Punk rock veterans Authority Zero have never been your run-of-the-mill punk rock band. They don’t come from punk meccas like Boston or Orange County. They hail from Mesa, Arizona, a city not necessarily known for its music scene. Their style, a mix of dub/reggae/ska and grimy hardcore punk, brought a fresh sound in the early part of the 2000s.
After a decade of playing together, taking multiple Warped Tours by storm, releasing four studio albums and dealing with lineup changes, Authority Zero continues on today with a new album due out on June 22. Authority Zero’s new album, Stories Of Survival, is coming out jointly on Suburban Noize Records and Viking Funeral Records, the label started by Fletcher Dragge of the popular punk band Pennywise.
Red River Noise caught up with Authority Zero frontman Jason DeVore on a recent tour stop in Austin to talk about staying busy, the music industry, Stories of Survival and the upcoming tour. We also discussed DeVore’s other musical ventures, which include The Bollox and his acoustic solo album. It looks like we can expect a lot more music from DeVore and Authority Zero in the future.
What is Stories of Survival going to be like compared with your previous releases?
DeVore: It almost has a lot more of that teenage kind of angst to it, in a weird way. At 30 years old, mind you. We’ve just gone through a lot of stuff with the group over the past three years and with life in general. It just shows a lot on this album, both lyrically and whatever else.
Is it going to sound like what Authority Zero fans are used to, or is going to be a more experimental or a concept album?
DeVore: No, nothing like that. We definitely took some different direction with some of the same types of music we usually play. It is different enough to break the monotony of what we usually do because no one wants to write the same record they’ve done before. That was my concern, too. We have a new guitar player, Zach Vogel, on this record. He has a very unique style of playing, so he brought a lot to the table with that.
So which track on Stories may take fans by surprise, as in maybe that it’s an unconventional sound for you guys?
DeVore: Gosh, you know, it really does sound like an Authority record. In the end, it is advanced but takes you back to old-school Authority Zero like on the Live Your Life album. Vocally, there is a lot if intensity to it, going back to that teenage angst again.
Teenage angst comes from being a teenage punk-ass. We all go through that, but where does all that angst you say have come from after age 29?
DeVore: We’ve been through a lot with group, so that’s part of it. The other part is mainly the music industry, the ups and downs with all that bullshit. There is just a lot of letdowns.
Despite the industry and letdowns, you guys have sustained after bands that came out during your early years have come and gone. What do you attribute your staying-power to?
Devore: It’s all about that struggle. It is a real struggle to survive these days in the music industry. When you already have your own things going on, sometimes in your own personal life as well as with your band, you tie it all in together along with all the other bullshit you have to deal with from other fuckers that don’t do their job right, then you realize that everything is up to you to survive. We want to keep it alive and believe in it (the band) that much. That’s what has kept us going.
I remember reading interviews last year where the album was always “due in a summer” and then “due out in the fall”. Now we know that it is finally due out this summer. Why did it take so long to get it released?
DeVore: It is good to have a release date and have it actually going to happen. It has a lot do with the changes that went along with the group. Bill (Marcks) left the group in September of 2008. Then Zach came in to play guitar. DJ (Dean Farmer), who was playing bass for us, ended up getting a job in Houston. He had to do some other things with his life and there were no hard feelings. DJ leaving brought Jeremy (Wood) back into the group. There were some creative differences that had gone on earlier that had him leave the group and then things kind of worked the direction they did, but it was supposed to I guess.
That was an interesting move. Typically, in most cases, when members leave a band, they don’t come back.
DeVore: While there is truth to what you just said, we stayed friends this whole time. There were differences between him and other people that were in the group that weren’t particularly with everybody. I hate to be so vague about it, but certain things happened that brought the ability for him to come back. It feels great to have him back.
That’s a cool story because I know you guys were high school friends out in Mesa.
DeVore: Yeah, man. We started the band back in high school. It’s just things change, people change, times change and it is really cool to have three-fourths of the original members of the group back. It comes full-circle. It felt right and felt good. In a sense, I’m glad it took so long to put the album out because Jeremy is on the record as well.
How was the tour with Voodoo Glow Skulls? Your own headlining tour with those guys is a big deal.
DeVore: It totally is. I grew up listening to those guys. They are a staple in the punk and ska scene as well. It was really kind of weird to be co-headlining with them but definitely cool and an honor. They still kick ass. They were a tough band to follow.
So for fans that saw you on that tour with Voodoo Glow Skulls, did they get to hear any new material off of Stories of Survival?
DeVore: We only did four songs off the new album.
Good call. All they buy a ticket for is to drink and scream along to “One More Minute” yet again.
DeVore: Hell, yeah. I should call that song “Ten More Minutes.”
I know the last time I spoke with Jim (Wilcox, drums) in 2008, he talked to me about his clothing company, Ransom. Is he still designing your band t-shirts?
DeVore: He’s still got his thing with that. He’s doing more design work now. He did the last two t-shirts. Just to go outside the box a little bit, we are going to have a couple different artists come up with some designs too, just to get a different perspective on things.
Speaking of other projects, where is your off-the-wall, non-punk side project? It seems like it is the new thing to have one. Tony Sly (No Use For A Name) has his new acoustic record, Mike Herrera (MxPx) has Tumbledown and Chuck Ragan (Hot Water Music) has his folk thing. Is yours in the works?
DeVore: I think all that is fucking cool. I started doing solo stuff too because I started writing songs for this last record and some of the songs I wrote just didn’t fit. As different we like being with Authority, we couldn’t play this stuff live to be honest with you. Not at one of our shows anyway. It was more acoustic and mellow. Instead of just throwing it away, I decided to record them with my buddy Brian back home at his home studio. Before we knew it, we had a full record.
Where is that record? Where can people find it?
DeVore: It’s out. Go to the Operation Records website and you’ll see it there. The second one is about to come out.
Are you still going to perform and record with The Bollox or was a one-time, one-off sort of thing?
DeVore: We’re still doing stuff. We all came to the understanding early. That was one of those things where wanted to start a fun pub band to get away from the politics of music and just jam out at an Irish pub. It was just me and my buddy Keith (Walker), who is from Dublin. We started by doing just straight folk songs more than anything else. We later recruited our buddies, our old friends that grew up with us back in Mesa. Our buddy, Saddy, didn’t know how to play bass at all. I said to him “Hey man, we’re starting a fun band. Want to learn how to play bass and be a part of it?” My friend Greg McLarty, an old friend of mine actually, had always talked about being in a band together. My buddy Brad from 2 Dimes wasn’t in a band either, so before you know it we had a full group. We just started doing shows and then we just did a big show with Flogging Molly for St. Patrick’s Day back in Phoenix. It developed really quickly into something we didn’t expect.
So I guess that means we can expect a second record from The Bollox?
DeVore: We are already working on our second record. We are going to be kind of just writing off and on. Keith is in another band over in Europe, and he plays drums for them. We are just going to write some stuff on our own time and put it together eventually.
Sounds like you get bored easily. Since being in two bands isn’t enough, what else do you do to occupy your time?
DeVore: You’re right. There are so many crazy side projects and it’s not just me. Jim has Ransom and his DJ thing. I’m starting a skateboard company. I do get bored. It’s all the time spent driving places and time you spend at home that you get itchy to do something else.
So what’s the plan for the rest of 2010 and after?
Devore: I really just want to push this new record and get out of town with it. I’d love to go overseas with it. I’d love to hit Australia and as many places as we can. We never really had too many opportunities to do that. We’d love to do that while starting work on another record to tour off of. Don’t forget the second Bullocks CD. It will be a busy year.