Interview: Strike Twelve Still Strong After Twenty Years, Talks New Album 'Last Band Standing'

Written by Peter Garcia, Photography by Catalino Alvarez Jr

This year marks the twentieth anniversary of San Diego punk group Strike Twelve and their newest album Last Band Standing is the perfect reflection of their longevity. Meeting in high school and driven by their love for the classic 90s SoCal sound, Joey, Matty, and Danny all stuck together, continuing to supply witty lyrics and anthemic riffs, all tinted with catharsis. In advance of the upcoming project, I was able to ask bassist and vocalist, Joey, a few questions about the writing and recording process, and how it feels to be the “last band standing”. 

Peter: I love the title Last Band Standing. You’ve been representing So-Cal punk since 2003, how has the scene changed?

Joey: The title is definitely a reflection on our longevity. The three of us have been playing together since 2001, and officially as Strike Twelve since 2003. In that time, we’ve watched a lot of bands that we’ve loved come and go, or they’re still there, but they’ve changed over their entire lineup multiple times. Somehow, all three of us have managed to still love being in a band together, and I think it gives us something pretty special.  

Peter: You have roots playing a classic 90’s EpiFat sound that’s known for being stripped down and in-your-face. How does a band stand out in this genre? 

Joey: Some bands I love because they are technical masters, and I’m impressed they’re able to pull it off. Some it’s just a great voice. Some of it's the lyrics and message. Any shortcomings can be made up for in other areas. I think the key is just being yourself and believing in what you’re doing. If you’re passionate and having fun, people will too. 

Peter: When and how did the writing process start for the new album? Do you usually co-write or do your members pitch individual ideas? Was there anything new about the process for this album? 

Joey: We have a constant flow of ideas on our Voice Memos on our phones. Either Matt or I will put a song mostly together on our own first, and then we bring it to the table to learn as a band and fine-tune. With this album, I think we brought them to the table a little earlier than usual so there was more collaboration and fine-tuning. We had been quarantining and unable to play shows and didn’t see an end in sight, so we figured might as well lay down some drums. We figured we could put it together while we’re waiting for the world to open up. The drums were done in April 2021. With over 2 years between the start and the actual release, it was definitely a slower process than with previous records - usually a few months.

Peter: I know you mentioned that the latest single is about a release of emotion after prolonged suppression; do you think that this is a theme that runs through the whole project? If not, could you describe some of the themes or main inspirations for putting this record together. 

Joey: Haha. I think we do tend to sing about our frustrations a lot. There are several songs on the record that touch on it in different ways. But despite that being a common theme, I think we always try to maintain a glimmer of hope and humor.  

Peter: I’m interested in the recording process. Did you switch anything up this time? How have your methods for making music changed since you started in 2003? Can you recall an interesting piece of gear, or a unique sound/tone that you were excited to incorporate?

Joey: Our process has been pretty consistent. We track drums in Dan’s garage. I watched a few courses on CreativeLive before this record, and I think I did a little better job tuning and miking the drums. I then edit them, and we all move on to instruments. 

For the instruments, Matt and I both bought Kempers - a special amplifier head - and that was the new and exciting piece of gear for this record. Matt came to my house for a couple weekend sessions where we knocked out most of it. The rest was sent back and forth individually. The cool thing with the Kemper is it was easy to recreate tones if we wanted to go back and fix a section on a different day or use the same tone for another song. We also didn’t have to pause and change setup to record bass, so everything was very fluid and quick.

Vocals we tried to record together - Matt and I - because we’re good at telling each other when it was a good take or when it needs to be redone. Still, sometimes, to move things along, we tracked individually and sent them to each other. 

After tracking everything, we sent it to TJ Rivera, who has mixed all our records since Moonshine. At that time, Hit the Switch Observing Infinities was probably one of our favorite sounding records, so of course we wanted the same guy to mix ours. Fast forward to now, he mixed our album in his spare time, while at his day job he was engineering/mixing the new Rancid record!

Peter: Finally, what track are you most excited for people to hear, and why? 

Joey: We were really excited to get each of the singles out - Smart Phones, Stupid People, Watch It Burn, Baseball Bat - because they’re among our favorites on the record. 

Since those are already out and heard, I’m excited for them to hear the first song “Not a Phase.” This one was our most collaborative. We argued a lot as we worked on it, but I think we’re all really happy with how it came out. We joke a lot about how as we get older, it gets weirder that we’re in a punk rock band together, and that everyone thinks it’s a phase that we’re gonna grow out of. But it’s a part of who we are and we’ll never grow out of it because we love it. 

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