Local Wire

Malignus Youth Take Another Swing at Glory

Malignus Youth is having way too much fun.
Malignus Youth is having way too much fun. Angel Ray

The word "legendary" often is thrown around when it comes to local bands. But how do they achieve this?

That's a tough question, but a few things come to mind: a great record, a fantastic live show, and a rabid fan base.

Malignus Youth check these boxes, but they'd be embarrassed if you gave them a compliment like that to their faces. Bass player Tom Shelden takes the band’s accomplishments in stride as he discusses the band's upcoming 40-track live record, Live At The Rialto.

“We’re back and trying to take another swing at the pinata,” says Shelden.

Shelden and his bandmates James Martin (guitar/vocals), Octavio Olaje (vocals), and Mike Armenta (drums) get together every few years to remind fans why their shows almost always sell out. It's difficult nowadays to see them regularly at local punk venues. Armenta lives in Flagstaff while Olaje resides in Sierra Vista. Martin, the band's principal songwriter, lives in Washington, D.C.

That doesn't allow the band to soil their legacy by playing in their home state too often. Their particular brand of southern Arizona punk rock has elements of Southern California pop-punk, but there is also a grittiness and muscle to it that heavier and harder punks latch on to. Their songs are fast, intricate, and thoughtful.


“We never really finished in the past," says Shelden. "There’s a lot of people that know about Malignus Youth and a lot of people that don’t."

The 40 songs on Live at the Rialto span the band's early career. (The exception being a cover of “Paint It Black” by the Rolling Stones.) The record, which was recorded during a reunion show in Tucson in 2014, is a testament to why they've endured after all these years. How many bands can boast a double live album with 39 originals on it?

“James has been deliberating over it forever (hence the six years between recording and release), but it sounds incredible," says Shelden.

Live at the Rialto will be limited to 500 vinyl copies. As for the future, Malignus Youth are in the middle of recording an album of new material with Ryan Butler of Landmine Marathon. Will this new chapter cement their place in music history?

Only time will tell, but they seem one step closer to legendary.

Malignus Youth are scheduled to perform at Rips Ales and Cocktails on Friday, March 13. Tickets are $10 at the door.
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Tom Reardon has written for Phoenix New Times since 2013. He's been in several notable bands over the last 25 years including Hillbilly Devilspeak, North Side Kings, and the Father Figures.
Contact: Tom Reardon