If you listen to Culture Abuse’s 2016 debut album Peach, the wide-ranging and disparate influences that inform their sound can be clearly heard. There’s 70s-inspired heritage punk rock in there, there’s garage rock, there’s touches of psych-rock, surf rock and hints of pop punk. But it is, in fact, a belief in love and freedom which sits at the heart of Culture Abuse’s musical mission.
The five-piece, who hail from California’s Bay area, want to use their scrappy blend of “fun first” punk rock to spread a feeling of optimism and love throughout the lands. Their new single So Busted – the first since they signed to legendary SoCal punk label Epitaph – is an unapologetic and honest love song about modern life and its associated relationships. They’re here to build up our spirits, one punk rock love song at a time.
On the brink of their European tour, which kicks off later this month, we catch up with the band to find out more about them, their new single, and what they have lined up for next.
Can you introduce yourselves – where are you from, who does what and what are your roles in the band?
“David: from the Middle of Nowhere, lives in LA, vocals and lyrics. John Jr: from Massachusetts, lives in San Francisco, rhythm guitar and artwork. Stain: from LA, lives in the bay, bass guitar and whipping boy. Evan: from IE, lives in LA, drums and muscle. Nicky: born in St. Louis, lives in Oakland, lead guitar and cat petter.”
How did you guys meet and start making music together?
“John met David through art shows, zines and parties. Stain met David in Santa Rosa, California through shows and bands. We started playing music together in April 2013. Evan and Nick joined the band a little bit later, and we met them through playing shows around California.”
What were your key influences/inspirations in getting the band together?
What’s the story behind the name of the band?
“At the beginning we all had names we liked individually. John wanted to just call the band Abuse, and David literally wanted to call the band Culture Club, even though that’s already a band. So we combined them.”
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You’re from the Bay Area. How has the area’s musical heritage influenced you as a band?
“The older punk bands like Rancid and Operation Ivy definitely are a huge influence on us. But the current stage of music in San Fransisco is kinda sad. It’s really expensive to live in the Bay, so a lot of people we know who play in bands have a hard time progressing because it’s not affordable to be in a band that isn’t full time. Rehearsal spaces in SF are like $600 a month.”
How does it feel to join the Epitaph family?
“We’re very honoured and happy to be with Epitaph. We only signed a short while ago and they’ve already made us feel like part of the family. They’ve been so helpful in the US and in Europe. We truly feel loved.”
How would you describe your sound in three words for people who’ve never heard you?
“Let’s Fucking Go.”
What makes you special/different to other bands out there?
“We’re different because everyone in the band is different. We all agree on a lot of things, but individually, we all stand out in different ways, have different talents, etc. Also, no one in the band plays their natural instrument. John grew up playing bass guitar, and now he plays rhythm guitar. Stain grew up playing guitar, and now he’s playing bass, Nicky grew up playing drums and he’s playing guitar. We think about the instruments differently and play them differently, so our sound is crazy different.”
What’s the story behind new single So Busted?
“So Busted is about exactly that. Life not going your way, being broke, struggling with things, stress. But really still love and appreciate the things you have and the people around you.”
What drew you to the themes you cover on the song?
“When we realised how busted our lives were.”
What’s your favourite story/anecdote from recording the single?
“We actually recorded that song in Nicky’s living room with a friend. Very low-key and chill.”
Do you have any other new recorded music to look out for soon?
“Right now we’re demoing our new LP in Amsterdam. We’re out here doing a tour and we booked some time off in the middle to work on our new songs. Epitaph were nice enough to get us a rehearsal studio and fly out our good friend Scott Goodrich (Nu-Tone Studios) to help us engineer the demo process.”
What do you hope people will take away from the single, and your music in general?
“We just want the world to be a happier place. We used to play loud, aggressive, fast songs, and we didn’t wanna be angry anymore. We wanna be fun, and we want people to listen to our music and come to our shows and forget about their problems and just hang out with us.”
Culture Abuse head out on a European tour on 18th August. Check out the full dates below:
Aug 18: Lowlands Festival, Amsterdam, Netherlands
Aug 19: Pukkelpop Festival, Hasselt, Belgium
Aug 20: Garage, London, UK
Aug 22: Stereo, Glasgow, Scotland
Aug 23: The Deaf Institute, Manchester, UK
Aug 24: The Globe, Cardiff, Wales, UK
Aug 25: Leeds Festival, Leeds, UK
Aug 26: 234 Festival, Brighton, UK
Aug 27: Reading Festival, Reading, UK