You’ve been hearing their howls since 2007, but the past year for The Press Gang has been more about reflection and restructuring than punk rock parties and guitar riffs. Sometimes, doing things right is simultaneous with doing things the hard way. However, the end result of the ups and downs that have come The Press Gang’s way since their last full-length release (Onward and Upward, 2011) have led the guys to an EP of which they can be proud, The Amazing Julie Strain, out March 29th, and a band that finally seems to click.
The biggest struggle plaguing The Press Gang was trying to find a drummer with the same obvious level of commitment that Colin McCulloch (lead vocals, rhythm guitar), Chad Laing (lead guitar) and Ronnie Keats (bass) had invested as the three longest-standing members of the band.
“Long story short, the drummer that we had for the longest time decided he didn’t want to gig as much as we did anymore, so we had to make a choice, which sucked, because trying to find a drummer in this town sucks.” McCulloch recalls the trial and error process involved with rebuilding the band. “We had another drummer for about a year and it was nothing but misery and heartache.”
Growing pains aside, The Press Gang’s perseverance appears to have paid off. “The great thing about Derek Lindzon, the drummer we have now, is that he is dynamic. The stuff that everybody previous to him had in their bag of tricks, he never knew before; he didn’t know a standard, Southern California punk beat or a standard balls-out punk beat. His background was more so jazz,” says McCulloch, later summing it up best by simply saying, “Thank God, someone actually still gives a fuck.” Lindzon’s somewhat atypical influences may have been the breath of fresh air for which The Press gang had been waiting.
Both McCulloch and Laing admit that they thought the band’s sound should have been fairly easy for a new member to step into. “I’m not saying that our stuff is a walk in the park or a cake walk,” McCulloch clarifies, ”but it’s fun, it’s basic, it’s riff-based — we’re heavy for a reason. We’re not ripping off fucking Dream Theater stuff here, you know? It’s more like Motörhead: you bang your head and tap your toes.” McCulloch is also quick to point out that the down time between having a functioning lineup wasn’t a total wash, “Chad learned how to sound engineer pretty much overnight on this fucking BR16, eight-track wonder thing, we demoed the whole album on that thing. We learned how to be way better musicians through all of this strife.”
The Press Gang definitely stuck close to their punk rock roots with their latest recording. It was completed start to finish in McCulloch’s basement. However, this time, process was a little different for Laing: ”On most of the songs, I only have one guitar track on and that’s totally weird and different for me. There’s a track on this EP when I only play one lead guitar track down the middle, that’s it. It’s cool, I’ve never worked that way.” It’s clear that Laing feels that this new simpler approach is something that is working well for the band.
“We took our time setting up the sound and figuring out the sound. It’s the first recording I’ve ever been proud to be a part of,” says Laing, adding quickly, “In terms of how the sound goes, I really stand behind it and I can’t wait to play it for my family and friends.”
The Amazing Julie Strain is an EP two years in the making and is no doubt worth the wait. Finding a way to grow while standing still is impressive, but we’re ready to have our head blown off by The Press Gang once again. With enough material to have a full-length out sometime later this year, this is just the start of making up for lost time, the only way The Press Gang knows how: loud riffs and never knowing when to quit.
The Press Gang will release The Amazing Julie Strain on March 29 at the Stetson.
By Whitney Greenwalt