Blending Rikk Agnew influenced angsty and melodic guitar riffs, heavy bass a’la Geezer Butler, skate punk vocals, and classic punk drumming, Bad Antics aren’t lying when they say “We’re the snowplow in the punk blizzard.” They’re the perfect soundtrack for suburban skate punk kids to bump on a hot summer afternoon between smoking pot at the park and complaining about their dad, but to reduce them as purely adolescent would erase the fact that these guys are writing seriously shredding, exciting, and complex music that is steeped in tradition without being boring or redundant. They manage to cut through the oversaturation of punk bands in Orange County. Its no surprise they’ve shared a bill with legends like OFF, JFA, and Negative Approach, and with their new 7” Beyond the Fog coming out on Resurrection Records there’s a lot to look forward to from a band many consider the best new thing to come out of Orange County punk in the last decade.
Although many think of the baby-faced long hairs of Bad Antics as a new band, they’ve actually been at it for over a decade. Bassist John Oltmanns and guitarist Zack Antic have been friends since grade school and started the band as teens influenced by skateboarding culture in 2005 along with Jen Agnew on drums, and Tony Thornton on vocals. Guitarist Big Red witnessed Bad Antics’ first show from the packed floor of an Old Town Placentia punk rock Halloween party in a “house ready to be condemned” then joined the band in 2006.
Originally Bad Antics sported a snottier, Adolescents influenced style—fitting as they were kids from the Fullerton area with an Agnew in the lineup. When Agnew left in 2008, Red moved to drums and their line up has remained unchanged ever sense.
“When we started it was good timing,” Red says, “it was the resurgence of 1980’s hardcore” which ended up influencing their direction musically moving them from their original Agent Orange aesthetic to the hardcore sound they are known for today. “At first we were like ‘We’re not hardcore!” Oltmanns remembered, “we don’t floor punch and wear Nikes and have breakdowns, but then we heard Government Warning and learned that Minor Threat and Black Flag were hardcore and that whole scene was a huge turn for us.”
As the band became more popular in the George W. era Orange County punk scene, they moved from house shows to bigger venues, inevitably forcing them to begrudgingly engage in pay to play which got them blacklisted from the Alley in Fullerton. “We got banned,” the guys all remembered almost at once, remembering how after an altercation with club management the band and fans pushed back. ”Someone tried to break our guitar so we tried to break down their barrier! There was a bunch of BS and we got tired of it and we instigated a little crowd rowdiness, then they told us ‘You’ll never play in Orange County again!’ Well less than a month later we were playing at the Galaxy with Narcoleptic Youth, so I think we did OK- being 15 was tight.”
The band has hit the local and national touring scene hard over the last 11 years, but had difficulty gaining respect from crowds initially. “We were judged because we looked so young so no one really gave a shit,” John Oltmanns says. “One time in Cleveland this guy came up to me and said that we were the first band to draw him from the bar to the club area, shocked after saying he thought we were ’10 year old kids.’ People didn’t take us seriously because we looked so young, but once they heard us play things changed.”
Since shocking old school hardcore heads as kids, Bad Antics have kept up a rigorous US tour schedule when possible, melting a van engine in Arizona with local favorites Half Goon, playing weird basement shows in remote locations, narrowly escaping the long arm of the law, and even scoring a short stint with Keith Morris’s OFF! in 2014, not a bad accomplishment for a band who started in hopes of playing alongside their old school heroes. “Touring with OFF was much different from the kind of [DIY] touring we’re used to,” Red says, “We didn’t have to worry about [tough] realities of touring. The crowd response was enthusiastic and OFF gave 110% every night no matter the circumstance, which is something we really respect. Watching splinters from the drumsticks fly through the air as Dale Crover [Melvins/OFF] destroys his kit every night is something I’ll cherish forever.”
Bad Antics have released a solid line up of EPs and LPs on local and international labels including Fullerton’s Burger Records who released Bad Antics totally analog full length Where Did I Go Wrong, committed to tape in a historic San Pedro home turned double decker party house and studio. “We all drank an 18 pack before we recorded,” remembered Tony laughing as the band reflected on the importance of having a good time, but equally engaging in a democratic writing process. “Nobody writes a whole song in Bad Antics,” Oltmanns concurs, “we all come with ideas and Tony is the Lauryn Hill of the group, the main songwriter.” Their song content largely grapples with the pitfalls of life, from drugs to processing emotion and experiences. “Most of them are really negative!” Thornton says, joking about his lyrical process. “Our songs are about mistakes you make, things you think are gonna work out and they don’t, just everyday things.”
Their 7” Beyond the Fog will be released on Resurrection Records this spring, featuring two brand new songs in preparation for a full length that the group hope to record in 2016. “We’ve been sitting on these songs for 2 years and haven’t been able to record them because of our work, school, and touring schedules,” says Zack Antic, who holds down a day job and studies electrical engineering, reflecting on how the band members all juggle jobs at grocery stores and pizza places, school, families, and the band, which is the biggest hurdle in the way of Bad Antics recording and playing more music. “We accumulate songs live and never record them, which is probably our biggest weakness,” says Thornton who recently became a new dad, “You can either say we’re perfectionists, or we’re incredibly lazy.”
While international tour is one of their biggest unachieved goals, the guys in Bad Antics have kept up their creative and collaborative endurance by centering their friendship in all things band related. “Bros Before Shows dude!!” they all screamed, laughing from inside their road worn cream white tour van. Jokes aside, their family like bond is apparent in both their tight song writing and their interactions, almost like an invisible member of the band that shapes their collective identity. “We’re friends before band members, Red says. Oltmanns concurs, “A lot of bands will replace a member if someone has to leave, in my opinion its not worth doing. The biggest essence of our band is our friendship, like whatever motive or whatever reason were making music is second to that.”