Death by Stereo, The Bombpops, Phantom Darlings
200 W. Second St
Pomona, CA, 91766
Doors 7:00 PM / Show 7:30 PM
This event is all ages
Watch & Listen
In case you just woke up from a 30-year coma (bummer for you), here’s a quick primer on Strung Out: Way back in 1989, Jason Cruz got the bright idea to start a punk band with his guitar-playing buddies Rob Ramos and Jake Kiley. It wasn’t the kind of plan that required much more preparation than play fast, play loud, play all the time. No one thought this high school band would become a career. Yet here we are, nearly three decades later, and Strung Out is not only still active but thriving, a paragon of punk and an inspiration to thousands of fans (and musicians) worldwide.
While Strung Out has made their name on intense, frenetic slabs of metal-influenced tech-punk, there is more to the band than meets the eye. It might come as a shock to learn the band’s new eight-song release, Black Out the Sky, is an acoustic affair, but as Cruz says, it’s not nearly as surprising for the band members.
“Every song starts on an acoustic guitar for the most part,” Cruz begins. “If it’s a good song, it can be played acoustic. For about the past five years, I’ve been pushing the band to try an acoustic release. These guys are great musicians—we can do anything.”
Cruz and his bandmates—Kiley, Ramos and bassist Chris Aiken—began working on Black Out The Sky in January 2017 with producer Kyle Black, who they had previously teamed up with on 2015’s blistering Transmission.Alpha.Delta, and who played a role in the band deciding to re-work two older songs, “Matchbook” and “UnKoil,” for the release.
“Kyle is a fan of the band,” the singer says. “I am the kind of person who wants to stray and go out into the unknown when I’m in the studio, but Kyle represents our fans. He didn’t let me stray too far with the melody or the music—just far enough to keep it fresh.”
With no set deadline on the release, the recording process went on for nearly the entirety of 2017, allowing for song arrangements to bloom in ways Strung Out songs never had before. “The songs came out really super-dark, not jingly-jangly acoustic stuff,” Cruz says. “We had to get other musicians involved. Some of it is sparse and intimate, and some of it has a lot going on.”
During the recording process, the band decided they needed to part ways with Jordan Burns, the band’s drummer since 1993. Cruz stresses that this decision was not an easy one to make, but it had to happen for the continued existence of Strung Out. “I think the band needed it,” Cruz admits. “It needed to happen for the band to survive and grow. We got to a point where we were going to break up if it didn’t.”
While in the studio, Strung Out realized some of the acoustic songs still needed drums. So the band enlisted their friend Sean Winchester, an accomplished drummer who has played with Everclear, Buckcherry and more, to fill out their sound. For their upcoming live shows, Strung Out will enlist RJ Shankle of California skate-punk band (and former tourmates) Runaway Kids to man the throne. Cruz is ecstatic about not only the fresh blood in his band, but what it means moving forward.
“Really, the whole theme of this record is rebirth,” he explains. “It’s the rebirth of our brotherhood and being a band. It’s astounding when you can keep a relationship together for three decades. There’s something so special about the music we write. We’re brothers beyond any kind of blood. It vindicates that we’re doing something right.
“I always ask myself, ‘What nerve do I have to get in front of a microphone?’” Cruz continues. “The fact that I kept this relationship together for 30 years says we worked through some shit. In our darkest times, we always came out with something beautiful because of it. In my mind, that gives me the right to get in front of that microphone.”
On Black Out the Sky, Cruz continues to dig deep internally, exploring parts of himself he’s yet to fully understand, taking the listener along for the ride, no matter how bumpy it may get.
“When we were kids, we all said, ‘Fuck God, fuck religion, fuck the government, let’s destroy it all,’” the frontman states. “Great. We did that. Punk rock did that. What are you gonna replace it with? Black Out the Sky is all about looking inward and finding what’s always been there, that intuition, that something to all of us. I don’t know what it is, but it’s the journey to find it and acknowledge it.”
Musically, the EP careens from songs that could be ported to full-band electric arrangements easily (“Requiem,” the title track) to mid-tempo grunge indebted to Alice In Chains (“The Architect”) to a full-on rollicking country song (“Duke of Sorrow”). Cruz’s favorite number is “Town of Corazon,” a surprisingly fragile song from a band who is usually anything but that. “‘Town of Corazon’ has the most balls we’ve ever displayed because it’s sweet and tender,” he admits. “It brings reference to spring and a new awakening. I’m so tired of screaming, the same riff, the same breakdown… I can’t stomach it anymore. Slipping in a sweet melody is the punkest thing we could do.”
Nearly three decades in, Strung Out is not driven by trends but instead by each other. As Cruz relays, “There is no ‘me’ in this band. It’s us. Whatever we think of, we’re gonna do it. Sometimes, people want to maintain a youthful aura about their band. That’s gone. We’re old dudes. But we’ve learned a thing or two. There’s nothing wrong with being an old dude. Lemme show you a road that I found; come with me.”
Death by Stereo
Death by Stereo (also referred to as D. B. S.) is a hardcore punk band formed in Orange County, California circa 1996 by frontman Efrem Schulz. They are well known for their energetic performances and intricate guitar work. Their name can be attributed to the 1987 horror film The Lost Boys, for which Corey Haim speaks the line.
