Fifteen years ago, Dan Sena’s frustration with guitar definitely played a role in his decision to abandon hardcore music. After his last show with Adamantium (one of his many former bands) at Showcase Theater in Corona, he thought his playing days were over the minute he slammed his guitar case shut and walked out of the venue.
“When we broke up that was literally the last time I strummed a hardcore riff,” Sena says. “I was burnt out on hardcore. I didn’t know what to write anymore.”
Disillusioned with his own sound and the sonic direction where scene was headed, Sena decided to expand his musical horizons. He’d already taken heed to the advice of good friend and Dim Mak label founder Steve Aoki, who suggested he start DJing on the side for some extra cash between gigs with his band. Almost two decades later, the Costa Mesa local became a fixture of OC’s dance music scene with plenty of work on his plate. Despite all the DJing he was doing, the itch to play live compelled him into starting an avant garde, proggy space rock band called Arrhythmia. When that project stalled, Sena began writing hardcore riffs on guitar once again out of frustration.
“I didn’t really have any intention or agenda of having it go anywhere, it was just fun. I just wrote these songs as a joke or a goof.”
Two EPs later, it’s clear that Precious, the chord crunching hardcore project he started with vocalist Brian Lovro (formerly of Threadbare), was more than just a way to pass the time. It’s become Sena’s way of tapping into hardcore music again on his own terms, without the constraints of a designated scene. If anything, he says, the music simply represents the sound he was going for where he left off 15 years ago.
“I have no idea what’s cool in the punk and hardcore scene today. Maybe that was an advantage because I didn’t let any of that influence me.”
In its boldest moments, the band’s new EP, Unravelings, champions a sound that feels frozen in time. From the machine gun kick drum breakdowns and catchy, melodic guitar lines underneath Lovro’s guttural vocals, it feels like 2005 is sucking you in its rip current and smashing your body with the weight of its epic waves. A bedrock component of the sound, aside from Sena’s riffs, is Lovro’s voice, which Sena says he had in mind while he was writing the songs. Precious’ bassist Dustin Perry (of Snapcase) helped Sena and Lovro connect on the project, eventually bringing in Steven Miller (of Unbroken) on guitar and Matt Horwitz on drums to round out the band's roster
The metal core-tinged aesthetic of the early aughts comes crashing back with the opening salvo of “Head Down,” and it doesn’t let up much until the title track brings the EP to a close. The energy is so palpable between the players that audiences would never suspect that the band members pretty much all live a plane ride apart. Sena collects the parts from members who lay them down individually and he mixes them together in a way that captures the live essence of their sound.
“It took a few months, but I wasn’t in a rush and I didn’t really know what it was gonna become. Finally when we sat down to do it,” Sena says. “He looked at it and said wow this could actually become something.”
That “something” is finally manifesting itself this weekend in the form of live shows in San Diego, OC and LA. The OC show at Diego’s will likely be the liveliness of all three of course. Sena says he’s been dying to play these songs live to recapture the spirit of the scene that once fed his desire to make music long before his days as a DJ.
“Coming back to it, not that it’s nostalgic, but it became fun again,” Sena says. “I had so much fun writing this music, it’s gonna be fun to play it live.”
Precious plays Diego's tomorrow at 5 p.m. For full details on all shows this weekend, click here.