7seconds: It’s over

Iconic punk band calls it a day

Photo courtesy of John Muheim

Working on his documentary about early East Bay punk, 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: a band that was 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 the punk bands that young ears like mine grew up listening to.

“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 and frontman with Lars Frederiksen and the Bastards. “They’re such humble dudes, they probably don’t even realize the mark they’ve made.”

Last week, after nearly 40 years of writing, recording, touring and hustling, Kevin Seconds announced they’re calling it quits.

“None of us ever wanted to make a ’we quit’ announcement,” Seconds posted on the band’s Instagram page. “Well shit … I’m here to very sadly and regretfully announce that the band is officially calling it a day.”

Seconds cited health issues as the main reason for the split—his brother and bassist, Steve Youth, is in recovery for addiction issues; and with wrist injuries, drummer Troy Mowat can’t play at the same intensity without further damage.

“I can’t see the band without the four of us,” including guitarist Bobby Adams, he said. “It felt like the right time.”

Seconds’ introduction to punk was an NBC special on the odd new genre, with characters like Sid Vicious and other sensational punk poster boys that scared parents and intrigued bored kids. Growing up in Reno when entertainment and culture for the under-21 crowd was sparse (or dumb and racist), Seconds was one of those kids. He wanted to be a punker, and would take his kid brother along for the ride.

Around 1979, Seconds was on the hunt for band members and found brothers Tom Munist and Dim Menace. On March 2, 1980, in a little redneck bar, 7Seconds played their first show.

“What they did in Reno was very notable,” said Redford, who featured Seconds in his documentary Turn it Around: The Story of East Bay Punk.“They built a whole community there around the hardcore scene.”

Seconds began sending postcards to Dead Kennedys in San Francisco, Black Flag in LA 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.

“We built a scene,” he said. “It was the only way to survive being a young person in Reno at the time.”

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. She earned the nickname “Ma Seconds” and always got a thank you in the sleeve of 7Seconds tapes and CDs.

“I couldn’t write songs about hating my parents,” Seconds jokes. “I couldn’t rebel against her because my mom had amazing musical taste. She turned me on to David Bowie.”

A single mother, Seconds remembers her outspokenness against homophobia and racism, which helped shape his worldview. 7Seconds became known for promoting unity, carrying 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, and the city embraced 7Seconds as its own. They’ve since been inducted into the SAMMIES Hall of Fame after winning voter’s choice for Best Punk Band in 2000 and 2001. For years, Kevin Seconds has also performed as a folk singer-songwriter both solo and with his wife, Allyson Seconds. They’ve both earned SAMMIES individually for their music, and ran the Love Cafe venue from 2001 to 2004.

“Kevin as a person, as an artist, is an example of a lifer,” Redford said. “He’s somebody who will always create, and that’s so inspiring.” If 7Seconds really didn’t know their reach, the outpouring in recent days made it clear. Seconds is catching up in responding to heartfelt messages and phone calls from friends, fans and bands.

He celebrated his 57th birthday with a Saturday night show at Luna’s Cafe & Juice Bar, where he couldn’t hold back tears while playing an acoustic version of the 7Seconds song, “Leave A Light On.”

“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. “My hat’s off to them. Nothing will ever take away what they accomplished.”

Seconds is considering writing a book about his experiences so the memories don’t fade.

“They’ve kept going for love of each other, the love of the music and the love of the punk rock community,” Redford said. “We are very lucky to have had them for as long as we did. It’s very rare.”

There are new, unrecorded songs Seconds had written for the band, but they may never get to play them 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.”