Sowing local Dischord

Local hardcore-emo combo the Subject of Us looks eastward for its inspiration

It’s easy to kick back in the confines of your La-Z-Boy and claim that the Sacramento scene sucks and that there’s no good music coming from the valley. It can be argued, however, that this area has produced more viable music per square mile in the last 10 years than San Francisco has in the last 20.

“The Subject of Us has been together for one year next week. That was the first time all four of us got together,” said Rob Myers, a schoolteacher by day and vocalist by night for Sacramento’s brightest entry into the hardcore-emo sweepstakes.

Myers is joined in the Subject of Us by a rhythm section that features drummer Andrew Simpson and bassist Nathan Castillo, along with Jason Garrett, who weaves swirling guitar riffs to create the band’s angular fusion of Fugazi-styled fare. With a median age of almost 27, these guys could teach a lot to the burgeoning hardcore scene. The band’s members came together starting with Myers’ initial trek to Sacramento. “I moved to Sac from Southern California in September 2001 and met Jason that November,” Myers said. “He was looking to start a new band and had also talked some to Nathan and Andy about it.”

The other members already had spent plenty of time on the local club circuit; Castillo, Garrett and Simpson had played together in Leisure Sports, a highly visible band from a few years back. “Jason and I spent some time hanging out and discovered, to our surprise, that we had some common influence and direction, and we decided to give it a go,” Myers recalled. After talking to Simpson and Castillo, whom Myers hadn’t met, in December 2001, the four made plans to get together after their holiday vacations to start writing songs.

Their band’s first and only release so far is a self-titled, four-song CD released in June 2002 on Reactivation Media, a bedroom label started by friends. Although the EP is less than 15 minutes long, such songs as the opening “Preclusion” and “Into Distress” showcase the band’s musicianship as well as its Fugazi-like focus. As it does for that Washington, D.C.-based band, ideology plays an important role in the Subject of Us’ focus, as the band remains steadfast on its all-ages show policy.

“We are fairly idealistic and determined that if we are going to do anything, it should be done on terms that we can stand behind. Otherwise, why put your name on something?” said Myers, who teaches fifth grade full time and plays, with the band, a regimen of three to five shows per month.

“We have been playing mostly on weekends, around Northern California and Nevada,” Myers said. In addition, the band plans to release a full-length CD next summer, release a new EP through local promoter Charles Twilling’s Anodyne Entertainment label in February and tour the Northwest in the interim. The recording for the EP will be done locally, and the full-length most likely will be recorded in Orange County by Paul Miner of Death by Stereo. He engineered the band’s self-titled release.

Although the Subject of Us vehemently opposes categorization—singer Myers compares genre classification to a marketing strategy—band members still are rooted heavily in elements of their childhood, which they can’t deny.

“We have actually been working on a cover of a mid-’80s Dischord release. The D.C. scene opened up a lot for me in terms of music and in ways of living your beliefs,” Myers confessed. “We don’t intentionally aspire to fit into any sort of the newer emo thing that has resurfaced over the past few years, but I can see where some of our songs have a bit of the emo feel.”

The band’s CD is available at local stores on consignment, or you can visit the Web site. “If you can’t find it in the store,” said Myers, “e-mail us, and we’ll get one to you. Better yet, come by my house. I’ll get you a copy, make you some tea, and we’ll watch The Simpsons.”