Punk rock bible
If you take away the anti-establishment, politically-driven messages in some punk rock music, what are you left with? Songs about life that are stripped-down in instrumentation, but continue to bring the relentless, unadorned, pulsing edge that defines the genre’s sound. This is the area where Donkey Jaw works.
Formed in 2013, Donkey Jaw draws its main influences from bands inextricably linked with the punk rock of the late 1980s to mid-1990s, like Operation Ivy, Rancid and Alkaline Trio.
The official band consists of Zack Ryan on guitar and vocals, Josh Marche on bass, and Kodeus McKinley on drums, with close friend Timmy Lund often rehearsing with them on guitar. While the band does collaborate creatively on fleshing out their music, Ryan is the principal songwriter.
But the name came from McKinley.
A few years after “Donkey Jaw” was rejected as a name for McKinley’s previous band, it finally found its place.
“It’s actually biblical,” says McKinley. “There’s a story about [Samson] in the Bible. He kills a thousand dudes with a donkey’s jaw. I thought that was sick.”
Donkey Jaw’s sound encompasses the driving beat, the tastefully simplistic chord progressions, and the aggressive vocals that are characteristic of punk. But unlike a lot of punk rock, the songs are basically all sans political underpinnings.
The content of the songs instead focus on topics you’d find in everyday life, through the eyes of a 20-year-old in Reno.
“Friends, family, life, love,” says Ryan. “Reno is so clouded with politics. We needed something that wasn’t … political. Our music is something you don’t have to think too much about. You just feel it.”
Outside of making music, all four men are good friends, bonding over Pokémon, video games and a love of fried chicken. But it was punk rock music that started their friendships.
In regard to meeting McKinley, Ryan says, “When you see someone wearing a [Rancid] shirt, you make a beeline.”
With Lund, however, meeting him was a different story.
“They met me on Craigslist and thought I was a murderer,” laughs Lund. “So they strategically hid clubs and weapons all around the room. But we played 'My War' by Black Flag, and then I knew it was OK.”
While Donkey Jaw is made of relatively young musicians, all either 20 or 21, they represent a small demographic of the Reno punk rock scene. While the community of bands and fans have been welcoming, the members sometimes find it difficult to connect to older punk rockers.
“Sometimes it’s hard to relate,” Ryan jokes. “We’re not feeding our kids or paying our mortgages.”
But the group hopes the age disparity changes. Marche says, “I wish we could just convert people.”
“Can we tell you about our lord and savior, Sid Vicious?” laughs Timmy Lund.
While punk rock music doesn’t enjoy the same popularity as its start in the 1970s or its revival in the 1990s, Donkey Jaw thinks it will continue to endure.
“There are certain kinds of people that punk rock resonates with,” says Ryan. “That will always happen, because there is nothing else like it.”
Currently, Donkey Jaw has been playing shows in Reno. They hope to set up concerts outside of Reno and would like to plan a tour in the future. They are also in the midst of making their first album, Donkey Jaw Lives, which is being recorded by Lund. It will feature 12 original songs, with the release date not yet set.