Photo: Katie Panzer
On Saturday, May 14, roll on out to the Urban Lounge for a healthy smattering of punk rock from both ends of the spectrum. Expect a dose of sugar-sweet pop punk from The Hung Ups and an unholy strain of riotous thrash from Desolate. Problem Daughter will kickstart the sonic smorgasbord at 10 p.m. $5 gets you in.
The Hung Ups
Josh Recker – Bass/Vocals
Chuck Roberts – Guitar/Vocals
Tyler Sisson – Guitar/Vocals
Chris Farnworth – Drums
“Every time you stop talking, a kitten dies,” Chuck Roberts, a baseball capped rhythm-guitarist, mumbles. “And that’s just unfortunate because kittens are great people.” I’ve just switched on my voice recorder and asked him to say something profound.
It’s late on a Sunday afternoon. Amid the smoky lights and clamor of bad ’90s alterna-rock at Piper Down Pub, The Hung Ups, Salt Lake City’s own pop-punks, shift in their seats. They’re not nervous, nor uncomfortable … just not warmed up yet.
Tyler Sisson, lead axe-man, grabs my arm from across the table. “There’s really no deep dark core to us, man. We like drinking. We like Screeching Weasel … old Green Day …”
Some pitchers arrive and the band partakes willingly, visibly relieved at the prospect of some social lube. A few minutes tick by and a few glasses are drained before words (and bladders) begin to flow more smoothly.
The Hung Ups formed in 2009 when bassist-vocalist Josh Recker wrote a slew of songs and recorded an EP all by himself in his parents’ garage before recruiting a band.
“Everyone contributes, though,” drummer Chris Farnworth says. Both he and Roberts discovered punk rock as youngsters and have been jamming together since they were in junior high. “I was kinda into country when I was a kid, but eventually I bought [Green Day’s] 1,039/ Smooth album and it blew my mind away,” says Roberts. He cites it as his primary influence to pick up a guitar.
The Green Day album is a fair reference point for newcomers, as The Hung Ups play pop punk firmly rooted in the ’90s Lookout Records tradition: energetic, nasally, impossibly tuneful and soaked in gleeful snot.
“Basically we’re just trying to take that whole ‘pop-punk’ genre, but really put the ‘punk’ into it,” Recker says as he reclines a bit. “It’s like … some of these pop-punk bands try to project their voices like fucking N*SYNC or something ... That’s not punk to me. That’s just pop.”
With three releases (Red Rocket, a four-song online EP and The Hung Ups full-length) all self-released and recorded, the band exudes motivation and delight in their ability to do it all themselves. They’ve even made some international connections. “We have distribution in Japan through Waterslide Records,” Recker says with a chuckle, citing a pop-punk message board they post their music on. Someone from the label was browsing the board, stumbled across the band and contacted them about distributing their music in Japan. Recker welcomed the opportunity. “When Myspace was functional, we used to get lots of comments from Japanese kids, so we always wanted to get our music over there. We’re pretty stoked about it.”
Amassing a steady stream of local shows, honing their chops on the same stages as some of their favorite bands (Cobra Skulls, Guttermouth, Teenage Bottlerocket) and now fully prepped to unleash another full-length LP, they’re eager and motivated to get out to more people.
“We’re definitely gonna tour,” Recker says and slaps the table on the last word. “We’ve got like 15 or 20 new songs written.”
As each band member talks, eyes grow wider and hand-gestures more frenzied, a palpable excitement building, akin to taut rubber bands ready to snap.
“Salt Lake City has so many types of bands. Indie bands, punk rock, hardcore and street punk bands,” Sisson says as he ticks them off on his fingers one by one.
Recker also acknowledges this variety. “We just wanna unite this scene!” he says enthusiastically.
Despite their keen drive and proactive mentality, they recognize their place as youthful offenders. “We played this show at The Blue Star … and I thought we played pretty well,” Farnworth says before explaining how some straight edge vegans in the audience took issue with Recker’s colorful stage banter about online dating websites. Recker insists that it was only a joke and takes another sip of his beer. Roberts says, “We wanna piss people off. That’s why we’re a band! I just wanna have fun!”
The table is now cluttered with empty pitchers and our booth rings with the pleasant hubbub of chatty laughter. Another indistinguishably bad ’90s alt-rock song cracks over the stereo. Sisson slides his glasses back up his nose, points to the ceiling and grins. “We miss the ’90s. We know there was a bunch of shitty bands. We play Lit’s ‘My Own Worst Enemy’ at practice all the time …” Sisson trails off. “It’s a ‘feel-good’ song!”
