Most bands cringe at the idea of categorizing their sound. But when Dumb Love referred to their music as “Punk Floyd,” they pretty much nailed it. There's enough moxie and dissonance throughout their debut LP, Fool of Love, to honor both stoner-rock icons and late-'80s proto-grunge heroes, making it one of the worthiest local releases of the year.
Aside from adding a psychedelic spin on an otherwise hard-charging sound, theirs is a tale of two bands and three longtime friends, veterans of the Long Beach underground alt-rock scene. They also have stories about various flirtations with mainstream success a few years back.
Front man Mark Lira, best known for his work with the Fugazi-meets-Nirvana skater-punk outfit Thinking Aloud, gigged around the SoCal club circuit for a solid eight years starting in 2001. Guitarist Brian D. Murphy and bassist Greg Coates came from former LA buzz band the Bangkok Five, who toured with the Cult, Papa Roach, the Stooges and other big-time rock acts before the group imploded in the mid-'00s.
Coates doesn't exactly hold his old band—or their business decisions—in the warmest regard. “The lead singer had cost us our radio support and booking agent, for the most part killing all [our] momentum,” he says. “The whole career of that group was far less cool and successful than it could have been thanks to some truly horrific decisions made by truly small minds.”
Lira's disbanding of Thinking Aloud wasn't as tumultuous—mostly life obligations got in the way for some members, and they all thought it best to move on. Coates recorded and produced Thinking Aloud's 2005 Remote Mind Control and says he has always been a fan of that band, Lira especially. “Mark has such an honest, real vibe, and he's one of the more honorable people I know,” Coates says. He even filled in on bass for Lira's old band before they stopped in 2009.
Coates and Lira met at the legendary band spot the Space, hub of the Long Beach alt-rock scene during the late 1990s and early '00s. Inhabited by a dozen or so working musicians, it hosted shows on an almost-weekly basis. The warehouse in a blighted, industrial section of Long Beach at Pacific Coast Highway and Santa Fe Avenue was home base for bands such as Chapter 11, I'm a Robot, the Bronx and others. Concrete floors, high ceilings and walls adorned with works by local artists and residents—indie-rock paradise.
“Everything just worked there,” recalls Lira. “We had two nice, working stages, plus one outdoors for acoustic acts, and nine bands on a bill—no problem. It's where I first felt like a real musician.”
The bond Lira and Coates forged at the Space convinced the two to join forces and record the old songs they'd stored up from their respective former bands. Coates says Dumb Love incorporate the best of both acts.
They recorded 10 tracks at two different studios, including eStudios in East LA (operated by producer Manny Nieto), where the songs were baptized in “analog fuzziness and Abby Road vibe,” Coates says. The rest they tracked with Anthony “Antoine” Arvisu, formerly of legendary psych outfit Lungpigs, at the Compound in Long Beach.
The end result—a psych-grunge opus about things related to love and all the sacrifice and bullshit that come with it—has the band genuinely stoked. Right now, it's pure honeymoon phase for these guys. “I've had 10 record deals in the past 15 years, and I've never felt more confident and positive about any of the bands I've been in,” Coates says. “Wait until you see it live.”
This column appeared in print as “Punk Floyd.”