Local road-warrior band Red Tape bridges old-school hardcore with much newer forms of noise
The boys in Red Tape are keeping their day jobs—for now, at least. Signed to major label Roadrunner Records last year, the group has just started down the road to national success. But it’s a hard road, and bands that don’t keep their heads on straight usually can’t make the long haul to the big time.
“We didn’t get a [cash] advance from Roadrunner,” bassist Twig Von Wussow pointed out. Though other bands blow their advances on fancy motorcycles before the ink on their checks has dried, the members of Red Tape are keeping their feet firmly planted on the ground. “We still have a DIY [do-it-yourself] ethic. The people at Roadrunner are excited about us and are working to promote us. But they are even more excited that that we are still out there touring and working to promote the band,” he said.
By signing with Roadrunner, Red Tape became labelmates with metal heavyweights Slipknot, Sepultura and Soulfly. Red Tape’s diverse sound draws influence from metal and hardcore, but singer and guitarist Jeff Jaworski described the band as “thrash punk.” The band has shared stages with old-school punk bands Bad Brains and True Sounds Of Liberty but also has toured with so-hot-right-now hardcore bands Avenged Sevenfold and Bleeding Through. “We’re hardcore in the early-’80s sense,” said Jaworski. “The only show we would fit perfectly on would be if Black Flag got back together.”
Red Tape’s debut CD, Radioactivist, hit stores this week, and the band just filmed a video for “Stalingrad,” a bombastic tune with a hooky, sing-along ending. The video, produced for just under $9,000, was filmed entirely in Sacramento, primarily in the streets and clubs that Red Tape frequents. “We would rather have a small video budget and owe the label less money in the end,” Von Wussow said.
Red Tape’s members aren’t living in expensive penthouses or having deli trays delivered to practice, either. In fact, the only big purchases they’ve made so far on their major-label budget are a 15-passenger tour van and some new musical equipment. Most of the guys in Red Tape are band veterans: Von Wussow and drummer JD have been in a half-dozen local bands together, and guitarist Mark Meraji was in Double Think. They’ve seen many bands get dropped, screwed or simply forgotten about by major labels. “That’s why you have to keep the DIY ethic,” observed JD, “because, any day, it could be gone. Bands that get used to being spoon-fed will be out of luck.”
Having just returned from a five-week tour with hardcore godfather acts Murphy’s Law and Bad Brains, Red Tape is already planning to hit the road again with TSOL. The band’s road-warrior schedule has as much to do with Red Tape’s love of touring as it does with Sacramento’s recent shortage of all-ages punk venues. With clubs closing their doors to punk bands, or closing their doors altogether, local bands have little choice but to hit the road. Both the Capitol Garage and The Boardwalk have had their share of troubles in the past year, and the U-Turn has stopped doing shows entirely.
A recent Red Tape show at Espresso Metro drew a great response from the kids in attendance but a less-than-positive response from police. “At first, [the show] was a real nice, friendly vibe,” recalled Jaworski. “Everyone was just having fun. Then the cops came in and stopped the show. They searched everyone, with flashlights, like they were looking for weapons or contraband. They finally left, and the show went on, but it totally changed the vibe of the show. We felt like we were criminals.” Their parade thoroughly rained on, the crowd’s attitude made a turn for the worse, and “some people got unruly … and now there can’t be punk shows there,” he said.
Between day jobs, tour dates and club woes, local Red Tape shows are becoming few and far between. But the band will play a handful of gigs in Sacramento in the next couple of months. All signs point to them blowing up on the national music scene, so see Red Tape now while you still have the chance.