Ultimately, having fun and feeling good are what The Hung Ups are all about. “Punk rock is just this one little feeling you know? A feeling you have to capture kinda quickly,” Roberts says.
A contented silence falls over us and we listen to another laughable chorus on the PA. The interview has wound down, and the band seems enthused by it. Recker blinks a few times and tugs on one of his hoodie drawstrings. His head gyrates softly and his cheeks resonate with a delightfully inebriated glow. “You’re gonna make us look cool right?” He slurs slightly and pats my hand. “Our CDs are for sale in Japan…”
Joe Luis – Vocals
Shredd – Guitar
Skunk – Guitar
Nate Wilson – Bass
Dave Motiee – Drums
Salt Lake City’s Desolate embody an authentic thrash-punk casserole with their lineup of musicians, young and old, who’ve all played in a laundry list of current and former punk bands. Each member of the group sports an eclectic assemblage of sonic influences. The band initially formed in 2008 as a side project for guys in various acts (Skint, Dubbed, Repeat Offender and Shackleton to name only a few) to get together and make brutal noise, but it soon grew into something more. “When people first saw us play, they recognized us all from these different projects and got really confused,” says singer Joe Luis. Somehow, the mish-mash of ingredients congealed and they’ve since become a tightly volatile entity in their own right, taking the caustic gut-shot sounds of Nausea, Conflict and Dayglo Abortions and filtering them through the light-speed crossover thrash of D.R.I.
The gelling process wasn’t immediate, though. “We didn’t necessarily set out to play a particular style,” says bassist Nate Wilson, citing the diverse musical background of the group. “It wasn’t until later that someone heard us and said ‘you’re a thrash band!’” Regardless, the band resists any rigid characterization. “We’ve got something for everyone,” says lead guitarist Shredd, who notes the presence of punks, longhairs, metalheads and even (to the chagrin of many) Juggalos in their audience. He credits this to the band’s propensity to shed traditional punk time signatures in exchange for something more complex and melodious.
Still, Desolate’s sound is unpredictable and aggressive, features that they enjoy. “Someone made the comment that we were all ‘bananas,’” says Shredd with a laugh, a description they’ve taken to heart in naming their new record Potassium Fueled Death Rock. The album is complete and they want to get it out to the fans so much that they’re willing to bootleg a burned copy for anyone who wants it. “We’ll give it to anybody, but we made a blood-pact that we were only going to sell it on vinyl,” says Wilson. To raise money for the pressing, the band is organizing two vinyl pre-release shows and is distributing patches and pins through Raunch Records. To put some unspent culinary energy to use, they’ve even considered selling some potassium-fueled baked goods, including homemade banana bread, at their shows. However, due to certain issues of legality, they’ve opted out of it. “We don’t have food handler’s permits,” says drummer Dave Motiee with a shrug.
Nevertheless, the band has already been privileged to share bills with legendary punk bands including Dr. Know, M.D.C., Agent Orange and Battalion of Saints. Live shows are a release for them on all counts, and they thrive on crowd energy. Luis appreciates the lack of pretension that accompanies an all-ages show. “At those shows, kids go crazy. They’re not worried about spilling their beer or anything like that.”
At its core, Desolate is a band with a desire to play loud, abrasive music that people can connect with. Motiee, a member with some “senior” status, has seen the Salt Lake punk scene flourish since the ’80s. “It has ebbs and flows, of course,” he says, but ultimately he feels that the scene has been a constant source for new and exciting bands to form.
Rhythm guitarist Skunk identifies the scene’s accommodating nature and applauds the supportive approach that bands exhibit towards each other, even across genre boundary lines. “I’ve heard that other scenes are cliquey,” he says. “It’s not like that here. I hate Utah in general, but I love this city.”
It’s this prevailing synergistic attitude that unifies not only the Salt Lake punk scene, but the band itself. The diversity in ages, backgrounds and influences doesn’t present any creative obstacles, only fuel to write music that brings different people out of the woodwork together to share something. “That’s the cool thing about the punk scene,” Luis says. “It doesn’t matter who you are or where you’re from … as long as you’re respectful, then it doesn’t matter.”
Having spent time living and playing music in other states, Shredd, the band’s other “senior,” describes the Salt Lake punk scene as a “family” that he’s failed to find in any other scene. “Generally, it just seems like there aren’t as many dickheads here,” he says.
Encouraged and cultivated by a stimulating independent scene, endowed with the combined experiences of five guys who’ve done plenty of punk-rock time and were weaned on a steady diet of potassium and thrash, Desolate is a coherent, explosive band ready to unleash their unholy musical concoction upon eager ears at this month’s Localized showcase … but please remember to bring your own cookies.