Last month, RökRiot and Scout Music Promotion launched “RökScout” – a monthly profile of an unsigned band/musician whom we think is worthy of your attention. For April, we give you Arizona’s punk/hardcore troopers, American Standards. Self-described as “…raw, thrash hardcore with a core foundation of punk and rock n roll,” American Standards deliver a fight-ending blow to the system—both as a band, and as promoters of community interaction. American Standards’ propensity for change has not only shaped their unique approach to music, but has led them to organize volunteer events and encourage fans to give back to their community.
There’s a natural comparison to the Swedish punk band, Refused, and having recently seen Refused play, I can attest that both bands certainly share similar DNA—you can see it in their live performances and feel it through their embrace of political activism, but to continue the parallels with other well-known artists would be a disservice to American Standards, as they have the ability and talent to stand firmly on their own while carving new territory within a genre of music that has become all too complacent.
RökRiot had a chance to interview lead singer Brandon Kellum about the band’s approach to songwriting and performance as well as their desire to affect change:
My introduction to the band was through “Bottom Feeder” – can you talk about the inspiration and meaning behind that song?
AS: “Bottom Feeder” was a fun song to write. Where as many of our songs are more lyrically abstract, “Bottom Feeder” follows a linear story. The story revolves around an appealing siren like creature that draws people in to their grasps only to slowly infect them with a deteriorating illness. When the protagonist in the story decides he can overcome this, they are only to succumb the fate of all those that came before them so they decide to cut away at their self in attempt to cut out the disease.
The song was inspired by our infatuation as humans to be overwhelming pessimistic and dwell on the bad rather then cherish the good. About how we rather talk about whats wrong with our lives and the world in general rather then do something about it. And the creature referred to as the “bottom feeder” symbolizes how when you try to bring someone’s spirits up that is stuck in that self deprecating state, they can commonly try to bring you down to their level rather then bring themselves up. It’s the whole cliche, you can’t help someone if they don’t want to help themselves. You can see this in a lot of plays on words such as “fill half your cup just to watch you drown” referring to the “cup half full / half empty” saying.
How did you come up with the name, “American Standards”?
AS: As much as we would love to give you a deep meaningful story about the name we can’t. Cody and I had been shooting names back and forth for weeks. We knew we didn’t want something cliche or that would peg us to a specific genre. I was on a road trip and stopped through a restaurant in Tombstone, AZ. When I went into the restroom I saw “American Standard” as the brand name on the toilet and knew that was it. It really just fit on several levels. The obvious comedic level that just goes with our personalities, the ties to a music term such as “jazz standards” and also the irony behind it seeing as many of our songs are charged by social, corporate and political unrest. We really just wanted to give people that “Ah Ha” moment when they looked down in their own restrooms. We’ve had several late night texts from friends over that subject.
What drives the band’s sound and lyrics?
AS: The sound is really driven through the desire to play something fast, heavy and energetic without losing the passion. We want it to be loud and fun and we strive not to fit into the cookie cutter molds you hear from the trends that come in then fade out. No one’s trying to be the heaviest or most technical. We all live by the classic punk, rock and hardcore bands. In addition, we try to make the music more thought provoking. Although we say it’s based around social, corporate and political unrest, we don’t want to be the band cramming our views down your throat. Rather just provoking the desire to question and find out for yourself.
Your live shows are quite energetic and physical – what’s the band’s philosophy on performance and stage presence?
AS: The live shows are key for us, so much in fact I wouldn’t doubt we put out some live tracks in the future just to capture some of the energy I fear may be lost through the recordings. I’ve personally been playing in hardcore bands for almost ten years now. I can’t tell you how many shows I’ve been to where you can hardly tell when one band stops and the next starts because nothing really stands out.
I know times are rough and it’s not as easy to get out to a show, so we want to make sure that when you do your getting a one of a kind experience. We try to keep the energy as high as possibly and make everything really fun and interactive. We’re not looking for the crowd that wants to come with their arms crossed or ready to pick a fight. Just come to have a good time.
Based upon the your support of charity and volunteer events, American Standards seems to be more than just a band, but a call to action. With this in mind, how do you hope to inspire people through your music?
AS: We hope to open the door to people that want to see what they can do to give back to the community. It’s not always money, it can be as simple as donating your time or services or just helping spread the word. We had this intention of treating the band as an interactive platform to give others a chance to do what they do best. That’s why we organize things such as compilation CD’s for local charities, volunteer time for non-profits and events such as Hope For The Hopeless where our fans can actually tell us what causes they feel strongly about, then vote for the event proceeds to go to that.
Let’s pretend you’re headlining a summer stadium tour—which of your favorite bands would you invite to share the bill with you?
AS: Dream tour would include bands like Rage Against The Machine, System Of A Down, Refused and At The Drive In. Bands we all really dig and would want to see ourselves. There’s so many good unsigned bands out there though that we love to share the stage with bands like AZ Locals The Fair And Debonair, Run With The Hunted, Move Forward, Lariats and The Author or bands out of AZ like Plagues, Alaska, Dead Pilots, Attack! Vipers! and Von Wolfe. Cheap plugs, but they are all worth a listen and everyone’s support.
American Standards are gearing up for a very busy 2012—impending tours throughout the west and mid-west as well as some festival appearances and slots with bands like Touche Amore and Joyce Manor. There will also be more information released soon about a new CD and music video. To stay up to date on the flurry of American Standards activities, visit the band’s Facebook page often.