The first time I saw Rough Kids they were opening for Dillinger Four along with Night Birds and Underground Railroad to Candyland. What a bill and Paddy from D4 kept saying that anyone who didn’t pick up the Rough Kids LP was an idiot. So of course I bought the record and it ruled. Kind of like the power of The Buzzcocks and hooks of The Plimsouls–or is it vice versa?
I immediately thought of Rough Kids when I was trying to round out the upcoming bill with original L.A. punks Rikk Agnew (of Adolescents and Christian Death fame with his new Rikk Agnew Band) and Chip Kinman (from The Dils and Rank & File with Ford Madox Ford). Rough Kids have an old school punk sensibility but are firmly part of today’s underground. I hit them up cold and less than 10 minutes later they agreed to play. Hot damn!
A few weeks later, I crashed one of their practices to hear some new songs and do a short Q&A to get you all ready for the show…
E: Ethan – Vocals/Guitar
T: Tsubasa – Guitar/Vocals
P: Paul – Bass
L: Luis – Drums
M: Were you ever kids while being Rough Kids?
E: I don’t think so. It formed at the end of 2008 and we were in our mid-20s. Not kids.
M: So in the tradition of Sonic Youth and Adolescents, not kids.
T: Not Kids isn’t as good of a name, though.
P: We have kids.
M: Isn’t it a challenge getting out when you have young children?
E: We didn’t have kids when we started the band. Now we all have kids except for Luis but he’s the newest addition and the closest one to being a kid. For as much as we play, though, I don’t think we’d playing more if we didn’t have kids.
P: This band’s very low demand.
M: Low demand on you or low demand from fans?
E: On us.
M: You guys all have balance in your life.
P: I don’t think we’d do it if it were incredibly taxing.
E: We practice once a week, maybe play six shows a year.
T: We try to play more, but we didn’t do a lot this year.
P: We have our second LP out so why would we want to play shows? They could just listen to the record.
M: How did you wind up on Sorry State? I had your 7″ shipped to me way out from North Carolina!
E: We met Daniel, who runs the label, when he was touring with Shitty Limits. We had to buy a generator because we wanted to play with Shitty Limits somewhere behind a bunch of downtown fabric stores. Everything was tagged up and we had to cut our way through a fence to get back there with our equipment. Daniel’s band, Logic Problem, was touring, too, and we tried to get him to do our second 7″ single but never heard anything back from him. Later, we saw him post that it was one of his favorite records of the year! So when we recorded the LP, we hit him up again and he wanted to do it.
M: That cover song hidden at the end of the new record is pretty tricky and threw me off for the longest time.
E: We wanted to do what the Johnny Moped LP does. On the first track there are two separate grooves you can get started on, and either runs seamlessly into the second song. But we had to settle.
M: When I was a kid I had a Mad Magazine flexi that had different endings to a song!
E: Kind of like that, but we were told that no pressing plant would guarantee our record if we tried. So we had a 45 RPM single in the middle instead.
M: Does the song start exactly where a 7″ would be? You could slice off the rest of the record and put it in a jukebox!
E: I never tried that!
M: A RazorCake reviewer called it one of the most brilliant cover songs ever and said you beat him to it.
E: He’s a super fan of that track. It’s from Shock Treatment, the Rocky Horror sequel or prequel. The movie’s not great…
M: I dug the cover because midnight movies used to be a subculture like punk rock.
E: I wanted every record we’d do from there on out to have one silly punk song from something from an obscure movie or TV show.
M: LIke Redd Kross singing a Partridge Family song?
E: More like punk songs that have been on TV shows like the Queen Haters from SCTV.
M: Fake punk from Quincy.
P: First generation punks covered “normal” songs like “Louie Louie” and “Good Guys Don’t Wear White” because that’s what there was. Now but we’re covering weird, bizarre stuff.
E: Songs we think you should know about but probably haven’t heard…
M: Is “Annima City” from a movie or cartoon or something?
E: No, I just didn’t want to call another song “Animosity,” so I made up a place called Annima City. Real clever….
P: Not clever.
E: Not only spelled wrong but differently in different places on the record.
M: And “Into the 2000s” wasn’t written in 1999 or 2000 because your band wasn’t around yet.
E: That was the 2010s, probably.
P: I joined in 2010 and it was already a song.
M: Was that retro future like when Disneyland redid Tomorrowland in bronze?
E: I just wanted to write a song where I could say “the ohsies” because I don’t like “the naughts” or “the oughts.” I’ve been using my made-up word forever and thought it would be funny to make it into a song.
M: So our benefit show is in Chinatown right next to the Bruce Lee statue and old locations of Hong Kong Cafe and Madame Wong’s… Have you guys ever played Chinatown?
P: I used to drive through it a lot when I lived in Highland Park. I looked it up and apparently Chinatown moved.
M: It used to be where Union Station is, but then they kicked everyone out and razed it to build the train station. The new Chinatown has Chinky or movie set architecture so everything has curved roofs and stuff. But I dig that my daughter goes to elementary school where the Weirdos, Dils, and Black Flag played. And now she gets to see bands like yours help raise money for the music program and and get exposed to DIY culture.
E: She’s into that stuff?
M: Totally! And yours?
E: Not really.
