With free LSD, Punk Band OFF! Fulfills the promise of a great trip

Every act of faith carries risk. In the world of entertainment, those looking to jump run the risk of jumping the proverbial shark, and like the Fonz (who did it first), one bad jump can forever affect a legacy.

Now you can’t compare the OFF group! at Happy Days very easily, but the group, like the classic TV series, is not afraid to take risks. When turned off! burst onto the scene in 2009, the original quartet of vocalist Keith Morris (Circle Jerks/Black Flag), guitarist Dimitri Coats (Burning Brides), bassist Steven McDonald (Redd Kross/Melvins) and drummer Mario Rubalcalba ( Earthless/Rocket From the Crypt) had a very promising kind of pedigree, and the band quickly delivered the goods.

Early OFF! records and shows put punk back in punk rock with short, succinct bursts of pure first-wave hardcore fury. It was the closest thing Morris had done to his initial work with the original Black Flag lineup, and for fans of the style, as well as the guys in the band, it was a joyous and fun blast from the past. Except for one thing: it wasn’t the past. STOPPED! were kicking ass and taking names and seemed to be having a good time doing it.

But all good things come to an end, as they say, and in recent years, OFF! ended up with a whole new rhythm section after Morris imposed a law and McDonald and Rubalcalba left the band. Tensions between the original members arose due to differences of opinion over how much time would and should be spent developing the material that became OFF!’s new record. Free LSD.

The group will perform on Monday October 24 at the Valley Bar.

“We had [change] because Dimitri does not come from punk and hardcore. He comes from a more songwriter oriented background, and when I say songwriter I mean like Paul McCartney and John Lennon or the Davies Brothers [Ray and Dave] Kinks. They are like his favorite people. I grew up with all these people and love everything they do for the most part. When we were working on these songs, I said to Dimitri: ‘This will be our Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album.’ We have set ourselves a bar that we may not be able to reach anymore,” says Morris.

He went on to say how OFF! has been avoiding performing with “punk rocks” like Bad Religion or Rancid recently to play more shows with a variety of bands and performing at different festivals around the world.

“We all love these bands, but we didn’t want to play with them right now. We played Coachella in one of the tents during the day. It was about 100 degrees outside and everyone wants to come in and cool off. I couldn’t believe it, though. The crowd was all girls and they were dancing while we played. Some even sang some of our lyrics and I thought, “That’s not supposed to happen.” This should never have happened to a hardcore punk rock band,” says Morris.

The band began to discover that they enjoyed the variety of acts they were paired up with at festivals, such as Duran Duran, The Strokes and Guided By Voices, and this was an inspiration for their work on Free LSD.

“The process of recording this record made perfect sense for us to go places we wouldn’t normally go. not supposed to inspire us, you know, like Herbie Hancock and the Headhunters backing Miles Davis. For a punk rock band, that’s overkill,” Morris says.
While the record is clearly OFF!, the expansion of their influences is more than apparent. The seeds sown by Morris and Coats regarding songwriting on Free LSD gave intense fruit. There are hints of overlaid bursts of Stoogesque-heavy noise, especially on tracks where Jon Wahl (Claw Hammer) adds heavily distorted saxophone.

New bassist Autry Fulbright II (And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead) and drummer Justin Brown (Thundercat) more than filled the rather large shoes left by McDonald and Rubalcalba, respectively.

“Autry boarded immediately. It was time to be in a band with anyone who wanted to be in the band, and that’s what we got with Autry and Justin. Justin is an amazing drummer and we understand that with amazing drummers they’re probably in three or four bands so we understand that we ended up in the same scenario we had before [with Rubalcalba]but Justin brings something that none of our other drummers have brought to the table, and that’s the attitude that he’s going to learn to play a new style of music because he sees it’s going to bring him something somewhere he’s never been,” Morris said.

For Fulbright II and Brown, they also entered a group that was shooting a movie. Free LSDthe movie, will be released sometime in 2023, and Morris is very happy with what he’s seen so far.

“I saw the rough cut and I’m totally depressed. I’m just waiting for the finished product. I enjoy the process because it’s not a typical process for me,” Morris says.

The group has released videos of the new disc which provide clues as to what the film version of Free LSD gonna be like. “War Above Los Angeles” and “Kill to Be Heard” both feature the band and a cast of punk and noise rock luminaries like David Yow (Jesus Lizard), Don Bolles (Germs/Exterminators) and Chris Desjardins (The Flesh Eaters) in some wild scenarios on some of the strongest songs on the record.

For more information, visit the OFF!.

STOPPED! Doors 7 p.m., show 7:30 p.m., Monday, October 24. Valley Bar, 130 North Central Ave. Tickets are available here.

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