Gruk is dead

An exit interview with Chico’s oldest punk band

crow by Matt Loomis

Dead band’s party: Gruk performs its final show ever Saturday, July 17, 8 p.m., at Monstros Pizza, with Wobblies and many more. $5 donation.
Monstros Pizza, 628 W. Sacramento Ave.

Monstros Pizza & Subs

628 W. Sacramento Ave.
Chico, CA 95926

(530) 345-7672

The life cycle of the average punk band is roughly equivalent to that of a housefly. Most survive just long enough to annoy a few people, puke on some things and sometimes reproduce, passing along their strongest traits to another short-lived creation.

Then there’s Gruk, which is more like The Fly of science fiction, an experiment gone totally awry to the horror of straight society and glee of a cultish following.

Gruk was formed in Red Bluff in 1999 and moved to Chico shortly after. In the decade since, the band’s flourished in the face of multitudinous lineup changes and strict devotion to do-it-yourself ethos, logging a half-dozen laps around the United States, 10 jaunts up and down the West Coast and a European tour. They’ve released two full-length CDs and a handful of seven inches as well as appeared on countless split seven inches, tapes (tapes!) and compilation CDs.

Arguably more important, members of Gruk have worked tirelessly to strengthen the local music scene by establishing venues (a litany of punk houses with names like Broken Glass and the Hell House precede their stronghold of the last four years, Monstros Pizza) and bringing in as many out-of-town bands as possible, as well as passing along their knowledge and contacts to help other locals venture abroad. To further this end they partnered with the Pyrate Punx, a nationwide network of like-minded bands.

Due to some members’ day jobs inhibiting their ability to tour, the members of Gruk have decided to finally call it a day. Singer Rachel Loveless, guitarist Scribles, drummer Sean “Hipmo” Cummins and interim bassist Cody K (who’s stepping into his third tour of duty with the band in place of Logan Kaiser) gathered on Cody’s porch on the eve of what will be the last tour for some final words.

Back in Red Bluff, did you ever think you’d be sitting here more than a decade later?

Loveless: Nope. For me it was always like if we can play a show with [former Redding band] the Kansas City Stars I’ll be happy, if we can play a show with The Fleshies I’ll be happy, if we can do a West Coast tour I can die happy, if we can do a European tour I’ll die happy. It was always just going one up from whatever the last thing was. I would have never guessed this would work out and we would have toured this much and done everything we have.

The band has always been political; how do you exercise your beliefs other than in lyrics? Also, any commentary on the political climate in Chico?

Scribles: I think being part of the DIY scene is that it goes past the music and people figure out ways to work in communities and get involved, politically and otherwise, to try to change things on a larger level. As for the political climate, there’s a lot worse places to be.

Hipmo: I shook Larry Wahl’s hand at a gun show a few weeks ago.

Aren’t some punks critical of the Pyrate Punx?

Loveless: People say we’re a gang or that we’re exclusivists. The thing is, it’s exactly what we’ve all been doing the past 10 years, but all we did was give it a name and be part of something bigger. There’s always going to be shit talkers and there’s always going to be haters of the people that are doing something in the scene.

photos courtesy OF Gruk

Hipmo: I kind of liken it to the fable where a guy demonstrates that one stick is easy to snap but 10 together are really hard to break. It’s really nice to work with a group of people toward the same goal; it spreads the stress and the work load out.

With so many lineup changes, is there someone who’s responsible for the firing?

Loveless: We’ve always sat down as a group and told people they were out, but we’ve really only had to kick out a few people.

Were there any that were particularly difficult?

All: Brad [Lambert, former bassist].

Loveless: Because he moved before we had a chance to sit down with him, so we had to do it over speakerphone.

Hipmo: That was kind of emotional, it was just a shitty situation all around.

The band was named after a crow that recently died at the Chico Creek Nature Center; did you guys do anything special?

Loveless: Well, I took it as a bad sign. I was like, dude, I think we’re done, the fuckin’ crow died.

What’s your favorite Gruk memory?

Loveless: Camping in France with [the band] Vals. Playing in the Czech Republic. They had what was essentially homemade moonshine; we drank a lot of that before we played and then people were singing along even though they had no idea what the words were. We’d even stop playing and they’d be all like “Rararararara!” That was pretty surreal for me.

Hipmo: What about when we camped out in the parking lot at Niagara Falls, and Rachel and I and Brad got into some sort of wine fight? I pulled Scribles off the roof of the van and pancaked him on the fucking concrete. Then we were riding carts and ramming them into this wooden thing, we had to jump off and tuck and roll to keep from killing ourselves.

Loveless: It’s really hard to pinpoint any one, there’s so many.

Any last words?

Hipmo: Our last show is gonna be a really sad day. I intend to be really fucking drunk. We’re trying to book as many bands as possible. There will be one hell of an after party.