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“I'm definitely proud of it,” says Ray. “It's cool how we all came together through something so tragic and made one of our best records. I think Brandon would really love it. Stealing The Covers really helped us get back on our feet and it was a cool in-between, but this record was something we wanted to make as excellent as possible.”
“I think we all had him in the back of our minds while writing and recording it,” adds Kody. “I’d like to think that he would be happy with how it turned out.”
Recorded at The Blasting Room in Fort Collins, Stay Rad! – which will be released on March 15 – was produced and mixed by longtime collaborator Andrew Berlin and mixed by Jason Livermore. And in keeping with its title, it finds the band channeling the same riotous energy it had at the start. Its members might be older now, some married and with kids, but when it comes to writing songs together as Teenage Bottlerocket, absolutely nothing has changed. “We’re doing what we’ve always done,” says Kody, “which is writing fun songs and having a good time. It doesn’t feel any different than it did when we started.”
Not only that, but their infectious youthful enthusiasm has remained full and intact. “That’s just something we've always held on to,” says Ray. “I think it's pretty obvious whenever you see a band that looks like they've clocked in, like they're at their job right now. We've never really looked at it that way. There's always been a degree of excitement that's encapsulated us before we've gone onstage and it’s the same in the studio. We wanted to make something that our fans would love and we would love and Brandon would love, too.”
While “I Never Knew”, which was written by Miguel, is the only song on the record about a girl – “That’s weird,” laughs Ray. “We must have grown up a little, because we don't write about girls as much and when we do think about them it's positive thoughts!” – it’s still a quintessential Teenage Bottlerocket album. “Creature From The Black Metal Lagoon” charts the story of Norwegian black metal while also ripping on metal band du jour Deafheaven, “Night of The Knuckleheads” turns a Friday night out into a Misfits-esque horror story and “The First Time That I Did Acid Was The Last Time That I Did Acid” is an all-too-real cautionary tale about a bad trip. Elsewhere, “I Want To Kill Clint Carlin” is an affectionate yet homicidal ode to the band’s longtime roadie full of black humor, “Everything To Me” is Ray’s touching but hilarious tribute to his son, and “Stupid Song” is a not-so-stupid song about the drudgery of day-to-day life and using music to escape it. That song was written at the last minute, as was penultimate track “Little Kid”, a poignant ode that Ray wrote about his brother that charts the joys of their childhood together while also lamenting his loss.
Originally, Ray wanted to call this record The White Album – a nod to both The Beatles and Weezer – but when Kody remembered a phrase on the hat a former roadie would always wear, it just made sense. That’s because, like every Teenage Bottlerocket record, Stay Rad! has a good mix of the silly and the sad, but the overriding sentiment is one that echoes its title. It’s a reminder that, despite all the things that can and often do go wrong, being alive is something that should be enjoyed and that there’s always some sort of hope for the future. “Life will throw its stones at you,” says Ray, “and sometimes it's hard to keep your head up and be yourself. I've always thought the most important thing was having something to look forward to. And right now, I’m looking forward to this record coming out and playing some shows and playing these songs live. That's always the important thing – the next thing on the horizon.”
One of the next things on the horizon is a short tour of the US that starts at the end of March before they head to Europe in the second half of April. And as for their hopes for this record? Well, they’re both modest and ridiculous, down-to-earth and sky-high, hilarious and serious. But then, what else would you expect? “I hope that people check it out,” says Ray. “You're always going to have fans that are like ‘I stopped listening to them after Total or whatever, but there are some who stuck with us the whole way and I think they're going to love this record. I hope that everybody gives it a chance.”
“I want to sell a bazillion copies and spend all the money on useless shit,” laughs Kody. “But really, we do this band because it’s fun and it’s what we’re good at. We’re all close friends and I couldn’t imagine why we would ever stop.”
Sing for your Supper. And while The Last Gang may seem like a new band, their history is rife with chance encounters
that led to big breaks. The band originally formed in 2007, with vocalist-guitarist Brenna Red leading the band and
playing the kind of ‘77 punk that allowed them to tour with the Anti-Nowhere League and Dwayne Peters Gunfight.
But in 2012, shortly after drummer Robby Wantland joined, The Last Gang put their guns down and called it a day.
Thankfully, that didn’t last long.
Reformed by vocalist-guitarist Brenna Red and drummer Robby Wantland the pair developed the sound that would
become The Last Gang, a mix of tough-as-nails punk and bouncing melodies. As they rotated through bass players,
the band quickly found themselves being asked to contributeto the Rancid tribute compilation Hooligan’s United. But
due to some email based mishaps, they’d be under a time crunch. “We found out we were gonna be on it the day
before the deadline,” says Red. “Long story short, we learned and recorded the song in one day.” But that one song
—and the music video that accompanied it—would be the jumpstart the band needed. Before long, they’d find a
permanent bassist in Sean Viele, and The Last Gang would hit the road, a handful of releases, and become a more
dominant force than ever before. As the band prepped new material, another chance encounter would give the band
an even shot in the arm, as Wantland ran into producer Cameron Webb (NOFX, Motörhead, Alkaline Trio). Soon,
Wantland would find himself in Webb’s studio, playing the esteemed producer some of The Last Gang’s songs. “I
played him the demos and he was like, ‘Holy shit. Do you guys have a manager or anything?’ It wasn’t really my intent
to con him into liking my band or anything, but it was a dream,” says Wantland. With their lineup solidified, and a
producer on board, The Last Gang went into the studio with Webb to record some songs. And as The Last Gang was
just about to head out on a tour of England, minutes before they were up in the air, they got a call from Erin Burkett.
“We’re getting ready to go to England, we’re at LAX, and Erin calls us and says she wants to sign us,” says Wantland.
It’s the kind of story that you’d expect in a Hollywood movie instead of a punk band’s origin story, but it’s the product of
years of hard work and dedication—and the fact that The Last Gang is a band worth getting excited about.
When Sing for your Supper hit, that infectious energy spread all the more once people drop the
needle on the 7-inch. More than just a teaser for the 2018 full-length, the two songs serve as a perfect introduction to
The Last Gang. The title track is the kind of palm-muted ripper that made
Rancid famous, with a bouncing bass line, a huge hook, and airtight songwriting that’ll get stuck in your head for years
to come. And the B-side, which is exclusive to this release, is no less throttling. From the jump, the song whips up a
frenzy, shifting directions on a dime but never losing sight of The Last Gang’s pop-indebted ethos. After years of grinding
it out, Sing for your Supper is the distillation of The Last Gang’s dedication, passion, and hunger. And for those looking
for your new favorite punk band, look no further.