Descendents Headline FYF Fest
Chad Sengstock/OC Weekly

Descendents Headline FYF Fest

The lineup for the eighth annual FYF festival in downtown Los Angeles was announced today and if bloggers mean anything, it sounds like lots of people are excited. Bands such as Death From Above 1979, Explosions in the Sky, the Dead Milkmen, Guided By Voices, Broken Social Scene, the Weakerthans, No Age, Avi Buffalo, OFF!, Cold War Kids and Pink Mountaintops are just a few of the groups scheduled to perform.

That bill alone would attract plenty of attention, but fuck all those bands because the Descendents are playing!

I interviewed singer Milo Aukerman a few months ago regarding his group's show at the Long Beach Arena with Rise Against and Bad Religion. After the jump,  a few notable quotes that didn't make my story.

OC Weekly: What's the status of the band right now?
Milo Aukerman:

We've been scheduling individual shows throughout the year because my kids are now of the age when they want to see daddy rock out. I thought I might be able to make that happen. I turned toward my wife and went, 'What do you think?' because, in the end, she's the one who has to stay home while I'm out having fun. The other thing was was that Bill had a really serious illness. He had a pulmonary embolism and the real root cause was a tumor in his brain that he had removed last spring. To be brutally honest, he had a lot of medical bills and we thought we might be able to do some shows to help out in that regard. More than ever before, I'm trying to take it a day -- or maybe a year -- at a time. We have shows mapped out and now I'm determined to have fun and take it where it goes. Especially from our experience in the mid-'90s with

Everything Sucks

. It was fun, but we toured like dogs and I thought, 'I could take a break from this.' We just kept going. By the end, we were really a solid, tight unit but there was a bit of a burn-out. That's why I don't want to make any predictions. We also have kids and have our own separate gigs. The older we get, we consider the band a fun thing to do that we can make a little money at. At this late stage of our lives, no one's thinking we could make a go of it.  

Have you ever turned down a show or a tour because you didn't want to? Or has it always been your day job as a research scientist?
I've never refused for any reason of distaste. Anytime I've refused, it's because I'm swimming in my science. Or drowning. We've had the best friendship all along and I've tried to help out whenever possible. I've always been able to re-insert myself and have fun in the process. There's never been any bad blood or anything like that.

After having played a few times this year, what are your expectations for the future?
In the '90s, I'd say our expectations were too high. Epitaph was head over heels for us and we recorded a ton of great songs. I thought it was a really good record and we needed to tour because that's what a band did to promote a record. In the back of my mind, there was the possibility that it would build up to where I could embark on a music career, which I have no interest in now. Maybe we're destined to be a very popular band in a very underground group. Now I have zero expectations. It's all just gravy for me.

Are you able to sing right now or do you need to practice to strengthen your voice?
We've had to pass around karaoke versions of the songs, so the set list is not as free-form as you might expect. I would be able to do it, but the only issue would be, 'Do I have to do it tomorrow and the day after that?' In Australia, I drank way too much coffee. I got offstage and was quivering and didn't stop for the rest of that night. I had heart palpitations, so I didn't sleep that night. The next day we flew to Brisbane and woke up 30 minutes before the show. My voice was already fragile and trying to warm up was a disaster. Lesson learned.

There was a rumor that the original Descendents trio (drummer Bill Stevenson, bassist Tony Lombardo and guitarist Frank Navetta) recorded new material before Frank passed away. Any truth to that?
I know they had some some recording and I wasn't involved in any of it. My understanding was they were doing very old, pre-me, songs. We did some of them at our first songs. They did them as a three-piece because that's how they originally did them. I've heard two of them. Whether or not they are deemed quality enough to release, I don't know. There are songs I wouldn't mind taking a stab at.

What's it like being a bobblehead?
I asked my kids and they told me to do it. I had a change of heart about merch. In the '80s, I wasn't that behind it that much. I regret coming down so hard on Bill about it. We designed the first Bonus Cup together, but it gave me a distasteful feeling. I even wrote a song called "Green" about it. I've come to appreciate being able to have the band be represented in goofy, offbeat ways. The toilet seat cover is great because it's an offbeat way of getting the band's name out there. These are just other outlets for creativity for the band.

Was it it about your song "Hope" that resonates with so many people?
It's definitely one of my favorites. Having written it, I guess I can be biased that way. It was one of the first songs I wrote and I was discovering how to write songs. When that one came out, I thought I could write about excruciating things. I didn't have to write about 'Reagan sucks.' I can write about my girlfriend leaving me and that's totally reasonable and acceptable and that's what I want to do. It was a watershed moment because I realized it was the kind of music I wanted to make. I don't know if I have a good explanation for why other people like it except that it melds the hardcore form with an extra level of melody. There's even a country, folky feel to it.

It sounds like a very in-the-moment song.
Yeah. We got into that mode at that point of writing a song about what just happened and don't bother to filter any of it. A song like "I'm Not a Loser" is completely unfiltered. That can come with some negatives too.

You mean the ending of "I'm Not a Loser?"
Frank wrote that and at the time, it was the ultimate teenage rage. It was targeting not gay people but the jocks at our school. The language is the hot button. These days, I've altered that. I want to get across the point of 'you suck,' but it's been misunderstood. We have a few songs that we've come to regret how they've been interpreted. 

Does the girl in "Hope" know it's about her?
Yeah. We put the record out and as explained in the lines, she had this other guy she was going after, so she pursued him. Maybe six months later, that didn't work out so she came back to me and she's quoting the lyric. It rolled back on me a little bit. She wanted the day to come and I had moved on. I'm not sure if she ever saw us play it, but she saw us record part of it.

Why is it that all these bands who say you are an influence don't sound anything like you?
We dabbled in a lot of different sounds, so it depends on what songs they are referring to. We have songs like "Loser" and "I Wanna Be a Bear" that are ramped up that maybe someone like Pennywise would like, but then we songs coming from a pop perspective. Blink-182 would probably like "Silly Girl" and "Christmas Vacation" and for Pennywise it was something else. We were doing emo back in the '80s, at least my vague understanding of emo. There are certain things about emo I can get behind and other things I can't. The whole singing sweet and then scream -- that too me is weird. That's a little too fabricated for me. 


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