“When we first started, I was actually going to be the band’s manager,” says Hector Martinez, the vocalist for Long Beach punk veterans, Spider. “These guys were all in the band, and they were looking for a singer. It was actually my friend Mike [Magrann] from Channel 3 that said I should be the singer, because they were auditioning him to be the singer. I told him I’d never been in a band before, but he just said ‘You guys are already friends, and the hardest part of being in a band is just getting along with everybody.’”
For a band comprised of enough punk rock experience to get a senior discount at the movies, the reason you may not have heard of Spider is simply because they’ve spent more apart than together over the last decade. In many ways, Spider never would’ve existed in the first place if not for friends with bands like Channel 3, but they almost certainly wouldn’t have reunited to release last year’s Youth Insurance if not for the inaugural Music Tastes Good festival in Long Beach.
“We took about a nine-year hiatus where we didn’t play at all,” Martinez says. “We got together about two years ago to play our first show back, but even before that our friend [Music Tastes Good founder] Josh Fischel asked us to come back to perform at this festival he was preparing. He’s pretty much the reason we’re back together.”
It might’ve taken an outside force to get them back together, but Spider’s roots weave through the last quarter-century of Long Beach punk. Dating back to their days together as schoolboys, the four punks have played in and worked with more bands than any of them care to remember. Even the newest addition, drummer Mikki Crash, has been playing in bands with some of the guys for between 15 and 25 years (depending on who you ask), but after all those years and projects, the magic of Spider ultimately comes down to their lifelong friendship.
“We’re at the level where we can literally yell at each other in the studio, and we’re all fine,” says guitarist Karl Izumi. “There are some people where if you yell at them in the studio, they yell back and then everyone gets all butthurt and that’s it. They get all offended, but we’re all beyond that.”
Of course, that’s not to say the band hasn’t changed over the decades. Aside from losing two founding members, the guys in the current lineup have all changed in their own lives. Gone is the reckless lifestyle of young punks with nothing to lose, but a little caution in their offstage lives may actually be leading to a better version of Spider than ever seen before. Rather than just drawing from inspirations like Refused, FLAG, and At the Drive-In, the Long Beach punks are actually sober enough to focus on making their recordings and performances as good as they can be.
“When we first started out, we were all using drugs and getting drunk all the time,” Martinez says. “Ever since I got clean during our last hiatus, my focus has really shifted. Now I’ll have a good cup of coffee instead of Jagermeister and mind erasers. I’m just trying to have a good time instead of smoking and doing drugs, and I think we’re better now than we were before. I mean, I’ll have a beer and have a good time, but that’s it.”
Since Spider’s beginning as one of Long Beach’s favorite underground punk bands, the city itself has spawned a massive musical scene ranging from punk and psychedelic rock to the hottest rising hip-hop acts. As they’ve watched the LBC grow and expand over the decades, it would be easy for Spider to look back fondly on the old days of small dirty clubs hosting local punk bands, but when has punk rock ever been about doing what’s easy?
“Long Beach is known for having great underground punk rock, but now it’s ventured out into all kinds of bands and styles of music,” Izumi says. “It’s really happening now. I’ll go to a club and not even know what band is playing, but I’ll watch them and be like ‘Wow, they’re really good.’ Long Beach has really developed a scene for artists, and I think it’s really cool.
“There are so many great bands now,” adds bassist Steve Westerkamp. “They’ve kept it rolling all of these years. Punk is a hard scene to support, and a lot of people sacrifice and lose money in the name of keeping punk rock alive. Long Beach has done a great job to keep it going this long.”
But with all of the changes that Spider (and Long Beach) have seen over the years, there’s always been one constant running through their lives: great live shows. While some bands may slow down as they reach their 40s, Spider’s newfound health and fitness routines give more energy to their shows than ever before. The mild-mannered Martinez is known for going wild on-stage, and the quartet has broken a venue’s stage and equipment on more than one occasion.
“We try to put on the best show possible and leave it all on the stage,” Martinez says. “We play every show like it’s our last show and give it our all. It’s cathartic. It’s a release. I’m having the best time of my life every time we play, because these guys are some of my best friends.”
“At this point, we’re the band where we don’t give a fuck what anybody thinks or what they say about us,” Izumi adds. “We’re not as young as we used to be, but we’re going to play our hearts out. If you don’t like us, then fuck you, we’ll just go play somewhere else. I don’t know what’s going to happen at Alex’s, but they like us. We’re friends.”
Spider performs with Fang, Stalag 13 and Rhino 39 at Alex’s Bar in Long Beach on Thursday, February 16.