Death by Stereo has released five full-length studio albums and one live album. Their most recent studio album, entitled Death Is My Only Friend, was released on July 7th 2009 in the United States. They also have a DVD in the works.
“We put a lot of thought into being able to tell stories with these songs,” says Jen Razavi who, along with Poli van Dam, founded The Bombpops in 2007. Together, Razavi and van Dam became the band’s backbone, writing songs that highlighted their dual guitar attack and were carried by their pitch-perfect vocal harmonies. It’d take the band a decade to release their first full-length album, but 2017’s Fear of Missing Out was a perfect distillation of everything they’d been working toward. And now, with the Dear Beer EP, they’re proving that there’s plenty more where that came from.
The four new tracks that make up Dear Beer are as distinct as they are powerful. “The song ‘Dear Beer’ was collectively everyone in the band’s favorite song,” says Razavi, and it’s easy to see why. Where Fear of Missing Out saw Razavi and van Dam throwing out pointed lyrical jabs, Dear Beer ups the introspection. Make no mistake, there’s still a bit of bile getting spit up, but there’s just the right amount of levity mixed in. It’s what allows these songs to work as stories, ones that are resonant for the band members, and will surely hit home for anyone who plays Dear Beer all the way through.
“I love a song where the lyrics tell a story, and although I may have never experienced anything like what is happening in that story, the song allows me to put myself in that person’s place,” says Razavi. The Dear Beer EP finds unity in the thematic elements of each song, as each one sees The Bombpops offering up personal anecdotes and crafting songs that have, as Razavi and van Dam intended, a narrative arc. It’s seen in “Dear Beer,” where they swear off drinking alone and vow to stop being “a fucking downer,” a mantra that enables them to cut out the source of the toxicity without a second thought. But even when it gets a little heavy, The Bombpops find ways to make it all feel uplifting.
“‘Dear Beer’ and ‘Turn up the Thermostat’ are particularly dark,” says Razavi, “They’re a bit self-loathing and reflect on negative experiences.” While the lyrics on Dear Beer are culled from difficult experiences, The Bombpops use their buoyant music to push back against the things weighing them down. And of course, it doesn’t hurt that they throw in just the right amount of self-deprecation to keep themselves from ever making it too much of a bummer. “We intentionally put those lyrics to playful, poppy melodies. It weirdly has a therapeutic effect in the long run,” says Razavi. “Making them light and playful makes the thing that seemed so dramatic to us at the time something to laugh about now.”
That balance between the series and the lighthearted is what makes Dear Beer not just the logical evolution of The Bombpops sound, but also the start of a new chapter for the band. It may have taken them a decade to release their first album, but as Dear Beer proves, the wind is at their back, and nothing is going to keep them down.
Capturing the veracious, unbridled feel, unearthed only in the depths of their vintage influences, The Darlings uncompromising DIY ethic and years of paying their dues in the underground has finally brought them here; To the highly anticipated completion of their compelling third album.
Powered by moxie and a coming together of musical solidarity, “Made of Phantoms” is decidedly their most committed, impassioned album to date. A volatile narrative to whoever may be listening.
Produced by Andy Carpenter and Buddy Darling, “Made of Phantoms” captures the bands honest, infectious energy that was clearly fostered in introspective passion.
Boasting such special guests as Jason Cruz from "Strung Out” and Jason Freese from "Green Day", the bands third album promises to be an all-encompassing listening experience.
From the riotous stroll through, “There’s a Madman Living in Waco”, to the epic build and conquer of, “Little Teenage Thing”; every note is a stout brew. And just like their live performance, the band captivates with an explosion of sound that can only be cultivated by hard work, urgency and soulful intent.
The Darlings continue to respectfully nod to their deep retro-fittings, but effortlessly draw their listeners into uncharted territory; the aromatic essence of Rock 'n’ Roll, Blues, Punk and Americana that seeps from their sound, seems to have been simmering in a crock-pot full of Black Sabbath’s insidious darkness and Chuck Berry’s dexterous swagger.
The four skilled, California based musicians have already hit the stage with such legendary acts as; Pennywise, Social Distortion, Bad Religion, Youth Brigade, TSOL, Jason Cruz and Howl, Strung Out, Face to Face, Sum 41, and the Circle Jerks... just to name a few.
With their weighty upcoming release and notable hard hitting live attack, The Darlings impending tour is sure to be a rousing success that will drip with Rock-and-Roll bravado.
After beating out hundreds of bands to win 2010’s Ernie Ball Battle of the Bands, the band garnered attention from influential LA modern rock station KROQ, which added their songs “Broken Hearts Still Beating” into steady rotation on DJ Kat Corbett’s weekly Locals Only show, resulting in them becoming a Bud Light Band of the Month on the station.
The band’s track “What Lies Below” was also picked up by the Anaheim Ducks, who used the track for their 09/10 season promo spots on Prime Ticket. The Darlings’ music has also appeared on FOX TV’s Good Day LA. In addition to securing endorsements from Ernie Ball, Supernatural Cymbals and the FC Cancer Foundation.
The Darlings have been showcased at NAMM and have had the honor to play in front of massive crowds at the Musink Tattoo Convention and Music Festival. The band also have done the Vans Warped tour 4 times.