Few bands are more overlooked in the annals of OC punk than Shattered Faith. We should know, the Weekly does it regularly. Time and time again, historic lists and punk biographies (even one I penned earlier this year for Noisey) namecheck a canon of the usual suspects: Social Distortion, TSOL, Agent Orange, The Adolescents…you know the list. But rarely does the Fountain Valley-based band get a mention for their thumping, angry, quasi-political tunes that preached American values and simultaneously questioned the notion of political and religious conformity. Though their sound seemed to stick out in the OC punk scene, somehow they always managed to be forgotten.
“I always thought ‘somebody doesn’t like us,’”frontman Spencer Bartsch says. “I don’t think our music’s awful. I don’t think it’s the best, but it’s good enough to be mentioned once in awhile. I always got a feeling that whoever was writing had a block of text and they would take that block of text and just move it into every article.”
It’s a fair point. Despite touting itself as a community of freethinkers, it’s interesting howƒ the mob mentality in the punk scene (and those who write about it) can give fans unintentional blinders on any sound or band that’s outside of our accepted oldschool dogma. It’s a little surprising in this case considering the band was once signed to revered punk label Posh Boy Records. Truth is, it’s a battle for notoriety that still needs to be fought, but Bartsch and members aren’t all that interested in fighting it anymore. After three-plus decades of shows the band only put out a handful of recorded songs across two albums and some scratchy demos. This year it was finally time for band to put something new on the table.
“The new record has new songs on it but some of them are actually old songs we just never recorded. So it’s got that old sound to it,” Bartsch says.
The album, simply titled Volume 3, was recorded in approximately three days. Tonight, the band plays their album release show at Karman Bar in Laguna Niguel. Co-founding guitarist Kerry Martinez (also of the US Bombs and several other established punk bands) flew in on a Wednesday from New York and was rehearsing with the band an hour later. The lineup still contains mostly original members. Aside from Bartsch and Martinez, guitarist Denny Megehey and bassist Bob Tittle are still in the group, rounded out by drummer Steve Shears and Bartsch’s son Branden on guitar.
Two days of rehearsals was all it took for the band started in 1978 to jump back in the studio and crank out 11 songs.
“It went like magic,” Bartsch says. “Probably the best we’ve ever done. It was unbelievable. Kerry called it lightning in a bottle. It was cathartic. When we were done we were just like ‘fuck, we nailed this!’”
As easy as it sounds, the year’s worth of planning to get all the members into the studio was the main obstacle. Most of the old songs they recorded were originally done on old demo tapes recorded in Bartsch’s family home in Fountain Valley, which they pretty much took over while Bartsch parent’s lived in Singapore. During the band’s early years, the singer’s father was a sales rep who made a living selling spare airplane parts throughout Asia. While they were gone, Bartsch and his brother took care of the house and the band recorded in their bedroom.
Decades later, they retrieved the tapes and revamped some of the best songs to pair alongside some new tunes. Even after the tapes were recovered, Bartsch says the band still wouldn’t have bothered recording anything if not for the encouragement of Rick Hostage and Paul Avanzino, owners of Hostage Records, who were intent on putting it out. They’d been fans of the band since the beginning, and through a period in the ‘90s when they broke up and Bartsch and his SF bandmates started recording music with other groups.
Bartsch says one motivation to get this record out now is the hope that they’ll be able to tour Europe for the first time. But aside from that, he says “the truth is, we did a really good record. Even when I listen to it now I’m like stunned. How did we do that?”
Though the band may have never gotten their due in the heyday of OC punk, they still retain a local fan base, including Wyatt and Fletcher Shears of one of OC’s current punk rock It-band The Garden. Yeah, you could say having their dad (drummer Steve Shears) in the band probably helps. But Bartsch says they were fans well before their dad ever joined. And for him, the feeling is mutual.
“I remember meeting them at our rehearsal when we were called Firecracker and I remember thinking these kids are crazy,” Bartsch says. “We played a show with X and they played after us (Steve is the tech for X) at the Observatory and they just went off!”
Regardless of the whether the press pays attention to this record, validation from fans old and new is what keeps the band going. And an album that finally represents a well recorded version of Shattered Faith is really the biggest pay off for OC’s original underrated OC punk band.
“If you listen to our records, Volume 1, 2 and 3 in a row, you wouldn’t know that 35 years had passed between the second record and the third,” Bartsch says. “Except the sound…we’re better at playing our instruments and my voice is a little deeper.”
Shattered Faith’s record release show with Mad Parade, The Decline and The Spooky is tonight at Karman Bar. 8 p.m. $12, 21+. For full details, click here.