This weeks top ten punk influences comes from a young lady from Florida named Lauren Mills. Lauren writes for Dying Scene and For The Love Of Punk and loves punk rock music more than anyone that I know so thought it was only right that she did a top ten punk rock influences.
1. Sick of it All – There isn’t much that I could say about the importance of this band that hasn’t been said before. People will tell you to never meet your heroes because you’ll be disappointed, but in punk rock I’ve met my heroes and had the honor of becoming their friend. It’s unfortunate that some people have negative misconceptions about hardcore just being for boneheaded tough guys because that couldn’t be further from the truth with Sick of it All. They are socially-conscious, kind people. I have been a fan of their music since I was in middle school. I am a pretty negative person, but Sick of it All’s music makes me feel empowered to take on whatever life throws my way. They’ve been in the game for 30 years. You would imagine that after that amount of time they would be become jaded towards younger bands, but they haven’t. They are the definition of lifers and when I watch them crush it live, it makes me want to apply that work ethic to my own life.
2. Bracket – In my opinion, Bracket are one of the most underrated bands of all-time. If you do know who they are chances are that you know them from the song “2RAK005” and their Fat Wreck Chords days. While I love the light-hearted, zany vibe in their early work, I’m way more partial to their album “Requiem”. It is hands down my favorite punk record of all-time. They pushed the envelope of what was acceptable in our genre. Their lush, multi layered harmonies and unique arrangements are incredible. Their lyrics tend to be sad, introspective and self-depreciating, but I find them to be therapeutic and beautiful. I wish that more people where into Bracket, but at the same time, I’m happy with our little Bracket cult.
3. The Gamits – I’m not even sure where to begin with this one. Because of my Cerebral Palsy and inability to drive, I don’t get out much. Because of this, I use the internet to find like-minded people and make friends. I live in a small town in central Florida called Port St. John. It is extremely religious and right-wing, so there aren’t any punk rockers around here (that I know of). I’ve always felt out of place for a number of reasons, but luckily, I can use the internet to communicate. One of the people I’ve been internet pen pals with over the years is Tom Petta of Bigwig. He showed me The Gamits during one of our many conversations about music and I was blown away. I soon became obsessed, snatching up every album by them that I could find. Their front man, Chris Fogal is one hell of a lyricist, song-writer and human being. Every album they put out is perfect. Fogal also runs a recording studio in Colorado called BlackinBluhm, where he works with a ton of great local and internationally touring musicians. Ironically, unbeknownst to me, years later I would later write for the zine For The Love of Punk, headed by their bassist, Johnny Wilson. My friendship and love for them has blossomed over the years and they’re a large reason I’ve stuck around. To commemorate their impact on my life, I got a Gamits tattoo. Last year, my dream came true and I was able to finally meet them and watch their set at Fest. Never say never, kids. Every time I look at my tattoo, I am reminded of the good in the world and that I’ve got true friends despite being isolated from society in my everyday life.
4. Bigwig – My next choice is pretty obvious. When I was first getting into punk rock, I gravitated towards the skate punk sound due to Fat Wreck and the Tony Hawk video game soundtracks. Although it is a genre that will always have a special place in my heart, icons like Bad Religion, Strung Out, NOFX, Good Riddance no longer hit me the same way they used to. I feel like bands/fans of it are content in releasing the same sounding records over and over. Bigwig are a cut above the rest in my opinion. Nobody mixes metal, hardcore and punk rock better than they do and they do it in a way that is cohesive and not cheesy. Seeing the awful trend of Tumblr popular easycore bands like Chunk, No Captain Chunk, A Day to Remember, etc who are terrible mall metalcore makes me appreciate their abilities even more. The wait for the follow-up to “Reclamation” is killing me. Get on it, boys!
5. Gob – Another band I have a huge amount of respect for is Gob. They were popular in Canada for a while, but never got a fair shake in the states. Their album “How Far Shallow Takes You” will always be my favorite GOB record, but they are another band that tries something different every album. Some fans dislike their later releases because they are more commercial sounding, but I think they’re good at whatever style they incorporate.
6. Green Day – Green Day is a divisive name in punk, but without them I am not sure if I would have found my way into the punk world. I’m not a fan of their releases past American Idiot (which is even too far for most punks) but, like many people my age, they were my gateway band. I am a sucker for pop-punk. “Insomniac” is my favorite GD record - it’s fast, snotty and encapsulates what it’s like to be a lonely, weird kid. I hear the phrase “angst” thrown around a lot when describing music and it drives me nuts. Angst is lazy short-hand for anything that expresses uncertainty and is usually pinned on teens. The truth is that we all feel lonely, discontent, unsure, etc no matter what age we are. The feeling is the same, but the coping mechanisms and scenery we’re placed in changes. How dare you attribute the entire spectrum of human emotion to a single word and age range!
7. Off With Their Heads/Anxious & Angry – I’m a huge fan of Off With Their Heads and Ryan Young’s podcast, Anxious & Angry. For the majority of my life, I’ve struggled with severe depression and anxiety. It’s something that I used to feel ashamed of. During my high school years when MTV emo was popular, it became trendy to be “sad” or whatever. The word depression was misused and it made it hard to accept that I actually had a serious problem. I didn’t want to be an attention seeking emo kid. The fact is that normal sadness and clinical depression are two different things and should not be taken lightly. His mental health podcast made me feel more comfortable being myself and being more open about the things I face. It has brought a lot of troubled people together and made us feel less alone. I’m sure Ryan is sick of playing this song live but, there isn’t a song that explains my experience with depression as well as this song except maybe “Everybody Knows You’re Crying” by Mr. T Experience. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CX-_Xll0aC8
8. The Shell Corporation – I never intended this piece to be one big friendship namedrop piece, but the fact of the matter is that my friends are everything to me and the friends I’ve made in this scene is why I continue to love it. Around 2009, I met Jan Drees through MySpace when he played in a band called Majority Lost. He quickly became one of my closest friends. Majority Lost disbanded and Jan started his own band with Curtiss called The Shell Corporation. While in this band he came into his own and was really able to let his vocal and song-writing ability shine. It’s been fun to watch them gain fans over the years because I can’t think of many people who deserve it more. When he’s not playing in a band, he pursues his dream of flying. He’s now a licensed pilot and I am so proud. He joked with me that for my 25th Birthday, we should get best friend bracelets. He is the Han Solo of the punk scene. Team Shell Corp for life.
9. Up For Nothing – I believe so much in these dudes. They’ve been kicking ass for ten years and just keep getting better. Check out their new record, “Swindled” They’re a positive, fan band, but of course my favorite song is their most negative one. Haha.
10. The Flatliners – The Flatliners have been around a long time, but I still think of them as a new band. Lol. “Cavalcade” is a modern classic in my opinion. It’s musically dynamic and has fantastic lyrics. It’s also nice that Chris Cresswell is a punk singer who can actually carry a tune.
(Because Lauren is awesome I let her have an eleventh choice)
11. Alkaline Trio – Alkaline Trio are an amazing band. I’m a sucker for a band with two singers. I think it makes the band stronger and more diverse. I enjoy the clever wordplay and ability to use dark imagery to explore themes of love, alienation, substance abuse and more. They have a perfect mix of somberness and a sense of humor. Fans like to argue over who writes better songs, Dan or Matt. I like Matt wrote stronger songs in their early days, but on their later records, Dan reached the top of his game and stole the crown. For the life of me, I can’t figure out how his songs like “In My Stomach,” “Broken Wing” and “Sun Burns” didn’t make their records. These days Matt seems like a caricature of himself in his lyrics. “In My Stomach” may be my favorite trio song of all-time.