ARIZONA’S GOLDEN BOYS: AMERICAN STANDARDS
By Vanessa Joy
We at Azmusic.org recently caught up with the jovial young lads of American Standards–the most famous band in the Valley you’ve probably never heard of. These guys are the band your cooler, younger brother told you about, but you take all the credit for when introducing this four-piece to friends. Sitting down with the members(excluding guitarist and recognized heart of the band, Corey Skowronski), they answered some unadulterated questions like why Tempe venues smell so distinctly weird.
Frontman and founding member, Brandon Kellum is a lethal combination. Possessing the oxymoronic state of being a well-heeled West Phoenix kid with chiseled good looks, who happens to wail like a chained banshee and produce the kind of guttural screams that most “scene” girls’ panties drop for–I introduce you to the Patrick Bateman of the modern hardcore-punk sound. He’s quick to crack a beer and flashes a disarming smile. With consummate vitality, Kellum explains the band’s goal,”It’s not how we can go heavier and heavier, but how we can go in every direction more”. An American Standards album is a musically all-encompassing one: hardcore,melodic,experimental, which is made apparent on their most recent effort, Hungry Hands. But, all the while, never forgetting the punk rock ties that bind. Since the inception of the band–a nod to the ubiquitous porcelain throne brand–the seemingly well-mannered boys have made their not-so-polite display of power in Arizona’s music scene by showcasing a superlative brand of thrash, metal, punk and–for lack of a better word–screamo that appeals to all hardcore tastes alike. They quickly gained a following that went from cult to devout with their DIY punk ethic. Brooklyn-born bassist, Steven Mandell who joined the band two years ago muses, “When they first started, they really had the raw punk rock feel to them. Really thrashy…” Formerly of AZ local band Ape Kill Ape, Mandell is much more than a bass-slappin’ rhythm keeper. He has a certain ear that allows him to meld effortlessly with the other members to create an oddly perfect union. But as time progressed and the band’s personnel changed, so did the direction of the sound–with awesome results.
Mitch Hosier is the unassuming one in the backwards baseball cap with the bill curled like Dennis the Menace. He’s thoughtful. He chooses his words carefully. he declines a beer for a bottled water. There’s a thousand guys that look like Hosier, but you’d be hard-pressed to find one that plays drums like him. The newest addition to the band, Hosier is the punk anchor of the outfit with his incomparable percussive speed. While the band is able to explore creatively, it’s Hosier’s drumming that keeps them in the punk section of iTunes and Spotify. Even though his adolescent musical tastes began with nu-metal and such, he was–thankfully–introduced to punk for our sakes. “[My dad] had an Offspring album, so I got really into punk music…that fast punk kinda stuff…,” says Hosier. Feeling old yet?
With an unequivocal sound and a highly-marketable look, it was only a matter of time before major labels started seeking out the desert-bred act. Enter Victory Records. The Chicago-based, controversy-plauged label has included on their roster such acts as: A Day to Remember, Streetlight Manifesto and Hawthorne Heights. All of which have filed lawsuits against the label for reasons ranging from breach of contract to fraud. The guys inked a deal with We Are Triumphant, Victory Records’ Boston-based distribution partner. “Having our name attached to a larger label [helped],” says Kellum. “But, the actual work behind [the band] was all us. When it came to booking tours, recording…all the money and time that goes into all that–it was all us.” After cutting ties with the label in 2013, the band released the five song EP The Death of Rhythm and Blues, which has been highly-regarded as a major creative turning point for American Standards.
If you’ve ever caught an American Standards show, you’re seeing one that the guys themselves would attend as fans. “We only want to play shows people want to come see,” says Kellum. They’re not playing on a bill that consists of bands that they wouldn’t personally listen to and rally for. It’s that same discretion that has made them a sought-after act. Not only in the Valley, but nationally as well. A lot of bands fall into the all too comfortable rut of playing the same shows, at the same venues, with the same bands and the same people in attendance–an easy way to become stale and shorten your popularity’s shelf-life. American Standards found that out a long time ago, and it’s paying off. They opened up for Atreyu in Tucson last month, and their response? “That was pretty cool for us…” A cool, calm and collected reaction that can only come from a band who’s played with the likes of GWAR, Sick of it All, Norma Jean and Danzig. These hometown boys are making good and you can’t expect to see them on the local circuit without keeping your ear to the street, which makes their charismatic sound that much more alluring. Some in the local scene feel that there are certain bands or individuals holding other acts back by sheer networking muscle, but these guys have avoided the dramatics of a merciless Valley music community. Conspiracy theories aside, American Standards has shown so much love to the stages that nurtured their beginnings and ran up formidable bar tabs at some of our favorite venues. “I really like the Underground,” says Hosier–The Nile, for all of you neophytes, has gained a bigger draw with their newly acquired liquor license. Tempe Tavern, Yucca Tap Room and Joe’s Grotto also received honorable mention from the band. You can also witness this hardcore act at your local perk place. They recently played Gurley Street Coffee in Prescott and the boys enjoy Tempe’s 51 West. “It doesn’t quite smell like farts yet,” Kellum states matter-of-factly. The one thing that can’t be masked by the smell of fresh-brewed java is the inevitable trajectory of this substantial band. No one can accuse these guys of being an overnight success, but we at Azmusic.org are ecstatic to see where the coming days take these critical Arizona darlings.