Photo by James Bunoan"This is fuckin' jazz. This ain't punk rock!" says this Cheech-Marin-look-alike after one particularly memorable show for arty-punky bass-guitar-less Long Beach trio the Days End—and you know, for a guy who looks that stoned, Cheech has a good point.
While the Days End may have a lot of the plumage of that not-so-rare bird punk rock—guitars like a bee swarm, lyrics howled and shouted but not per se sung, drums like small-arms fire—they've got at least as much Bitches Brew-era Miles Davis in there, too. They're too lean and mean a monster to make it as jazz fusion, but still: "Blitzkrieg Bop" this ain't.
Original Helmet drummer John Stanier told the Days End they reminded him of early Pink Floyd—maybe Piper at the Gates of Dawn put through a shredder? And Days End makes their changes on a nod and a wink, rather than a predetermined number of repetitions. It's all intuition. Even the lyrics aren't set in stone—while the essential structure and theme is always the same, guitarist/singer Robert Sammelius says he often changes or improves his lyrics midsong.
And "Over and Under" (their only available recording after three years, from their split with the Manifolds) is pretty far from punk rock: four and a half minutes of its 5:30 minutes of running time is devoted to a subtle, repeated arpeggio guitar figure with a second guitar flying in and out when it feels like it. It's jazz without the bass player, or maybe it's punk without the power chords.
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"Punk rock was scary when we were kids," muses guitarist/ singer Michael Garcia. "You remember Zed Records? I remember being terrified of that place. Then when I got in there, I realized the guys were cool, but still . . ."
But still—they liked it. Like Shellac, Drive Like Jehu and Don Caballero, punk is the touchstone, but it goes into outer space from there. And they say they're just going with what feels right. Garcia played with drummer Jason Walker in Walker's mom's house for some time before inviting Sammelius to join them. With the second guitar and vocalist, Garcia figured they were done. They wanted to play a show and decided the bass-player situation would work itself out later. It did when they decided they didn't need one.
Still, sometimes the people disagree. Aside from Cheech, there was the old drunk guy who decided they needed another singer: him. He scrawled lyrics to a song about an eagle while the Days End played and handed it over to Sammelius by way of audition. How could you say no to that? Rob hopes to use them soon—he likes the feel of them.
The Days End perform with Year Future and Holly Tree at Alex's Bar, 2913 Anaheim St., Long Beach, (562) 434-8292. Sat., call for time. $5. 21+.