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Orange County is no stranger to swirling wall-of-sound distortion backed by double-time beats and raucous vocals holding it all together (read: Social Distortion, Offspring, the Vandals, Guttermouth, etc.), it's just that it has been so long since we've been injected with that sound that we've kind of forgotten how much it defines us.
Back in the mid- to late-'90s, places such as Linda's Doll Hut in Anaheim hosted myriad OC punk acts delivering their version. The air there, in those days at least, was cloaked in smoke, but the music that put its stamp on this county was clear. Since then, things have diversified a bit more, with acts such as Thrice, Local Natives and Buchanan adding to the reputation of our aural productions. But for some, OC will always be associated, at least to some degree, with power chords and pummeling rhythms.
This brings us to Fiction Reform—not rehashed, not unoriginal, just heavily influenced by the music of that time. "We all for the most part grew up listening to '90s punk, and it definitely had a big impact on all of us," drummer Danny Baeza says. "We never set out to specifically play a certain type of music; it's just what comes naturally to us."
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The quartet originally formed about two years ago, but it wasn't until singer Brenna Red came aboard a few months later that cohesion set in. Red, usually cloaked in a Ramones-esque leather jacket to go with her multicolored coif, has a definite onstage allure. The fact that her distinctive snarl—sweeter than Courtney Love's, less polished than Gwen Stefani's—is both mean and soulful doesn't hurt either.
Speaking of charismatic front women such as Stefani (or Debbie Harry, for that matter), were the other members of the band concerned the band might be seen as a near-solo act, regardless of the songwriting contributions from the male members? Baeza admits this thought went through his head when Red first joined Fiction Reform, but her seamless meshing with the group has put those sentiments to rest.
"First of all, she is a great singer and a great guitar player," Baeza says. "We're really one big family, all pulling for one another, so if we become known down the line because of her, that really isn't going to be seen as a problem at all."
The band released their debut album, Revelation in the Palms of the Weak, in April 2010, and they have already written the bulk of the material needed for a seven-song EP that's due out later this year. While Red wasn't involved in the songwriting on the original release, she has been with the new tracks, which, Baeza says, reveal a more complete band.
"The songs are just more finished this time around," he says. "We've been playing together for a while now, and with all of our input, they seem more solid."
The set will be released in the fall, but in the meantime, the band plan to tour the western states heavily. The economic climate has made nationwide touring a losing battle for bands still coming up, but Baeza and company judiciously plan to take over the West one state at a time.
"From Colorado to California—that's our target," Baeza says. "Once we get known through that area, we can think about the rest of the country."
This column appeared in print as "A Familiar Story."