Sons of Jefferson
Redding-Chico hardcore syndicate promoting the positive side of punk
At face value, there’s little in common between a group of mostly 20-something Chico skate punks and the God-, gun- and deregulation-loving, green-flag-waving senior citizens who’ve come to represent the the State of Jefferson movement. But in their hearts, all of them are native sons and daughters of that semi-mythical place.
“We feel like we’re skipped over and underrepresented in this part of Northern California,” said Miles Claibourn, one of the primary organizers of the Jefferson Crew—a tight-knit clique of punk bands, fans and friends who’ve been making waves in the local music scene in the past year. “To outsiders there’s just Portland and The Bay, and we’re just the big area in the middle that no one cares about.”
Claibourn’s rhetoric may sound similar to the secessionists’, but he was actually speaking about the sometimes thriving but often-overlooked music scenes in rural Northern California towns, something he’s become intimately familiar with since he started playing in bands and booking shows as a teenager in his native Redding.
Claibourn explained he moved to Chico from Redding last year, as did several of his friends and musical cohorts, and they all quickly solidified their existing local connections. Claibourn plays guitar in Criminal Wave and sings in Outside Looking In, and other Jefferson Crew bands include Icko Sicko, Gorilla X Monsoon and Kong. It’s an incestuous crew, with several of the bands sharing members, and most of those members are straight-edge, meaning they choose not to use intoxicants.
“It’s not like a requirement or anything and we don’t shove those beliefs down people’s throats,” Claibourn said. “But most of us don’t drink or smoke.”
Most of the bands have recorded or are recording, and release their music on tape through Xerox Records, a label Claibourn started in Redding for the express purpose of putting out his friends’ projects.
The Jefferson moniker is also double-edged, a back-handed slap at the conservative small-town landscapes most members of the crew hail from, settings that aren’t always amicable and accepting of budding punks and their art.
“One of our main points of interest is the small-town struggle,” Claibourn said, listing the many ways it’s hard to sustain a scene in the proverbial sticks—movers and shakers leave town, bands break up, cops and neighbors are unwelcoming, and punk-friendly venues are rare and often short-lived.
“I guess music scenes everywhere go through ups and downs, but in small towns you really feel it,” Claibourn said, adding that one of the Jefferson Crew’s goals is establishing a solid network among the North State and southern Oregon’s scattered scenes, in order to share resources and contacts, and help bands record, tour and attract touring acts.
The Jefferson Crew already has made an impact, working with the more established Pyrate Punx to book shows at Monstros Pizza and helping pioneer new local venues, most notably by holding the first punk shows at 100th Monkey Café. They also don’t let the lack of a public venue hinder opportunities to host touring bands, throwing house shows in Criminal Wave vocalist Tommy Ghiorso’s so-called “Basement of Frustration” when necessary.
Icko Sicko/Criminal Wave drummer Sawyer Goodson echoed Claibourn’s sentiments about the Jefferson Crew being a force for overall positivity in the local punk scene, saying they also proselytize the gospel of punk to the next generation of righteous rebels.
“When we go out fliering or skating, we try to tell the younger kids about this great thing going on they’re welcome to be a part of,” he said. “We want to encourage people to be part of the scene, not just part of the scenery.”