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Strung Out, The Casualties

DIN Productions Present
ALL AGES

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Jake's Backroom

5025 50th St #A

Lubbock, TX 79414

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Strung Out & The Casualties with special guest We're Occupied appearing at Jake's Backroom -in Lubbock

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Strung Out

If you listened to Songs Of Armor And Devotion with no prior knowledge of Strung Out, you probably wouldn’t guess that the California band has been together for almost 30 years – such is the intensity and fresh energy of these 13 songs. Produced by Cameron Webb, who was behind the helm of 2009’s Agents Of The Underground, it’s a record that brims with the same ferocious fire the band had at the very start of its career when front man Jason Cruz was still a teenager, but which also demonstrates how far the California five-piece have evolved as songwriters, musicians and people.

“I don’t want to be 19 years old again,” says Cruz, “but the fact that we still have that energy, but we’re not 19 years old is a real feather in our cap. We’re older, but I’m so grateful that I still have a lot to do. I hope people hear this record, and they know that we’re not tired, that I still have ideas.”

Those ideas flow throughout this record both musically and thematically, the vulnerability and uncertainty of Cruz’s lyrics lying in stark contrast to the fierce and ferocious pummeling nature of its songs. That juxtaposition has always been present in Strung Out’s songs, but for this record, that push and pull has become the central basis and focus of this record, as his heart and thoughts struggle to make sense of the chaos of the world at large. That’s not to say this album has the answers, but in analyzing everything, it offers the listener – and Cruz himself – the various contradictory paths of life that, hopefully, can lead to some kind of truth or understanding.

“Some songs can be armor: they can repel and they can guard you,” explains Cruz. “And they can also bring you comfort and speak of love and belonging to something. To be a good and gentle person, you have to put up a little bit of armor, but that armor never works, because you’re so caring and sensitive and vulnerable, that your heart is going to be displayed on that armor anyway. There are so many thoughts and feelings in my head I think that with this album I just opened up the pen and let it go to explore the duality of having to defend and protect what’s inside, and at the same time make it available for the world.”

Much of Cruz’s vulnerability stems from the death of someone he was incredibly close to. That’s something which has exaggerated and exacerbated Cruz’s emotional fragility and continues the spiritual and philosophical journey he says he’s found himself on in recent years. At the same time, though, these songs are also infused with a spirit of hope and defiance.

“I lost my best friend six or seven months ago,” explains Cruz. “It was right before we started writing this record, and that really put a shadow on things. Some of these songs – especially “Monuments” and “Bloody Knuckles” – reflect that loss. But that’s what’s always made our band work. The music is this metal machine and then you get these vocals that express this vulnerability in a melodic way – and there’s love and there’s searching in all that machine. This record starts out hopeful and then it kind of degrades. It sobers and ends with loss. But there are so many things on this record that I’m still figuring it out.”

All those thoughts and feelings swirl together on this record as Cruz – who refers to himself and his vulnerability as the “flesh in the machine” – tries to find some sort of resolution. The moody “Daggers” tells a story of personal turmoil within the backdrop of an increasingly dystopian America, while the grief and sadness contained with “Monuments” is offset by the pulsating, defiant frenzy of the song’s tune. “Disappearing City” blends a raucous energy with a sense of resignation but – importantly – not defeat, “Under The Western Sky” brims with Strung Out’s trademark sense of melody and coruscating aggression, and the insistent ebb and flow of album closer “Bloody Knuckles” is ravaged with both a despair and a kind of beauty at the same time.

Yet while these songs are fuelled by a power and aggression, the band – completed by guitarists Jake Kiley and Rob Ramos, bassist Chris Aiken and new drummer (since 2018) RJ Shankle – infused them with plenty of nuance, too. Some of that is thanks to the lessons learned from last year’s acoustic yet expansive acoustic EP Black Out The Sky, something Cruz says was a necessary step the band had to take in order to then make this record. Underneath it all, however, is the same desperate need to write these songs and get them out of his system.

“This opportunity I’ve been given, and everything I’ve been doing, I don’t have any say in it,” Cruz says. “I don’t have a choice. I have to fucking do this. I have things inside of me that swell up when I go through this, but it’s what people put into what they hear and what they then take out of it that’s the magic. I need to do this, but if it’s not making a connection, I have no right to be here. My favorite part about America is the pain of the poor people and what they create out of it – the culture that the poorest people of this country have created. From that came blues, jazz, rock n roll, and, to me, coming from nothing and creating something is everything to me.”

You can hear how that is – how true that still is – from the beginning to the end of Songs Of Armor And Devotion. It’s a punk record, but it’s also much more than that. It’s a political record that addresses the state we’re in, but at its core is a heart and humanity –and a belief in that humanity – that overrides everything else. It’s pain and sadness and hope and rebellion all wrapped into one powerful statement that also serves as a culmination of the band’s three decades together. And while the record sees Strung Out still writing at the height of their abilities, at the same time, when Cruz reflects back on these songs, he thinks they represent something monumental for the band, even if he’s not entirely sure what that actually is.

“I find that it’s time for a new adventure,” he says. “I feel like I’ve given what I needed to give to Strung Out. I feel like we did what we needed to do and it’s time to move on. I’ve grown. I’m not angry like I used to be – I feel like this was the end of something, and now it’s time for a new life. I look back on the record and I think ‘Done.’ For me personally, it’s a new beginning. We still have a lot left and as long as we listen to each other and we care about what each other has to say, I don’t see an end for Strung Out. I just don’t want to repeat things that I’ve done. I can’t write like that anymore.”

The Casualties

The Casualties members aimed to return to what they viewed as the "golden era" of street punk, embodied by bands such as The Exploited, Charged GBH, which they believed had disappeared by 1985. During the early years, the lineup was stable. The initial lineup consisted of Colin and Jorge on vocals, Yureesh on drums, Hank on guitar, and Mark on bass. Colin stepped out for several months to finish his education while Rachel, Rivits' singer, took his place.

At this point, Colin, Jorge, Yureesh, and Mark put together a demo. Fred replaced Hank, but then Fred left to go to school, and Scott from C-Squat filled in. Another guitarist, Steve, from Distraught, also filled in during this period. The EP 40 Oz. Casualty was recorded. By 1992, the band was touring and building up a fan base in NYC. In 1993, bassist Mark and guitarist Fred were replaced by Mike and Jake, respectively and Yureesh was replaced by Shawn on drums in 1994. In 1995, the band's second release, the "A Fuckin Way Of Life" E.P. was released on Eyeball Records. In 1996, Shawn left the band, and Meggers of the Rivits came to fill in and became the regular drummer. The line-up of Jorge, Jake, Mike and Meggers continued until 1997. Johnny (Of The Krays) served as bassist until 1998 (a position more permanently filled by Rick later that year).

The Casualties have continued to produce high-energy recordings and they have done US and international tours (e.g., Europe, Japan, and El Salvador). Under Attack was released on SideOneDummy Records in 2006, and they toured virtually non-stop for three years in support of the album. Their newest album, We Are All We Have, was released on the SideOneDummy label on August 25, 2009.

In December 2009, The Casualties toured alongside Hatebreed, The Acacia Strain, Crowbar, and Thy Will Be Done as part of the Stillborn Fest.

The Casualties are currently recording a new album with famed producer Zeuss, which is set to be released in Summer 2012.

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Jake's Backroom

5025 50th St #A

Lubbock, TX 79414

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No Refunds

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