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Descendents: The proud and the few

Wednesday 26th, April 2017 / 12:00
By Sarah Mac

The only and only Descendents are performing near you in May.
Photo: Kevin Scanlon

Descendents have announced a Canadian tour and it’s tearing-up bucket lists across the country.

Hailing from Manhattan Beach, California, the Descendents’ first full-length album, Milo Goes to College, was released back in ‘82. Over 35 years later, it remains one of the greatest, most innovative, and influential punk albums to date. Descendents are creators of fast and melodic hardcore punk lyrically revolving around girls, heartbreak, and coffee – but that shit is never decaf. Since 1986, they’ve consisted of Bill Stevenson on drums, Milo Aukerman on vocals and mascot duties,
Karl Alvarez on bass, and Stephen Egerton on guitar.

Spazzinate is their latest offering, released on Epitaph Records in 2016. It came 12 years after their last, Cool to Be You. To learn more, we chatted with drummer Bill Stevenson about all things Descendents.

“We were fortunate with Hyper Spazz, because people kind of loved it. We were hoping for, ‘oh cool, new Descendents and it’s not so bad,’ and that would have been enough for us,” Stevenson explains.

“But the fact that everyone loved it, that was great. Because when we put a record out it’s definitely because we want to.”

Despite the 34-year long span in-between the two albums, Hyper Spazz resonates with long time listeners, who saw it as as a nod to College.

“You’re not the first person to tell me it reminds them of Milo Goes to College,” Stevenson reflects.

“It wasn’t intentional, but there isn’t quite as much overdrive on the guitar, so it sounds a little cleaner, like on College. And Egerton is playing a lot more parts where he’s using all six strings and that’s how [original guitarist] Frank [Navetta] used to play. But, if anything that’s just respect towards Frank.”

He continues, “He passed away a several years ago and he’s been on our mind a lot, so maybe there’s a little bit of Frank’s spirit on there and that’s what people are picking up on.”

Stevenson pauses.

“And for whatever reason, we ended up with a handful of songs that were really short. And that’s one of the identifying factors of early Descendents.”

He chuckles.

“We’re definitely known for the short songs. “I like Food” and “Wienerschnitzel” are 11 seconds. “My Dad Sucks” and “I Wanna Be a Bear” are like 35 seconds. “Victim of Me” is 45 seconds. But at the same time, “Without Love,” “Get the Time,” and “Clean Sheets,” those are all over three minutes.”

Concentrating on the upcoming tour and almost 40 years of recordings, the big question on everyone’s mind is what the set list looks like.

“We’re practicing about 39 to 42 songs. It’s a good random sampling of what we think are the better songs on each record. Some albums will have more songs played than other albums and about 11 off the new album.”

This new album and tour has given hope for a Descendents-filled future. Adding fuel to the fire, front man Milo Aukerman departed from his full-time gig as a Biochemist. It seems the stars are aligning for long-time fans.

Stevenson laughs at the observation.

“Well, yeah. We’re going to be quite a bit more active than we have been in the last 15 to 20 years. But we’re not going that hard. We want this to remain fun for us. We’re going medium. We’re doing it in a marathon way, not in a 50-yard dash kinda way.”

He finishes, “We really appreciate the support though and we don’t take any of it for granted. We know we’re just one step away from being that band that can’t sell out the telephone booth. We’re all too aware of that.”

Don’t miss your chance to catch your favourite punk band’s favourite punk band on May 3 at Union Hall (Edmonton), on May 6 at MacEwan Hall (Calgary), and on August 25 at the Commodore Ballroom (Vancouver).

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