Late July 2017. The Last Gang are sitting in traffic on the 405 freeway, just shy of Sepulveda, about to board their first international flight as a band. Vocalist and guitarist Brenna Red’s phone rings, flashing an unknown number across her screen. She picks up, on the other line is Erin Burkett from infamous Bay Area punk label Fat Wreck Chords with a phone call that none of the OC based trio were expecting.
“She said ‘We wanna put out your record, welcome to the family!’” Red recalls. The band immediately lost their shit.
Red and the Gang continued the conversation with Burkett while getting dropped off curbside at LAX, juggling passports, sticker slapped guitar cases, luggage, and a life changing conversation. Suddenly booking Rebellion Festival and a small UK tour on their own seemed like the first step to something larger than they initially imagined would come out of their DIY promotion for their self-funded full length Salvation for Wolves.
Just a year before their life changing trip to LAX the band were spending their days and nights at Maple Studios in Santa Ana, working with engineer Cameron Webb for nearly a month. They saved up and even took out loans to create an album that captured their punk roots with a polished and poetic trajectory they knew they could achieve with the right tools. Webb pushed The Last Gang beyond their limits, Red joked that she often felt like a physicist of music during the process. After completing the record, they sent it to everyone they could, and their hard work paid off.
“The crazy part of it is Fat has never seen us live, they just heard this album. It sounds like a story where we got lucky, but we’ve worked hard.”
The Last Gang have paid their dues. They’ve spent more than a decade in the local scene, packing both dingy and DIY spots all over Southern California, piecing together tours with locals and legends alike. It meant the world to hear words of validation from a label that each member of the band have admired since they were kids. “Every once and a while you need a stranger to tell you [they’re] inspired by what you do. We fucking needed that. Fat believing in our music breathes new life into us.”
With their new label backing them, The Last Gang are working on setting up tours in the US and the UK promoting Salvation for Wolves which will be officially released on Fat Wreck Chords in early 2018. They’ll be performing at SPÄM Festival in Austria next summer, and have a short run with The Lillingtons in LA and Las Vegas in January. Earlier this month Fat Wreck Chords released a two song 7” titled Sing For Your Supper that is available in limited supply since Fat Wreck fans have taken to The Last Gang with open arms.
Strong lyricists like Joe Strummer, Elvis Costello, and Laura Jane Grace have inspired Red, moving her to write tunes that thoughtfully break away from the typical punk formula. She loves punk rock because of the way it helped her craft a critical mind as a teen, providing not just a place to say “fuck you,” but an intellectual and musical space to sharpen her creative axe.
For Red, music is an internal drive that keeps her moving and inspired. Even after 15 years as a songwriter she still wakes up with new ideas, itching to bring them to life through her guitar. “I don’t know what it is about the human condition that wants to express itself. Art and culture is what makes humans great, its our saving grace. I don’t know what I would do with my life if I didn’t play music.”
“I’m a very positive nihilist,” Red says, “I’m the happiest dystopian person in the world. The world is such a huge wheel and we are just small cogs. I don’t know if anything is going to change. But if you don’t try you never know. So even though I don’t have hope, I still do too. That’s why I keep trying. That’s why I keep writing music. I never thought I could do as much with music as I have, but here I am living my dream. I’d rather die being unsuccessful than die never trying.”
The Last Gang perform with Secondaries, The Owl in Daylight and The Revnauts at Slidebar tomorrow Dec. 23 at 8 p.m. Free show. For full info, click here.