P: My son’s almost three. He’s into coloring and that’s cool.
M: You can skip right over kids’ music and play AC/DC and the Ramones.
E: Oh yeah, we force it upon them.
P: They don’t have a choice.
M: But this is a good show to take them to because it’s early and there are cookies.
T: I’ve been looking for a show like that so I can take my kids. The oldest one is six and I gave him his first guitar for Christmas. It’s a smaller Les Paul Jr. type made in Japan. We’re pretty stoked.
M: I think it’s super important for kids to see that concerts aren’t just for Staples Center and YouTube.
E: All my daughter knows is that I have to go play a “band show” every now and then, but she’s all right with it.
M: And when did you guys start playing music?
P: I was 10 or 11 when I got a guitar.
E: I was 12 or something.
T: 13 maybe.
M: Did you have hip parents?
P: I just whined a lot until I got one.
L: I got a drum kit to be in a band when I was 13. My parents were fully supportive, wanted me to stay out of trouble, and figured me bashing on the drums was one way to do it.
E: What was your first instrument, though?
L: My first instrument was bongo drums! I used to have some that my parents got for me from TJ. I got into it because we had a 1971 Ludwig in our living room. I went on it and figured, “All right!”
M: What were you listening to at the time?
L: Nirvana. I starting doing everything Dave Grohl did and realized how easy it was. That paved the way for me, man. But my mom plays piano, my dad plays drums and sings, my aunt drums, my uncle plays bass, my other uncle plays guitar, my grandpa was a singer and songwriter… So it was just a matter of time for me.
M: Do you ever play together, like on Christmas or something?
L: Actually, when my parents ask me to play for their church I’ll do it. I’m supposed to do it in three weeks. My mom makes me practice with them right before the gig like it’s a regular show. I love playing with my parents. It’s fun!
M: You just have to try not to spit between songs.
L: Like spit on the floor? I don’t have to do that with my parents. It’s easy. But with these guys, I gotta keep myself from throwing up on stage.
P: Do they put you behind the plexiglass on stage? That’s so weird.
L: No, but I’ve done that before. No fun!
M: How many years have you been with Rough Kids now?
L: Two years.
M: And were you a kid then?
L: I’m 29 now so I guess not!
M: So were those new songs you were playing in your space?
E: That was all new stuff we’re working out.
M: Is the process or are the songs different than the first two albums? Grappling with anything new?
E: Lyrically we don’t have anything old or new to say. Musically, maybe it’s a little different. A little more laid back and darker. mid tempo.
P: It’s our third LP, it’s gotta be. It’s an unwritten music law.
E: We have to go down that road. Do you like that band M.I.A. at all?
M: The Orange County punk band?
E: Yeah, the first albums were more on the hardcore side and then that third one took a real dive into darker, mid-tempo stuff.
M: And then Frank and Mark formed Big Drill Car… Hey, have you ever played a actual all-ages show with little kids dancing around?
M: It’s like a real-life Peanuts cartoon! But you don’t have to worry about taking out cuss words or anything. Just play like you usually would.
E: Our lyrics are super clean.
P: It’s not like you can hear them anyway!
M: If you play six shows a year, how often do you do interviews?
E: No one wants to talk to us too much. This is the first one we’ve done in a while.
P: We’re pretty off the radar.
E: You just saw us at the Dillinger Four show, right?
M: Yeah, and Paddy sure pumped you guys up, but I read a RazorCake interview before that!
E: Oh, that was a while back–right after the first LP came out. We were probably getting okay by then.
T: We did an interview with KXLU…
E: I think her name was Hillary. My wife was in a band that played on KXLU 10 years ago.
M: She’s so much cooler than you!
E: Well, she had better connections. She was in a band called Christ Crunchers that didn’t last very long.
M: I’m still blown away by how you agreed to play our show 10 minutes after I asked, explaining that “Rikk Agnew has that effect on people.” That was the greatest quote ever. What are your favorite Rikk Agnew records?
E: All By Myself or the Adolescents LP.
L: Only Theatre of Pain is brilliant.
P: I was in an art show with him!
M: Tell me about your art.
P: Mostly screen printing. I did show posters in my free time for a real long time, but mostly collage now.
M: Is the collage like Jack Kirby’s weird Negative Zone stuff or Winston Smith?
P: They’re negative. They’re gross. And Winston Smith’s work is rad.
E: Paul did our last album cover, too.
M: Tsubasa, did you move from Japan to L.A. to pursue punk rock? When was that?
T: Pretty much, in 2004. I was 21.
M: What was going on then?
P: I graduated college.
E: I was in San Francisco.
L: I was a junior in high school trying to graduate.
E: A lot of bands were reuniting that you were playing with.
T: That’s true. My old band, Plastic Letters, played with The Gears and Weirdos. Nikki Corvette started playing again. A lot of old punk rockers.
M: You were living the dream!
E: I think you were responsible for getting them back together.
T: They were back together before.
E: I moved down here from San Francisco not longer after that.
M: You poached him from Plastic Letters?
E: No, they were already done.
M: And now you’ve lasted longer than most bands.
P: Rough Kids never die, man.
Check out Rough Kids on Facebook and get tickets for Save Music in Chinatown 11 at Eventbrite.