Every once in a while, I wish I still had a homeroom to sneak out of. I wish I was still wearing a Misfits T-shirt under a Catholic school uniform that I could take off in the parking lot before some cool older friends with a car and tattoos would pick me up and we'd drive around smoking cigarettes and blaring music with the windows down. The times I wax nostalgic for teen angst are rare, but this is one of them.
Street Punk, the latest release from queer rockers Hunx and His Punx, is only slightly over 20 minutes but manages to compress decades of punk subgenres into a surprisingly catchy, coherent album that makes me miss the worst years of my life. Borrowing from horror rock, garage, riot grrrl, and hardcore, most tracks are under-two-minutes-long homages to the kind of fast, highly listenable songs that made the Ramones so timelessly popular.
With lyrics like "I don't fit in, I don't fit in to your world" and "It's not easy being me," the album borders on a kind of self-aware gimmickry that doesn't come across as annoying because it's just too fun. It's a return to punk's agenda-less, unadulterated rebel-without-a-cause angst, and it's an almost-guilty pleasure to bask in.
City Paper called frontman Seth Bogart in Los Angeles before Hunx and His Punx leaves for a tour, which will bring them to Baltimore this week.
City Paper: I love Street Punk. I've been listening to it all week.
Seth Bogart: Oh my god! Thanks! It's my favorite Hunx album.
CP: It seems like the band has gone through a revolving door of members over the past few years. Can you talk about the present lineup?
SB: I kind of started the band with the idea that it could be, like, me and whoever . . . because I was sick of people's schedules bringing me down. . . . But Shannon [Shaw] has been super into it and wanted to do it even though she has her own band. A couple years ago we brought her on tour without her even having practiced with us. Then we decided to get all girls. Now she's the last one remaining because she just really goes for it, you know? I kinda like where we are now because we're at a place where whoever can do it can come.
CP: Every song on this album feels so energetic and raw-like it's plucked straight out of 1979 . . . but as a whole the album is so tight and focused. How did you manage to strike that balance?
SB: Thanks! It kind of just happened. It was really weird. We just got together and were going to record some demos and we just really liked the way it sounded. We recorded seven songs in one day. And then we finished it a few months later. It's kind of cool-we just finished recording it in March and were going to release it ourselves, and then our label [Hardly Art] said they wanted to do it. It happened really fast. Usually you record and then you have to wait six months, and by then you're over it, you know? This is just a few months later. It's newer, and we're still into the songs.
CP: Every song is fun but also oozes with angst. It's the album I wish I had as a soundtrack to my teenage years.
SB: Teen years? I know! I feel like I keep trying to make a teen album and keep getting closer and closer every time.
CP: You've cited '80s hardcore and '90s riot grrrl as influences. Those movements were so political and so much about societal critique, whereas the lyrical content of Street Punk seems much more about personal angst. Is that a statement in and of itself?
SB: We're not very political, I'll say that. . . . No, I just think being gay, or even female, and playing music like this is political enough.
CP: What does it mean to you to be "queer" or "punk" in an age of assimilation? How do we keep things subversive?
SB: It just boggles my mind that being "gay" or "queer" or whatever is still a problem for people. So on that note, I think as much mainstream stuff as possible is kind of necessary. It doesn't mean it's going to be good or I'm going to like it. But until it's viewed as just a common thing, we should be in everyone's face as much as possible.
CP: Your past albums kind of queered pop music, and this one is more of a return to punk, which has such a rich queer history. Were queer punk pioneers like Wayne County an influence?
SB: There's so many! My favorite's Darby Crash . . . people never talk about how he was gay. I love this band called the Dicks, and Big Boys. The Buzzcocks-two of the guys in that band dated for like seven years. There's so many of them actually! The Screamers, there's a ton. I guess people didn't make a big deal about [sexuality] then, or maybe people just didn't talk about it like they do now. But there's so much of that kind of stuff, and I definitely love all of it.
CP: Your music videos and visuals are such a part of the Hunx and His Punx experience. What do we have to look forward to from this album?
SB: You gotta see the trilogy we made! It's three of the songs-the two shortest ones and "Bad Skin" . . . just look up "Street Punk Trilogy." You can see what we have in store for you. We have another video for the song Shannon sings, "You Think You're Tough," that her brother made. That's coming out soon hopefully. The trilogy we put out a month ago. It's really good, I think. It's one of my favorite Hunx things. Check it out! ■
Hunx and His Punx play Ottobar with Chain and the Gang and Hunters Aug. 11.