that every year?

That’s me and the drummer, Greg Wise. That came about four years ago. My friend Jo Birch, who was running the Belmont at the time, she had the idea in June or July [of that year]. She called me up with her idea for a halfway to Halloween show, and she was like, “Do you want to learn fifteen or sixteen songs in two or three days and play with guys that you’ve never played with in your life,” and I thought it was so ridiculous but I jumped at it because it was a challenge. So I jumped in and joined. Two of the guys from the original thing stuck around, and then we put Greg on the drums because, in my opinion he’s not just one of the best drummers around here but also one of the premiere punk rock drummers in the world. Also, his background vocals are so strong. So in the past four years, we have done it as a four-piece with me and Greg, and a [couple] guys named Mike Chappel and Butch Waring.

As THE UNABOMBERS, have you been working on a new album recently?

Constantly. For us, it’s always been about the live show. I called some bands around here lazy, but they look at it differently than us. They put out a couple records a year, but they only play one or two shows a year. We play about 50 shows a year and put out one release a year. We have triple the [amount of] material to put out a new album, but it’s a matter of the right time and place. We don’t make moves unless it’s 100 percent certain, and we feel 100 percent behind it. So almost every show, we’re debuting new songs, but when it feels right to put out [our next record], we’ll do it.

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Do you have any other upcoming shows you would like to announce?

December 20 we are going to D.C. to play The Pinch. That’s the best punk rock club in D.C. January 3 we’re at Riffhouse in Port Norfolk with STEP BACKWARDS and a bunch of other bands. That should be a big one. Also, we’ll be at the [Virginia Beach] Oceanfront, which has really turned around, at a place called Retro [Café] on January 31. In the past five of six years, Norfolk has kind of had the lead as far as punk rock shows go, but for the past eight to 12 months, we have made an effort to bring punk rock back to the Oceanfront. There is the right ownership now, and one of our friends actually owns a club there. It’s really kicking Norfolk’s ass right now as far as crowds going off and [booking] better shows. We’ll [also] be back at Retro on February 27. … Great shows are happening around the Oceanfront now.

For more updates on THE UNABOMBERS, be sure to “like” their Facebook page.

OPUS 99 STARTING TO MAKE A NAME FOR THEMSELVES IN THE HAMPTON ROADS PUNK ROCK SCENE

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INTERVIEW BY JOE FITZPATRICK

PHOTOS BY KLW PHOTO!

Though their origins begin with classical music, the trio known as OPUS 99 from the Hampton Roads area has united under the anthem of punk rock. Based out of Virginia Beach, guitarist and vocalist claims to have been walking down the street playing his acoustic one September evening when his future bassist Blue Rivers skateboarded up to him and became instant friends. Blue introduced Sammy to his mutual friend Genghis Twan, who is usually simply referred to as Twan, and he eventually became the band’s drummer. There was instant chemistry between the three, and they have since sought to play happy-go-lucky punk songs. The band has only been together since 2012, but they have big plans ahead. I spoke with them about what the future holds for them.

I read your bio on your Facebook page. How much of that is true?

Sammy: I think 5% of it is real. It’s a random story that I came up with.

Blue: I think all of it is true (laughs).

What is the meaning behind your album title Nice Coat, Nice Sheen?

Blue: I am an avid cat lover. One day this guy came up to us with his cat, and I started getting real friendly with it, then I said to the cat (in a surfer dude tone), “Nice coat, nice sheen brah.” (laughs). After that, it kinda stuck, so we kept it for the album title.

Why did you choose to name your band OPUS 99?

Blue: Basically an opus is a musical work, and the 99 refers to the last, greatest piece of work. I studied classical music at Montgomery College in Rockville, MD the same time that TORI AMOS was going there.

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You guys seem to be really close friends with the guys in HOLLY WOULD… Are there any other local bands in particular you have a strong relationship with?

Blue: We are close with a few bands—SNIFFING GLUE, THE PORNADOS, and THE AFTERTHOUGHT STRANGER. We go to shows to support each other and support the local scene.

How was your last show with HOLLY WOULD… at Shakas on February 26th?

Blue: It was a bit rough for us. The last show we played before that was in October when we opened for AARON CARTER, so we were a bit rusty.

Sammy: It was definitely a good crowd though, and HOLLY WOULD… was amazing.

Do you have any shows coming up soon?

Blue: This Friday (February 28th) we are playing with THE CEMETARY BOYS at Belmont House of Smoke in Norfolk. We will be playing in our brightest day glow to bring some happiness to the crowd before they play their spooky, horror rock.

Sammy: On March 9th we will be back at Shakas for another local music show.

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When you guys aren’t making music, do you have any day jobs?

Sammy: I am an assistant manager of a pet store, Blue works as the CFO of a car dealership, and Twan does flooring and tiling.

Twan: All day, every day (laughs).

Please explain the story behind your song “Worthless”.

Sammy: I wrote it when I was down in the dumps at a time when I felt worthless and nothing was going right for me. I hope someone can relate to it and understand what I was going through.

What is next for OPUS 99?

Sammy: We will be making a video for our other song “You go, Glen Coco”, and we plan on getting out of the local area.

Where do you plan to tour?

Sammy: We want to go up and down the east coast, and see what other opportunities are out there.

For more updates on OPUS 99, be sure to “like” their Facebook page, follow them on Twitter, listen to their music on Bandcamp, and visit their website.