It’s not too difficult to guess that Chris Jones is in a punk rock band: he’s covered in tattoos, and he looks like a professional ass-kicker. But what might not be so obvious are his unshakeable optimism and outspoken love for Jesus Christ. He manifests intense positive energy, both in his everyday life and while fronting his band the Heroes. “When people talk about us, I want ’em to say, ‘Those guys love God. They love their families, they love themselves, and they love other people. . . . And their music kicks ass,” he says with a laugh.
Jones formed the band in the early 2000s under the name the Bar Room Heroes. They gained considerable success as a rowdy OC punk band and released the album Prize Fighter in 2002. But just as the group were about to embark on a tour alongside Arizona hardcore band Mob 40’s, Jones came to a breaking point. “My marriage was horrible, and something wasn’t right. I just didn’t feel like I could go,” he explains. “And God spoke to me and said, ‘This is your last warning. Don’t go on tour.’ So I quit the tour and shut down the band.”
He got sober and spent the next few years immersing himself in Christianity before forming Call to Glory, a Christian punk band. “It was as punk rock as any other band, but the lyrics were different,” Jones says. “And we ended up touring the world.”
But things came to a halt once again as Jones relapsed. “I think I got Hep C from getting tattooed when I was at Soledad [State Prison]. So I went on this [treatment] called Interferon,” he says. “And it says right on the box, ‘Drug addicts are known to relapse and die.’ Needless to say, I lost my mind. My life got pretty crazy for a while.”
By 2014, Jones had sobered up again. He decided to get the Bar Room Heroes back together, but there would be a few significant changes. “We had a big show at the Observatory, and my bass player backed out of it,” Jones says. “He was going off the deep end.”
Luckily, through his church, Jones had become acquainted with Jonny Ray Bartel, a bassist best known for his time with LA blues legends the Red Devils and Americana supergroup the Knitters. “I knew his repertoire, so I decided to just throw a hail mary and ask him if he wanted to join my band,” Jones recalls.
It was Bartel who suggested the band simplify their name. “He was like, ‘You know what, dude: We don’t drink anymore, and we don’t party anymore,’” Jones says. “So we dropped the ‘Bar Room.’ And it was a shift. It was kind of us maturing. We went from garage punk rock to focusing on something bigger than the music.”
The Heroes’ sound is best described as “greasy rock & roll”; it’s fast and loud, with shredding guitar solos, moshable power-chord riffs and hearty sing-along choruses. In addition to Bartel and Jones, the group includes drummer Ruben Rivera (an original member of Manic Hispanic and the Grabbers) and lead guitarist Steve Byars (of skate-punk pioneers No Rules).
Having released the full-length album Beautiful Disaster last year, the Heroes are now working their way through a string of shows this summer. In addition to gigging at such typical OC venues as Fitzgerald’s Irish Pub in Huntington Beach, they’ll be performing a special set for their sober fans. On July 19, the Heroes will play for an audience in early recovery at HisPlace church in Westminster, where Jones is an associate pastor. The event will also feature speakers and program meetings. “We want to provide an atmosphere for newly sober people to come and be entertained,” Jones says. “It’s not just a night of recovery, but a night of fun and relaxation and some socializing in a safe atmosphere.”
The Heroes perform as part of Living Free Recovery Night at HisPlace, 14061 Chestnut St., Westminster, (714) 893-6555; hisplace.com/wm. July 19, 7 p.m. Free; pre-show dinner, $2.