Audacity’s Been At It Forever, But It’s Just Getting Started

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Hyper Vessels, the fourth full-length by Fullterton, California, rockers Audacity, is the kind fizzy, ebullient album that can only be crafted by 20-something weirdos fueled by youthful, crazed energy. But a deeper listen reveals a melodic sensibility that — while not “refined,” per se — sounds mature and developed. The reason, simply, is that Audacity, despite its youthful members, has been at it awhile. Like, 15 years-or-so awhile.

“It’s been a long time, almost as long as Pearl Jam,” guitarist/keyboardist/vocalist Matt Schmalfeld says.

“Most bands, as they progress they get better,” drummer Thomas Alvarez chimes in. “Pearl Jam, as they progress, they get worse.”

Though their timeline is a bit off (the Seattle grunge icons have more than a decade on Audacity) and their estimation of late-career triumphs like Backspacer and Lightning Bolt isn’t fair, Audacity goes way back to when its founding members were middle schoolers playing scrappy punk rock.

By the time the group got around to releasing proper records, like Power Drowning in 2008, the band had congealed into a real thing, with power-pop jams evoking the sounds of their influences like Redd Kross and the Adolescents. 

Aligned with the homegrown Burger Records crew, the band’s toured relentlessly, and Hyper Vessels shows off the growth that comes from incessantly working on its craft. But while songs like “Previous Cast” and “Counting the Days” inch dangerously toward “maturity,” the Audacity dudes maintain a youthful looseness that can’t be faked.

“I had a pretty bad concussion my senior year of high school and I feel like my brain [felt foggy],” Alvarez says. “I still operate in that same zone. It’s kind of my comfort zone.”

Recorded with Ty Segall, the album stands to raise the group’s profile, but the idea doesn’t seem very high on Alvarez and Schmalfeld’s list of goals. While lots of bands start out in the suburbs and eventually move to New York or Los Angeles, the band is content with the little slice it has carved out in Fullerton.

“We take pride,” Schmalfeld says. “The Adolescents are one of my favorite bands of all time, and they’re from Fullerton.”

“I’m not a very big fan [of LA],” Alvarez says. “I’d rather just hang out in Fullerton. [People in LA are like] ‘Let’s go to this bar and spend all this money and look who this guy is.’ It’s like, cool, whatever.”

“There’s basically one venue called the Continental,” Schmalfeld says. “It’s a really small bar. It’s rad, but yeah, there’s a scene here and [people] go to shows, but it’s also just a hub for people in Orange County.”

There’s a low-stakes pleasure to the sounds of Hyper Vessels that feels homespun and homemade, reflective of a couple of guys who’ve been hanging out forever, working on tunes, and enjoying the act of making their own thing, removed from big cities or big trends. But they don’t feel comfortable referring to much of a “Fullerton scene,” despite the city’s punk heritage.

“The Fullerton scene is basically the first 150 people that can fit into a venue,” Schmalfeld laughs.

Audacity is scheduled to perform Monday, April 25, at Valley Bar. 

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