Sacramento guitarist Brian Hanover on his gig with the legendary punk band Youth Brigade
The Los Angeles band proves old punks never die
Youth is not an age. It’s a state of mind.
That’s the philosophy shared by the musicians of Youth Brigade, the mega-influential Los Angeles punk band born in 1980. Its members aren’t exactly young in the conventional, numerical sense. Two of its founders, Shawn and Mark Stern, hover around the age of 50, and its newest member, Sacramento’s own Brian Hanover, is a dad.
But none of that matters—they’re still rocking out and trying to change the world.
“Youth Brigade has always been more of an attitude thing, having that lifestyle and youthful demeanor,” Hanover says.
Originally formed by three brothers, Youth Brigade has existed in various incarnations over the years. There was a breakup in 1987 and a reunion in 1991. In 1984, it was featured in what is arguably the definitive punk-rock documentary, Another State of Mind, which follows the band as well as a young Social Distortion on tour in 1982. The band has also put out five albums—the most recent in 1996—and a bunch of EPs, split singles and compilations.
Then there’s BYO Records, the world-renowned independent label owned by Shawn and Mark, which has released more than 100 albums since 1982 and also puts on the annual Punk Rock Bowling & Music Festival in Las Vegas.
“These kids took on an old-man’s market,” Hanover says of Youth Brigade’s legacy. “They did things that were creative, on their own, and those things still translate now.”
Certainly, many bands cite Youth Brigade as an influence—Rancid, the Offspring, Pennywise, etc.—and Hanover says it’s because they made people believe in themselves. Maybe that sounds corny, but Youth Brigade proved that a band could do it all: play their own music, promote other bands, put out records and stay independent.
“They stood for taking chances. They really put their money where their mouth is, and they still do,” Hanover says. “They surprised me when they asked me to play, but that just shows they really do give people a shot.”
Right. So how did Hanover—formerly of local bands Hanover Saints, Union Hearts and Whiskey Rebels—nab a spot playing guitar for Youth Brigade?
Simple enough—they’re buddies of sorts. Hanover first met the band as a 21-year-old roadie for 7Seconds, and the encounters continued as he became more and more entrenched in the punk scene.
Still, when the band’s drummer sent him a Facebook message a couple months ago asking if he wanted to join, Hanover says he was floored.
“There’s been a lot of emotions with this,” he says. “I mean, I grew up watching Another State of Mind.”
With a list of Youth Brigade songs to master, Hanover, who still lives in Sacramento, dove into “quite a bit of homework.”
But now, he’s ready, and says he expects to bring a rawer energy and drive to the band’s tightly played hardcore punk.
Youth Brigade hasn’t rolled through Sacramento in almost four years. As Punk Rock Bowling has gotten bigger and more demanding, the band has kept its touring down to just one or two months a year.
But that doesn’t mean it’s too busy for projects—there have been plenty of rumors about a new Youth Brigade album, for example.
“They’ve mentioned wanting to do another record,” Hanover says. “And it seems like a good time to start writing.”
Sacramento is the second stop on the band’s 14-city tour, which runs through California, Texas and parts of the East Coast. The all-ages show also features local punk bands City of Vain, Avenue Saints and Crude Studs.
There’s one person in particular whose attendance will make the show all the more significant for Hanover.
“The fact that my mom is gonna go is pretty trippy—she usually stays far away,” Hanover says. “But age doesn’t matter, you just go and you do it.”