A few years ago and beyond, my steez was mostly either singer/songwriter shit that was elegantly written and leaned toward intellectual lyricism, like Bright Eyes, Elliott Smith, and the Good Life, or intricate and complex rock shit that pushed music's relationship with math to entirely new levels, like the Mars Volta and Dillinger Escape Plan.
Lately, though, I've noticed that (perhaps subconsciously) my tastes have changed. When I'm not on the clock and I want to see some live music, I just want to rock the fuck out. I want simplicity and raw energy, much as I did when I was a teenage punk rock kid. Recently, it's been easy to sate that desire: I just go see the motherfucking Revenge.
If you've seen the Revenge five guys in their mid-20s to mid-30s play at the Yucca Tap Room or at the Palo Verde Lounge, you know what I'm talking about. The band plays raw, three-chord, balls-out punk rock that inspires crowd surfing and hanging from the ceiling. At the birthday party at the Yucca for Casket Life frontman Ben Barnes, the Revenge nailed both: Its singer was swinging from the amps mounted to the ceiling above the stage, while one of the guitarists was passed around by the crowd as he wailed on his strings. And if you've been to the Yucca, you know that it's quite a feat to throw down that rowdy a show in that small a space.
I've wondered if it's just an anomaly that after years of listening intently to music and critiquing it, I just want some simple high-energy punk rock to enjoy. But as it turns out, that's exactly what the guys in the Revenge are out to provide.
The boys in the band vocalist Dennis Welch (who used to front Sam the Butcher in the late '90s); guitarists Mikie Gaba and Aaron Burke (who also play with the Minibosses); bassist Anthony Germinaro and drummer Dave Aiona King got together with me over beers recently, and it turns out that three-chord punk rock is as much a release for them to play as it is for me to listen to.
Welch hadn't been in a band since Sam the Butcher ended around 2000, but after finishing college, getting married, and getting divorced, he had time on his hands, and started putting the Revenge together in 2004. It took awhile for the lineup to solidify into its current incarnation, but the goal all along was to make straight-up punk rock.
"I was talking with my roommate, and she said, 'Just do it. Figure out what you want to do.' I didn't want to do anything like Sam the Butcher but I wanted to do something punk rock, rock 'n' roll," Welch tells me. "I listen to bands, like the Refused or the Bronx, that really get after it pretty straight- forward stuff. So, I wanted something that wasn't like math rock or emo or anything like that."
For Germinaro and King, who also play in alt-rock stalwarts Stereotype- rider, the Revenge is even more of a release. "When Dennis told me about the band, he told me he wanted to do a band for fun and play rock 'n' roll, not anything groundbreaking. Loud, fast that's the description he gave me," Germinaro says. "My other band, we're always writing stuff where it's 'What's not going to be predictable? What crazy time signature can we do now?' And it's a really nice departure from that to get away from that and just play fuckin' three chords that sound great, have some cool screaming over it and that's about it. The Revenge has become almost an entity of its own. Dave and I have left town on tour and we have fill-in players for us. The Revenge still plays, and it's cool. In Stereo, I would almost be offended if someone filled in for me, but in the Revenge it's like, that's just the way we roll."
"When Stereo writes, we all write. Everybody throws in their two cents, tries to change this and change that. When the Revenge writes, somebody comes with the majority of a song, presents it to everybody else, and it just kind of happens."
Even then, though, it occasionally happens that everyone needs to be reminded of what they're trying to do. That job falls to Welch. "[Germinaro and King] write for a band that does complex stuff, so sometimes, I have to be, like, let's not get too complicated with this stuff, let's keep our focus loud, fast, simple. I think it's harder to write a song that sounds real easy. It's like a good writer when you read something that's just amazing and the words on the page seem so effortless, so easy so much thought has to go into that. It's not dumbing down. It's simplifying everything. That's what we try to do. The hard part is coming up with the song and the sound."
They may say it's hard, but at this point, the Revenge has what they do wired, and it's exactly the energy that I want to experience when I go see a band for fun. There's no searching for deeper meanings or feeling smart because you're listening to such a complex band; it's just fun, goddamn punk rock that makes you want to jump up and down.