“No one in this town likes pop punk
Cool kids like their garage punk
If your band has fuzzy vocals
You’ll be a hit with all the locals”
– The Capitalist Kids, Not ‘95
Though the crux of “Not ‘95” (the opening track from At a Loss, locals The Capitalist Kids’ latest LP) is the chorus “Not here to impress no one/We’re only doing this for fun” the opening lines (above) are no less stinging of an indictment. Like being a pop punk band circa 1995, there is nothing more fashionable in the realm of punk music right now than garage punk. The noisier, fuzzier, and the more repetitive your 3-chord progression, the more the hipsters and the lazy mainstream music press taste makers are going to be into it. I don’t mean to rag on the bands though. Though typically not my preference (I’m a 90’s hXc kid) there’s some garage punk I’m into and the sharpest criticism I’m ever going to give to a band that I’m not into (and that I think is honestly doing what they love) is that maybe it’s just not for me. No, what really gets me is the punk-as-fashion bullshit that defines the recent pop culture spotlight on garage punk.
Punk can be popular, but punk eschews fashion and I’m not talking about clothes. In my mind the former is simply a state of being, based on the likelihood that a majority of people in a particular sample will be into what you’re doing. I view the latter however as an attempt to manipulate, determine, or otherwise define something that may or may not be popular in such a way that it can be easily distributed and consumed. I can’t quite pinpoint when it was determined that “garage” punk was the new fashionable form of punk music, but I know that in my five years living in Austin, I’ve heard about way more local garage punk bands than any others from both national and local press. It wasn’t until I really started to dig in (doing advanced searches on Bandcamp and Soundcloud) that I was ever able to find most of the local non-garage punk bands that I’m into today. While I’m used to (or often oblivious to) lax or non-existent mainstream reporting on punk music (local or otherwise), it gets on my nerves to see punk mentioned solely in the context of “garage” or more traditionally (and lazily) coupled with metal. If you’re going to report on punk, at least do your homework and learn to listen for more than just simplicity and volume.
Austin in general suffers from a bit of a fashion crisis when it comes to our local scene. This is to say that the breadth of music in Austin is so vast that we’re not easily pigeon holed and while there are a metric ton of amazing artists here, it’s easier for the taste makers to focus on more homogeneous scenes elsewhere or portray our diverse local music scene as only containing certain fashionable elements instead. Such has been the case with Austin and garage punk. While it’s very likely that Austin has a higher concentration of good garage punk bands than other scenes, it is my feeling that to focus only on garage is to treat music as fashion and punk should never be treated as fashion. If you’re going to talk about punk then talk about everything: garage, pop, post, crust, hardcore, and any other variation alike. In part to help kick start such conversations we here at OVRLD have decided to give people something to talk about.
This Friday, September 5th, at Beerland on Red River, OVRLD will be hosting “Out of Step: An Evening of Austin Punk Music.” This will be the first of what we hope will be a recurring series of shows highlighting the best of Austin’s diverse and vibrant punk scene. Kicking things off we’ve got three of my recent favorites from the area. Opening the evening will be Basketball Shorts, a group that I’ve written about here previously and whose fast-paced, haphazard pop punk is sure to get your feet moving, while slapping a big, dumb grin on your face. Next up will be the powerhouse 4-piece known as Super Thief. With a sound almost as diverse as Austin’s punk scene itself, Super Thief play a kind of 90’s-infused post-punk recalling everything from Fugazi and Sonic Youth, to Slint and beyond. Closing out the evening will be Carl Sagan’s Skate Shoes, a two-piece that we recently featured on OVRLD whose post-Black Flag, pre-Refused approach to hardcore incorporates elements of indie-rock and early-emo to create a sound that’s way bigger and more exciting than two people alone should ever people able to produce.
It’s just a start and these are only three of the amazing bands out of the many I’d like to see featured in the future, but if you want to know where the place to be is in order to experience Austin punk music on Sept. 5th, it’s no further than Beerland. Consider this a shot across the bow to all the other music journos and bloggers out there. If you want to experience Austin punk music then I dare you to buck the trend and cover this show and these bands. Take a break from confirming the constrictive labeling of Austin as some kind of garage music Mecca and join us in celebrating the other diverse and vital segments of our punk scene. Many of these bands have been too long under represented simply because they don’t fit the current trends and when covering punk means covering trends, then something has gone seriously wrong.