Hey, here’s something new for you: A punk band from Southern California! Not really new, but Strung Out has managed to make a name for themselves amidst a sea of angry youth from the West Coast. Their music is aggressive, but soaring melodies make it easy to get into. All the elements come together in a perfect blend of anger, compassion, and high-pitched energy. Strung Out guitarists Jake Kiley and Rob Ramos have the punk-solo-over-rhythm-guitar thing down to a science.
I talked to lead singer Jason Cruz at the Orlando show on Strung Out’s latest tour. It was my first time seeing Strung Out, and they absolutely blew me away. Cruz is an engaging and emotional singer. It’s hard to take your eyes away from him. Drummer Jordan Burns even played with a broken foot! The band must love what they do, and that comes through in their music.
The band formed in 1992, and signed on to San Francisco label Fat Wreck Chords. “In a small town, people just find each other,” said Cruz about how they got started. Since then, Strung Out has released three full-length CDs and two EPs.
Their latest effort is an EP called The Element of Sonic Defiance. With this new one, the band is as technically tight as ever, and still has the emotional quality about them. Cruz says that their band doesn’t rely on one style to influence their music. “We like metal, jazz, punk — anything to keep things interesting.”
“Our songs are about nothing in particular,” Cruz continued. He said that there isn’t one member in the band who does all the writing and no method or process they follow. “They tell a story. They’re about life experiences.” He also added, “Computers take the experience out of life.”
Strung Out are veterans of several world tours. “It’s really a different reality,” said Cruz. “You start developing your own language. It’s just a bunch of inside jokes and we end up laughing at ourselves. You just try not to get too lonely, or too mean.” Later on, while I was talking to Cruz, another band member sat down and said something weird, and they both started laughing. I figured that it was his earlier statement in action.
The band has also been on the 1996 and 1998 Warped Tours, with bands like Pennywise, the Offspring, and NOFX. When I asked why they chose not to do the tour this year, Cruz responded, “We’ve done the Warped Tour thing. It’s too hot and too much of a hassle and this is much more fun.” He said they most enjoy touring in New York, Atlanta, Texas, California, and parts of Florida.
His open-minded views extend to the punk scene as well. The band has been around for long enough to see punk rise up from the underground and become a genre to be reckoned with in the mainstream. “The scene has thinned out a lot,” he said. “I don’t give a fuck about (scene) politics. A scene can be stifling, so we try and attract people that don’t need a scene.” They are all for unity, though. “I’m against having different factions,” he said, adding that fights and drama are the things that he hates to see at shows.
Strung Out plans to keep touring like they have been, and Cruz says they have “a bunch of new songs.” They have figured out that touring is the only way to reach new people with what they have to say.
The Internet is another way that Strung Out is trying to reach people. Their official Web site, http//www.strung-out.com is pretty slick. They are attempting to build a guitar tab archive. The Die Hard Fan Tattoo Gallery in the Multimedia section is pretty neat too.
Cruz and his band members work hard, and you should really try and catch them if they’re in your neighborhood sometime. They’re not just your average punk band.