The Subtitles Resurrect Their Faith in Music and Their Psych/Punk Sound

“I'd rather play music than be in charge of school busses,” says Mike Patton, the bassist for pioneering hardcore band the Middle Class. The 57-year-old Lake Forest resident had been “completely away” from the music scene for nearly three decades because of his day jobs with the teamsters union in Orange and director of transportation for Capistrano Unified School District for approximately 14 years. However, that changed when the Middle Class reunited in 2011, which reminded Patton that being a musician “is such a better way of spending time.”

The Middle Class played sporadically until 2014, but the group's revival came to an abrupt end after cancer claimed the life of guitarist Mike Atta. Knowing their band would “never play again” without Atta, Patton and Matt Simon decided to continue jamming because it was fun, which, perhaps unsurprisingly, is the same reason they teamed with Eddie Joseph in 1979 to complete the “American Society” lineup of Eddie and the Subtitles.


Unlike the hardcore precision of the Middle Class, Eddie and the Subtitles had a “cool freedom” that allowed Patton, Simon and Joseph to create a sort of psychedelic punk that blended slow, heavy rhythms with down-strummed freakouts. When Patton first heard Eddie and the Subtitles, they were a “lame new wave-y” band, but this sound didn't last long, as Joseph kicked out his band mates and added Patton (and Simon shortly thereafter) to head in a more punk direction.

Although the lineup of Joseph, Patton and Simon existed for approximately 18 months, it's this version of Eddie and the Subtitles most are familiar with thanks to the “American Society/Louie, Louie” single heralded as a punk classic. And, Patton says, even after so many years apart from the Subtitles, it's this avant-garde approach that came out during the twosome's jam sessions he and Simon had after Atta's death.

“When Matt and I started jamming,” Patton says, “we fell back into that Subtitles thing because when we first got together, we were doing that. The more bizarre, the better. As long as you're doing it with authority and mean it when you're doing it, then that's cool.”

These weekly jam sessions took place for approximately a year, but the two soon realized they needed a creative goal or they would find other, “real world” excuses for not getting together. That reason showed itself when Atta's widow, Pam, asked them to perform as part of Day of Music Fullerton, which lead the duo to begin assembling musicians for a new version of the Subtitles. Not, however, until after they asked Joseph to participate.

“We reached out to Eddie a couple of times,” Patton says, “and Eddie's not interested in playing–as far as I know because he stopped returning my phone calls–so we decided to resurrect the band as the concept of what it was when we were a three-piece. Eddie was definitely a part of it, but it was no longer 'Eddie's band.' It was this weird psychedelic-punk outfit.”

Sunday's performance will feature Patton and Simon on guitar and vocals, Dave Valdez on bass, and Brett Hansen on drums for a set comprised of new material: Eddie and the Subtitles' “American Society” and their cover of “Louie, Louie,” the Middle Class' “Out of Vogue” and “Home Is Where,” and Black Flag's “Nervous Breakdown.” Lest anyone think these well-known punk anthems will be played as they were recorded by the original acts, think again, Patton says, as they've been given a Subtitles makeover.

The Subtitles perform as part of Day of Music Fullerton at Roadkill Ranch & Boutique, 119 E. Commonwealth Ave., Fullerton, (714) 773-1156; June 21, 8:05 p.m. Free. All ages. For more info on the Subtitles, visit their Facebook.

See also:
The 50 Best Things About the OC Music Scene
The 50 Worst Things About the OC Music Scene
The 25 Greatest OC Bands of All Time: The Complete List

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