Walk off together
Working on his documentary about early punk in California’s East Bay, filmmaker Corbett Redford asked the founding bands and volunteers at Berkeley’s iconic 924 Gilman venue to name their influences. One band was named across the board: 7Seconds.
7Seconds—melodic and heartfelt, fast as hell and one of the first to call themselves hardcore. Part Reno, part Sacramento, 7Seconds had an early impact on major punk bands.
“I owe an incredible amount to bands like 7Seconds for giving me the opportunity and paving a way for my band to make music,” said Lars Frederiksen, guitarist/vocalist with Rancid. “They’re such humble dudes, they probably don’t even realize the mark they’ve made.”
In late March, after nearly 40 years of writing, recording, touring and hustling, Kevin Seconds announced on Instagram they’re calling it quits.
Health issues are the main reason for the split—his brother and bassist, Steve Youth, is in treatment for addiction issues, and with wrist injuries, drummer Troy Mowat can’t continue playing with the same intensity.
Seconds’ first saw punk rock on television, with sensational punk poster boys like Sid Vicious scaring parents and intriguing bored kids. He wanted to be a punker and would take his kid brother along for the ride. On March 2, 1980, in a little redneck bar in Reno, 7Seconds played its first show.
“They built a whole community there around the hardcore scene,” said Redford, who featured Seconds in his documentary Turn it Around: The Story of East Bay Punk.
Seconds sent postcards to Dead Kennedys in San Francisco, Black Flag in Los Angeles and D.O.A. in Vancouver, asking them to play Reno before he’d even arranged a venue. Kinko’s became Seconds’ office, where he’d work on fliers, cassette tape covers and zines.
“It was the only way to survive being a young person in Reno at the time,” he said.
As the scene—lovingly called Skeeno—grew, the Seconds home became the landing pad for touring bands. Seconds’ mom, Barbara, would get up early to make breakfast for her house full of punks, earning the nickname “Ma Seconds.”
Barbara was a single mother who spoke out against homophobia and racism, which helped shape Kevin’s worldview. 7Seconds became known for promoting unity, maintaining a positive mental attitude (PMA!) and taking care of one another. She passed away in 2016.
“Their overall message is one of coming together and building together,” Redford added. “And that is as relevant of a message today as it’s ever been.”
In 1988, Seconds returned to Sacramento where he met his now-wife, Allyson Seconds. For years, he’s performed as a folk singer-songwriter, solo and with Allyson, and together they ran a coffee shop/venue.
During an acoustic performance of the 7Seconds song “Leave A Light On” the weekend after the announcement, Seconds couldn’t hold back the tears.
“It’s a shame they have to pack it in, but I totally get it,” said Frederiksen, adding that punk rock takes a toll on the body. “Nothing will ever take away what they accomplished.”
Seconds is considering writing a book about his experiences so the memories don’t fade. And there are new, unrecorded songs written that the bandmates may never get to play together.
“Look, if tomorrow Troy and Steve said, ’We’re feeling great and we’re healthy, let’s do this,’ I’d do it in a heartbeat,” he said.