NOFX's Erik “Smelly” Sandin Loves the Family Reunion Vibes of Punk Rock Music Festivals

When NOFX released their autobiographical tell-all, The Hepatitis Bathtub and Other Stories, they knew it would lead to people seeing them in a different light.

The band known for snarky punk rock and a wide range of inappropriate humor would suddenly be putting tales from their darkest days directly into the spotlight. From drugs and sex to violence and death, none of the band’s four current members – or any of the previous members, for that matter – held back when recounting their successes and mishaps.

While many of “Fat Mike” Burkett’s preferred oddities were already somewhat known and neither of NOFX’s current guitarists had too many twisted stories, drummer Erik “Smelly” Sandin shocked quite a few of the group’s fans with anecdotes about his drug use in the early years of the band. Six months after the book’s initial release, the now-sober Sandin still isn’t completely used to just how much people now know about his past.

“I’ve gotten a lot of people coming up to me and telling me my shit’s crazy and I’m lucky to be alive,” Sandin says. “There’s still a lot of stuff I left out, but what’s weird for me is that I’ve always had this dark past and I’ve always held it inside. I’m kind of a private person, and it’s pretty scary for everybody to know about it now. I feel kind of vulnerable now that I’ve put out my skeletons to the world. It’s a weird thing walking down the street and knowing that [people know] a lot of shit about you.”

But none of those passersby matter when Sandin sits behind his kit in back of Burkett, Eric Melvin, and Aaron “El Hefe” Abeyta. For over a dozen albums and 30 years, Sandin’s carried the rapid drumbeat of one of punk’s most iconic groups. He’s watched as the crowd at NOFX shows grew from handfuls of people to thousands, and now he’s getting ready to headline San Diego’s inaugural Ye Scallywag! Festival along with a handful of other punk bands.

After spending decades perfecting their brash (yet humorous) punk sound in grimy bars and small rooms, being one of the biggest names on an entire punk rock festival is something that Sandin and the rest of NOFX were ever sure they’d see.

“Who would’ve ever thought that punk rock would have its own festivals where thousands of people show up?” the Long Beach resident says. “It’s a gathering or a reunion of sorts. From a band standpoint, it’s really fun because you just show up and play and hang out with a bunch of people you’ve known for a really long time. I love playing club shows, but festivals just have a different kind of energy about them.”

Aside from NOFX, Ye Scallywag! features everyone from Goldfinger and Reel Big Fish to Against Me! and Bad Religion. It’s far from the first time NOFX and Bad Religion have headlined a major show together, and it likely won’t be the last. For that matter, the 50-year-old Sandin essentially considers the guys in Bad Religion to be like NOFX’s (slightly) older siblings.

“I’ve known the Bad Religion guys for as long as we’ve been a band,” Sandin says. “They were always these older guys who we looked up to, and they were way more mature musically and stuff. They’re only a year or two older than us, but they just seemed much older. We’re more than a couple of bands who play the same genre of music and come from the same scene. We’re all really good friends. Relationships are more than just punk rock music relationships.”

NOFX performs at Ye Scallywag! Festival on Sat. Oct. 22 at Waterfront Park in San Diego. For tickets and full info, click here.

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