‘All handshakes, no contracts’
Drinking cold ones and ripping through practice with Bastards of Young
Citrus Heights, CA 95610
“Let’s dust that one off.” Pat Hills grabs another bottleneck from a box of chilled Coors that rests on the floor in the middle of a big room inside Matt Erich’s EME Recording Studio in Midtown. The spot—a secret gem hidden in a factory’s shadows and dimly lit by a single street lamp—has housed such bands as Deftones, Cake and Hoods over its 20 years.
Today, it’s where Sacramento punk band Bastards of Young practices: a once-a-week, three-hour ritual among four friends, two who happen to be brothers.
The band revitalizes an older song, “Five to Life.” Beads of water slowly trickle down amber-colored windows as the room’s humidity thickens. After a song is done, there’s hardly any discussion about what to play next. Even though it’s practice, these musicians mean business. Sure, they joke around and quote a few comedy movies. But when a song sets in motion, everything falls in line.
“All of us have been playing in the punk-rock scene for years,” explains bassist Sean Hills. “I think we’re more than just a punk-rock band, but we just fit in that niche very comfortably because that’s where we’re from.”
Bastards of Young formed in the summer of 2007 with a simple goal that many bands often take for granted: have fun playing the music you know. These guys know punk rock, but BOY’s style has a definitive pop-feel. Yet the guys don’t write material about chicks, bubble gum or teen angst like other radio-friendly pop-punk counterparts. Their songs have substance.
Vocalist and guitarist Nick Ripley wrote the song “California Redemption” in protest of Proposition 8. He writes most of the band’s lyrics, and the band is an outlet to sort out worldly injustices and past experiences. Sometimes songs share painful memories, such as the unexpected death of his sister when he was just 13, an experience he wrote about in the song “Wooden Benches.”
“Music to me is very personal,” he says. “It’s the most honest expression anyone could have. To me, putting myself into my songs, I don’t take it very lightly. It’s not just, ‘Here’s a song that doesn’t mean anything.’ It’s something I’ve gone through, something I’ve felt. There’s a part of me in the songs that I play.”
And while BOY fits well into punk, the guys say mosh pits and stage dives are not really their scene. The sound is richer, filled with vocal harmonies, melodic pop chords and Ripley’s unrelentingly, raucous vocals, like those of Tom Gabel in Against Me.
“It’s not about rebellion. It’s self reflection,” Ripley argues.
All band business is 100 percent DIY, including putting out music with friends who own record labels. “It’s all handshakes, no contracts,” says Sean. “We like to work with people we know and, so far, it’s worked out pretty well.”
Sean creates most of the artwork for the band’s T-shirts, album covers and fliers, while brother Pat records all of BOY’s music. Drummer Wyman Harrell not only holds down the percussion section like a beast, but he also brings the country-roots influence from his experiences playing percussion in the Dave Russell Band.
“For the record, I’ve been doing punk rock way longer than country,” he jokes. “I just started that six months ago.”
Both Harrell and the Hills brothers met while playing together in local street-punk band Hanover Saints; Harrell is s still a member. The guys tour in a black, 1990 Ford Econoline, nicknamed “Vanzig.” Last summer they did a West Coast tour with the Secretions, coinciding with the release of their eight-song EP cassette tape California Redemption.
“All of our releases are on vinyl and cassette at this point,” explains Sean. “We did that last summer because we were on a budget, and we wanted to get something out real quick before we went on tour. I’m not opposed to CDs. I’m just not a fan of them. It’s not a very personal medium.” Pat makes sure each release comes with a digital-download card.
According to Ripley, the next step for BOY is to record a full-length album. So the band is planning on lying low this summer, playing shows locally on occasion, but really focusing on writing new material.
“I think we’re all evolving as individuals, and our music is doing that naturally as well,” Sean observes. “I’m always going to be listening to music and I’m always going to have an interest in playing music, writing music, being involved with music. I don’t see myself ever growing out of it. As long as we’re still writing new music, having a good time—”
“It’s hard to see it coming to an end,” Harrell finishes.