Lauded as the true return of hardcore punk, OFF! (a collection of veterans from that scene over the years) debuted at this year’s South By Southwest and quickly gained notice for their revival of a kind of furious, hit-and-quit punk rock that many say hasn’t been delivered with such urgency in years. Shortly before they went on at this year’s Pitchfork Music Festival, Heave chatted with bassist Steven McDonald and drummer Mario Rubalcaba about labels that have been attached to them, the process behind their formation and a brief run-in with the law.
Heave: In pretty much every review of First Four EPs I’ve read, “urgent” is the word that keeps coming up. Was that something you were actively trying to capture?
Steven McDonald: I don’t know if we…I mean, we didn’t write it on a piece of paper and go “this is what we’re trying to do.” The big reason it’s so manic is that our drummer had to get back home, so we had to hurry up and get this done. (laughing)
Mario Rubalcaba: I had to drive two hours.
Steven: Yeah, he lives in San Diego, but we worked in L.A. Maybe that’s what a lot of people are tuning into, that our drummer had to leave.
In a lot of interviews I’ve read, you guys have shot down the “supergroup” label that keeps getting thrown around. Why is that?
Steven: Well, I prefer it. Because we’re a group, and we’re super. (laughing) I don’t know, maybe there’s no label that any band is comfortable with. I mean, everyone wants to be original. For me, I don’t want to take anything away from the main thing, which is the music, you know? It should be focused on what bands we were in, so much. I mean, I’ve written pieces for magazines before, where I know how many words I’ve gotta write, and sometimes it’s easy to fall back on the easy labels, the clichés. But as a musician, it’s like, “Eh, cool, try harder. Give it a little bit more.” (laughing)
Had any of you collaborated before OFF!?
Mario: I’d played a handful of shows for Burning Brides, Dimitri’s band, like four or five shows, but that was it. I met Keith from other bands and stuff.
Steven: And I’d played shows with Keith’s other bands before, my old band, but we’d never played music together before.
Will you be touring more behind First Four EPs?
Steven: Yeah, we’re going to Europe in August for pretty much the entire month. We’ll be playing with Fucked Up, and just doing festivals.
Are there any bands in particular you’d really like to play with?
Steven: There’s bands that I’m looking forward to playing with. We played with Ty Segell and Three Oh Sees at Gilman Street in Berkeley, and that was badass, I’m looking to do more of those.
Mario: The Who.
One last thing I wanted to ask you guys: I found that you guys had a court date for stealing van fuel or something like that? What happened there?
Steven: Well, actually, I didn’t have a court date. I was the only member that didn’t.
Mario: He was the only one who wasn’t there on the trip. We did get caught stealing oil, we did get arrested, we did get fined and we did have to do community service, but we actually did not have to be in court.
Steven: The other thing is it might be confusing for people to hear “stealing oil.” It wasn’t like motor oil or anything. It was waste grease from behind restaurants, and veggie oil. Our van is a diesel van that’s been converted to run off veggie oil. We were avoiding burning fossil fuel on the road, so we were recycling waste grease. Which is free, and friendly to the planet!