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Punk-rock has had a placeholder in the underground since 1990 thanks to Californian unsung heroes, Strung Out.
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They’ll soon be supporting punk royalty Pennywise on their upcoming Australian tour–just don’t mention their 30 years on the scene, because for vocalist Jason Cruz, it’s business as usual, Strung Out continuing on a path of evolution and creative expansion and looking ahead and not behind.
Songs of Armour and Devotion, Strung Out’s latest album, is arguably a statement to the evolution of not only the band over the years, emulating elements of prog-rock and heavy metal into an overarching punk defiance, but of punk as a genre. Of course, for a band with a tenure as long as Strung Out’s, discussing the album as such is something vocalist Jason Cruz says frankly, doesn’t want to talk about anymore. “It’s hard for me to identify with punk,” he says. “Punk’s not like that. We’ve been on tour with real punk bands, that are considered real punk and label themselves as punk–I just felt we’re not the same.
I think we’re all in a spot right now where we all understand each other. It’s like a flock of birds moving together, you know? We don’t even think about it, we just do it now.
[ Jason Cruz ]
“Punk is such a broad thing. There are so many things that fall under the umbrella of punk.”
Nevertheless, Cruz says everything the band has done has taken them farther away from punk, which in itself could be perceived as a righteous, rebellious act of punk, depending on who you’re talking to. Cruz is having none of it, though. Strung Out is more than the labels they’ve been ascribed; they’re continuously moving past such trivial things. “I feel like we’ve grown into something new, something different–especially after the last acoustic record we did [2018’s Black Out the Sky]. [That] was a conscious effort to show people what we can do.
“The floodgates are wide open now–I think we can pull off anything we think up, we can just do it. That’s an awesome feeling because we’ve earned that feeling. We’ve earned that.”
Cruz is not wrong. Strung Out have indeed, moved into a place where they are creatively allowing themselves to be able to develop within a new space than earlier in their career. “That is everything about my being,” Cruz says firmly, ardour burning brightly in his tone. “As an individual, trying to get the other guys to be on the same page–I think we’re all in a spot right now where we all understand each other. It’s like a flock of birds moving together, you know? We don’t even think about it, we just do it now.
I’m pretty grateful that the music hasn’t died, you know? It’s nice.
[ Jason Cruz ]
“And I’ll say it again, it’s a good feeling to have earned that, to have that history with people and be able to predict other people. To be able to move as one, I think that’s a great thing.”
An answer to a stupid question, of course it did take Cruz and co. a long time to develop such a sense of unity. “It was the hardest thing in the world to do. It’s like any relationship, any marriage. That’s the best thing, and I’ll say it to anybody, is the key to a relationship is putting in time and understanding and give and take. That takes years to nurture.
“But once you’ve gotten it into its ninth tuning and it’s running really good–you know what I mean? There’s nothing more valuable than that, I mean, you can do anything!
“You’ve got somebody on your left, somebody on your right, at your back, in the front, you all have each other. That allows you to move forward and accommodate for each other’s weaknesses and strengths–that’s beautiful. 30 years, you know? 30 years …”
A momentary lapse into something resembling sentimentality and Cruz is quick to relay his standard response to instances when he’s been asked how he feels about Strung Out’s impending 30-year anniversary. “I don’t know how to feel about that, it’s just a big dumb number. But now I’ve talked about it for like, the last hour [Cruz has been hard at the interviews for a while by the time Hysteria takes its turn]. I’m pretty grateful that the music hasn’t died, you know? It’s nice.”
To save Cruz repeating himself, when it comes to Strung Out’s anniversary and the longevity of their marriage of sorts, it’s safer to give him the reins and ask what has he not said in the last hour that he wants to hear. “I haven’t thought about the 30-year thing at all,” he says adamantly. “I’m not the kind of person to look back on things–I don’t give a shit about the ‘90s, I don’t give a shit about the ‘00s—I care about what I’m doing now, what I’m doing tomorrow, and where we’re going to be in five years.”
Catch Strung Out with Pennywise and No Fun At All at the following dates:
MELBOURNE // Thursday 6 February // Forum
CHELSEA HEIGHTS // Friday 7 February // Chelsea Heights Hotel (SOLD OUT)
BRISBANE //Saturday 8 February // Eatons Hill Hotel
GOLD COAST // Sunday 9 February // Coolangatta Hotel (SOLD OUT)
SYDNEY // Wednesday 12 February // Enmore Theatre
NEWCASTLE // Thursday 13 February //Nex
ADELAIDE // Friday 14 February // HQ
PERTH // Sunday 16 February // Metro Freo