Red Undead Are Punk Rockers With a Pirate Mentality

From left to right: Daniel Jun, Thomas Monroe, Mary Yanashima, Blake Martin
From left to right: Daniel Jun, Thomas Monroe, Mary Yanashima, Blake Martin
Delana Taylor-Martin

When Red Undead guitarist, Thomas Monroe, first met the band's lead singer, Mary Yanashima, he was leading a poetry group in Mission Viejo. A friend of Monroe's had tipped him off that there would be, as he put it, a real pirate coming to the circle that night. The said pirate turned out to be Yanashima, who left the poetry to the rest of the group and instead chose to unleash a fierce a capella cover of a Yeah Yeah Yeah's tune. At that moment Monroe knew he had stumbled upon his future front woman. The punk quartet unites to play Programme Skate and Sound in Fullerton on Thursday, March 12, in support of their debut, full-length album, Lost Hearts.

"She immediately had a great charisma about her, but I didn't really say anything that first time," Monroe says of his initial encounter with the petite, crimson haired vocalist. "She came back the next week, we bonded over Kirin Ichiban and she sang another song. I asked her if she was in a band and she wasn't -but definitely wanted to be."

Monroe shares that likening Yanashima to a pirate was a serendipitous and positive omen, which he says tied into Red Undead's message of personal freedom. The lead singer's fondness of flailing about onstage and sporting an increasingly eccentric wardrobe are supporting elements of the band's self-proclaimed pirate mentality, which they assert is more about being yourself than rocking an eye patch. Monroe shares that the group's shows are meant to champion self-expression, and landed them a gig at Saddle Back College's LGBT Alliance event in December.

"It was great supporting the LGBT event because we intend to spread the ideas of unconditional love and acceptance for all people," Yanashima says. "We were welcomed warmly and made new friends -and we shared lots of pizza."

Red Undead's upcoming show at Programme Skate and Sound comes on the heels of a string of radio interviews in support of Lost Hearts, including a guest DJ spot on UC Irvine's KUCI and an interview on Cal State Fullerton's Titan Radio. The album was recorded at Hear No Evil Studios in Orange with producer Elliot Koenig, who worked with the group on their previous, self-titled EP. Lost Hearts shows a great deal of maturity between the two efforts, revealing a garage sound glittered with vocals that alternate between ferocious and saccharine.

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Yanashima believes the album lightly echoes the essence of the riot grrl movement, though she's quick to add that it's more of an inspiration than a direct influence. The album validates her sentiment. The title track rolls in and out of heavy guitar grooves and lays down a vibe reminiscent of Veruca Salt, while rippers like "Freedom" dip into garage punk.

"'Freedom' is kind of my feminist song," Yanashima says of the album's third track, which was inspired by her experience with Take Back The Night, a charitable organization that spearheads group walks to protest violence against women. "Just because you have the face of a woman doesn't mean you should be judged differently. I'm trying to let people know I can be a woman and still be tough. I can be an equal, but I don't want to just scream it. I want to show them through my music what I have to say."

Monroe adds that "Freedom" applies to anyone with a wild heart and sense of courage, which is ultimately the credo of the unlikely band of punk pirates, saying "The song can connect with anyone, it says ring your freedom out, let your thunder out. It's very empowering and connects with me too."

Red Undead perform at Programme Skate and Sound, 2495 E Chapman Ave., Fullerton, (714) 798-7565; Thursday, March 12, 8 p.m., $5. All ages. For more information on Red Undead, visit http://www.theredundead.com

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