With this past summers Blink 182 release and the much anticipated Green Day album, “Revolution Radio,” I started thinking about how the punk scene has evolved. Do bands now still share the same anti-establishment, and anti- authority values? Do they still think of it more as a cultural revolt rather than just playing music?
I began wondering about this genre’s next generation–those whose earliest raucous musical memories are of riding in a car with an older sibling listening to “All the Small Things” and “American Idiot.” They knew, as they beat 4/4 time against the leg of their jeans with their drumstick hands, that they loved what they heard and had been infected.
These wonder children, though devoted, may not be as concerned with punk’s ancient origins. The founding fathers of punk wanted to go against the mainstream bubble gum rock of the fifties and sixties. They didn’t have fancy studios. Their sound was perfected bouncing off the oil stained floors of their dad’s garage.
Those early rebel rousers such as The Sonics were followed by glam mutations such as The Velvet Underground and The New York Dolls. England soon offered The Sex Pistols, The Damned, The Clash and later David Bowie. All of them went against the grain, paving the way for the mainstream popularity has punk enjoyed since the nineties.
I set out to dig a little deeper into the current punk scene, and it wasn’t hard since I’m addicted to my local college station, 88.1 WKNC, which plays a variety of Raleigh, N.C. bands as well as ones who are nationally known.
For a few weeks prior to my obsession taking hold, I kept hearing a band named Soccer Tees. Every time they came on, I was struck with how much their lead singer sounded like early Billie Joe Armstrong. They have that classic D.I.Y. raw quality with repetitive rhythms and hard edged vocals.
Googling the band introduced me not only to their other E.P.’s but a wondrous world I didn’t even know existed. Bandcamp is the site the Soccer Tees, along with thousands of other artists, call home. They pride themselves on equitable treatment of artists and are currently recognized as one of underground punk’s central agencies.
Reaching out to the Soccer Tees through Twitter, I found them eager to connect. When they first came through the door, I was a bit surprised by how non-stereotypical punk they were.
Zach Rimmer, the lead singer and guitarist, looks at first like he could be in a boy band. But he has an arm tat and longer mop top that would disqualify him from that realm.
Ciera Cipriani, the drummer, is the youngest and possesses a shy, sweet smile, yet an authentically untamed fro that sets her apart.
Lucas McBride, guitarist and sometimes vocalist, is the oldest and has the tall lean look of a rocker who sits up long hours into the night honing his skills.
I first asked them about their take on the current state of punk and what it was that drew them to it.
“It’s about community.” Zach answered immediately. “If you’re not going to be about mainstream pop and the big label, you have to be about something else and punk provides that.”
A couple nights later, I caught their set at the Pour House, a local bar that’s become pretty popular for up and coming acts like Rainbow Kitten Surprise and east coast fests such as Hopscotch. As soon as I entered, I understood first hand that sense of community Zach spoke about.
Their audience consisted mostly of twenty somethings who seemed to be into American Apparel, growing their first beards, keep their hair scraggly and hugging one another in greeting. Unlike their predecessors, they didn’t wear leather jackets, black eyeliner or nail polish and thrash around in mosh pits. The scene felt like entering the basement of a church for a support group rather than attending a punk concert.
Their set made me think about how Ciera said the difference between punk and alternative is that alternative is a sound while punk is an attitude.
The Soccer Tees certainly have the attitude down. After Zach joked and expressed his and gratitude to all who’d come out, the band proceeded to play their hearts out. They genuinely had fun and did what they do best. They performed like the audience was not there, as if they were truly in a garage and didn’t care if they stayed there forever.
Although the band claims politics has never made its way into their lyrics, their songs are not without their in-your-face qualities.
In their track “Blink,” Zach sings “Ankle deep in gasoline and you’re holding the match. So darling, do you need a light so you can send us both up in flames?”
While this song seems to be about jaded love, Zach described it as being about grappling with one’s own identity and its fracturing.
After delving into this new era of punk, I was glad to find that it is still alive and well. That while we still love to hear from our beloved faves from the nineties, new bands are forging the path away from the mainstream even still.
There are still artists who value sharing their music with the masses by making their own brand of D.I.Y. style E.P.’s. Ones who aren’t worried as much about their rise to fame, as they are about the journey and who’s on it with them.
In this way, they are keep the anti– theme of punk alive. Maybe the new era of punk is about providing an alternative to what the corporate conglomerate and media has to dish out? Just maybe the new era of punk is not as much about raging against the world as it is about singing along with it.
Have a listen…