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Since forming in 1998, Unit F have carved out a niche in the tradition of classic OC punk. With a sound that is simultaneously both chaotic and sharp, their music's socio-political leanings are unpretentious, without fashion-centric tropes.
Often cited as having a very "old school" vibe (one that most closely resembles the US Bombs), Unit F combine the fury of punk and the energy of garage rock. And while their albums are powerful, it's their live shows that have earned them a local and national following. Founding member and lead singer Mel Schantz is the sole original member, having survived several lineup changes, but, he says, the band have reached their full potential with the current crew: Terrence Kiriokos on drums, George Hart on bass, and Brandon Coy and Dave Costa on guitar.
"We started out confused and we played mediocre music badly . . . but very loudly, so apparently, it was impressive in some aspect," Schantz says of the band members, who've now been together "almost a year."
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"It's been a long evolution," he says, "but it's finally coming into its own in terms of songwriting and musicianship."
The live stage performance is catching up as well, he says. "It's a whole new animal, so it's totally cool."
Although highly political, Unit F try to infuse their music with enough irreverence that fans won't feel browbeaten with depressing facts or superfluous nihilism. Local legends producer Jim Monroe (Manic Hispanic, Adolescents, Guttermouth) and guitarist Greg Hetson (Bad Religion) lent their talents to Unit F's second full-length release, American Shutdown. And on their album currently in the works, they plan to expand their subject matter. "It's not that our message has changed; it's broadened," says Kiriokos. "It used to just be socio-political, and now there's a lot more interpersonal stuff going on. . . . I, for one, like that."
And of course, there's the requisite, twisty political jargon that comes from being politically passionate. It might not all be understandable, but hey, we know it sounds great when put to music. "I think there is a bit of the esoteric starting to creep in," Schantz says. "Things are happening individually that are also happening collectively, as opposed to just pointing to the symptoms of the problem. The Iraq War, the renegade administrations, the signing away of individual rights that we've taken for granted . . . It's about thinking about how we've taken the environment for granted; it's about thinking about what is our individual place in the bigger picture."
This column appeared in print as "Unit F: The New Old School."