Machine Gun Vendetta
Even if the Reno band Machine Gun Vendetta didn’t have the words “machine gun” in the name, “machine gun drumming” would still be the best description of drummer Scott Bartolomeo’s fast, loud and precise approach. The dude hits hard, plays fast, and lands each crack with deadly precision.
The whole band plays fast, loud and tight—which is an entirely different style of music than fast, loud and sloppy. Although it’s high volume, high energy, high speed punk rock, the songs are tightly constructed, cohesive and melodic. These guys never lose focus.
In addition to Bartolomeo, the band includes guitarist Jim Guthrie, bassist and lead vocalist Adam Dick, and lead guitarist Nick Jones. Everybody sings backup, and they even pull off some vocal harmonies, which is tricky, considering they’re all simultaneously rapid firing their instruments.
Genre-wise, they’re in line with ’90s style skate punk, but with a bit more old-school hardcore, from back when hardcore was short for “hardcore punk.” The band hits a sweet spot between Black Flag and Pennywise, so it sounds sort of like Reno legend 7 Seconds.
“7 Seconds has been my favorite band since I was 15,” says Dick.
The group is focused on relentless speed, but like any good band that prides itself on its tightness, the musicians throw in occasional pauses or a couple of bars of syncopated ska just to make sure you’re paying attention.
And Jones is something of a secret weapon. He plays some good old-fashioned guitar solos in the group’s newer tunes, like “A Blurred Vision” and “The Third World End Game.” His solos draw on the tickle-the-pig vocabulary of heavy metal guitar solos: high pitched squeals, nimble-fingered runs, and guttural low notes. It’s great to hear this kind of playing in the context of punk rock—like hearing Metallica’s Kirk Hammett jam with Bad Religion. A few years ago, not even metal bands were taking guitar solos anymore, so it’s nice to hear that the art of the guitar solo is so back en vogue that even speed freak punk bands are taking them.
Bad Religion is another big influence. Dick’s clean and high, declamatory and melodic vocal style, sitting comfortably atop the frenzied music is reminiscent of Bad Religion’s Greg Graffin.
The band formed back in 2004, with a different name, Machine Gun Etiquette, and a different lineup. Only Dick and Bartolomeo remain from the original lineup. Guthrie joined four years ago, and Jones has been in the band for eight months.
All four members say they enjoy the challenge and the cathartic release of playing fast music—especially in front of an enthusiastic audience.
“We get to feel that for ourselves but also give that feeling to someone else,” says Jones.
One of the band’s goals is to “play music for people to mosh to.” They get a rush of energy from seeing an excited crowd react to their music, which makes them play with even more energy, creating a feedback loop of energy between band and audience. The members of Machine Gun Vendetta are not reinventing the wheel, but they’re definitely skating on wheels that roll—and rock.