As a teenager living in Reno, Nev. in the '70s, Kevin Seconds, leader of the veteran punk band 7Seconds, didn't have many options. The gambling town didn't cater to teens, and Seconds couldn't just do what all the other kids did.
"The big thing to do on weekends was cruise the main drag on Friday and Saturday nights," he says via phone from his Sacramento home. "I tried it and it sucked. I couldn't do it. I needed to find a way to make my life more meaningful."
So he put together the punk band 7Seconds even though, at the time, there were no clubs in Reno where the band could play and no radio stations in Reno that would play the band's music. The band has just released a terrific new album and has launched its first tour in several years. In the early days, the band looked to earlier punk bands for inspiration before forming in 1980.
"We were basically trying to do what we heard the Ramones and the Clash were doing," Seconds says. "You could get their albums. They were on major labels. The concept of an underground music scene was brewing, but we didn't know about it. There weren't national acts coming to Reno, so we would just read magazines and would read about younger kids putting sound systems in buildings and making their own shows happen. We read about Black Flag and DOA and the Dead Kennedys playing these places."
So they found whatever garage or performance space they could and set up a sound system in and then tried to get punk bands to come to town to play, offering them guarantees of a hundred bucks or so.
"We would write guys like [Dead Kennedys' singer] Jello Biafra and ask him to come out and play," says Seconds. "You could put flyers up. Somehow, the word spread. Once you had one or two of those under your belt, you felt like you could do that. I was the guy who was stupid enough to make the phone calls. I was trying to create something out of nothing and we did. Not in a major big way like the scenes going on in Boston and DC and L.A. But it got enough respect that bands would call me and ask to play Reno, which was amazing."
Early 7Seconds EPs helped define a fast and furious style of punk rock that would come to be known as hardcore. The band even had a brief brush with major labels in the '90s when it signed to Immortal Records, home to acts such as Korn, Incubus and Thirty Seconds to Mars.
"Amazingly enough, there were five different deals and Immortal was the best of them," Seconds explains. "They had money behind it and they were willing to let us write up the contract. I knew we wouldn't be a commercial success. At that point, we needed to buy a new van and new gear. That was the only option at that point. It was fine. We were on the label for about a year. We put out a record that got all over the place. It was the first time we experienced having big money behind it. It was also obvious that we wouldn't be happy in the situation. They didn't know what to do with us. I guess if we had gotten our heads around the idea of trying to write a hit single thing we could have attempted that. But we got out of the label deal and moved on."
For the new album, Leave a Light On, the band recruited Steve Kravac (Blink-182, Less Than Jake, MxPx), who produced, engineered, and mixed it at his Hell's Half Acre Studio in Southern California. The title track is so melodic, you could imagine hearing it on commercial radio.
"That was initially a really fast song," Seconds says of the title track. "We were doing preproduction and I don't remember if it was my idea but we tried a mid-tempo version and everyone said, 'That's it.' Once we did that, it became a different song. We shortened the song a bit more. When it was faster, it was 30 seconds longer. I'm really happy with the way it came out. A few people have said it should be on the radio. I can't remember the last time I listened to the radio for music. I don't know if bands with guitars get played on the radio any more. I was like, 'Fuck it. Let's just make good record.'"
Another highlight is the snotty "30 Years (And Still Going Wrong)," a track that Seconds refers to as the band's mantra.
"Not many bands last 30 years and for good reason," Seconds says. "Most bands probably shouldn't. People probably say that about us."
So will the band be recording and touring on a regular basis now that it's broken the seal?
"I'm playing it by ear," says Seconds, who's in his 50s and nursing a torn meniscus in his knee. "If you had told me we would be going to Europe and South America and Australia, I wouldn't have bought it. I love to tour and I tour constantly on my own. It was healthy for us to go through this. We needed to go through to get to the point where we appreciate playing music together. I keep saying that if this is our last record and our last go around, we ended on a good note and we've had an amazing run. I want to keep focused on what's in front of us and keep doing it as long as we're physically able to."
with The Copyrights, Fuck You Pay Me and Worship This!
8:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 30, Grog Shop, 2785 Euclid Heights Blvd., 216-321-5588. Tickets: $15, grogshop.gs.
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