Don’t fear the Gruk

Chico punkers mix politics with a sense of humor

GRUK NEED FOOD<br>Gruk settles in for some fine dining. Left to right, bassist Brad Lambert, singer Rachel Loveless, drummer Tiffany Ford and guitarist Ryan Emotion.

Gruk settles in for some fine dining. Left to right, bassist Brad Lambert, singer Rachel Loveless, drummer Tiffany Ford and guitarist Ryan Emotion.

Photo By Tom Angel

See Gruk Play: Thurs., Oct. 2 with Bumbklatt & Nogoodnix TBA (show moved to Moxie’s Café or somewhere else due to closure of Riff Raff. Check for updates) Tuesday, Oct. 14 with Strong Intention At Moxie’s Café, 8 p.m. All ages.

Punk is at its best when placed beside something else. Punk next to punk is not always so powerful. When experienced in contrast, punk rock transcends whatever fun, energetic, cathartic communal activity is taking place and pogos into a realm where it can be shocking and jarring again. This is why I love to see a punk band perform where it’s not supposed to: the Sex Pistols on a barge on the Thames during the Queen’s Silver Jubilee or Gruk at Moxie’s Café during a variety show.

“We were right after this hippie lady,” is how Gruk’s lead singer Rachel Loveless remembered the evening. The “hippie lady” was reading poetry, of all things, and as if to burn clean all trace of her existence the punk foursome scorched the stage with a rush of screeching fury that blinded the crowd from seeing or remembering anything else for the rest of the evening. And they just played one song!

Occupying a place next to seminal Chico punk acts like the P.A.W.N.S. and Nogoodnix, Gruk is a working punk band that, like its counterparts, makes a consorted effort to stay below the radar of the pop-punk movement that has taken root in the mainstream in the wake of the popularity of Green Day and Blink 182. Lead guitarist and songwriter Ryan Emotion tried to explain the band’s musical mindset. “Artistically we’re going for something that harkens back to ‘80s hardcore—Minor Threat, Black Flag, The Germs.” Their intention shows as Gruk comes across similarly to these influences, but it’s not so much what style they’re playing as it is how they play it. As art commentator Crispen at described it, it’s like an “absolutely pure upwelling of what they [are].”

Trying to do a couple of tours a year and self-releasing a CD (with a second CD coming soon) and a couple of split-7” records, the band is following the D.I.Y. blueprint and actually living the punk life. With a big, black tattoo of radical activist Emma Goldman on her right forearm, Loveless provides a clear symbol of the band’s motivation and how they see things.

“We’re totally into the politics and the punk aesthetic,” said bassist Brad Lambert, “We go to protests the way that some people go to baseball games.”

“It’s kind of the way we live our lives,” Loveless added.

The thing is though, that like a lot of bands that have come out of the various outlying rural towns scattered around the Northstate (Emotion and Loveless grew up in Red Bluff, and Lambert and newly-joined drummer Tiffany Ford both hail from Redding), there is a looseness and a fun-loving attitude in the music that some of the more militant punk bands lack. “I don’t think we take it as seriously as other bands,” explained Emotion, “Punk rock is funny.” “It’s a fuckin’ joke,” Lambert chimed in.

This additional area of contrast—hard core punk mixed with a looseness that sets personalities free—is the crux of Gruk, if you will. As Emotion puts it, "The amalgamation of fashion, music and the social aspects of it. … Having a grasp of all [of them] keeps you interested."