Wake Up Call

Posted May 14, 2009 in Music

“I might be going out on a limb here,” laughs Narcoleptic Youth guitarist Jay Sin, “but I personally think the swine flu scare seems a bit ridiculous. I don’t remember the exact number of people in the States who have it, but it’s not such a big deal that supermarkets should be selling out of [antibacterial] hand lotion. Many more people die from the regular flu, but it’s all over the news so everyone buys into it.”


Though he admittedly hopes he’s not underestimating swine flu, Sin’s perspective reflects the band’s natural inclination to question the so-called authorities. To this extent, Narcoleptic Youth—also featuring vocalist Joey Bondage, drummer Johnny Cat, bassist Junior Mental and guitarist Nick Nautious—sees itself as a voice of social commentary speaking out against a spoon-fed media world. 


“Our name itself is a metaphor for people asleep at the wheel,” he explains. “They just do what they’re told and sleep through the rest. They need to wake up and make their own choices. A lot of people in the world act a certain way because someone said it’s the way to be.”


Narcoleptic Youth itself certainly doesn’t chase trends or try to hammer out pop equivalents of “I Kissed a Boy” or “Just Mosh.” Instead, by offering an old school style with a new millennial twist, the band embraces the ’80s-’90s period before punk started minting platinum plaques. The band’s ultimately more Subhumans and Adolescents than Offspring and blink-182. 


“Needless to say, we didn’t start the band to get rich,” Sin laughs. “Joey is really into Agent Orange, the Adicts and TSOL, and we really took his lead on the music. We were trying to do something that we consider authentic, I guess.” 


With the mainstream moving on to dance hybrids and Auto-Tune overkill, the underground can safely re-embrace punk rock and help bands like Narcoleptic Youth thrive. Thanks to the band’s growing popularity, Dr. Strange recently issued a 10-year anniversary edition of Airplay, their ’99 debut featuring fan favorites like “The Bitch Needs a Muzzle” and “L.A. Riots.” Youth also released several singles, notably “Barbi in Bondage” and “Cocktail Sword,” which Finger Records compiled into the popular Chronological Disorder collection. Their next studio album, the follow-up to How To Fake Your Death, is expected early next year. 


True to their punk roots, the band also benefits from outrageous live performances.  


“Sometimes it’s a straight rock show, but other times we get theatrical,” says Sin. “Joey puts on a condom hat with whipped cream underneath it when we play ‘Busted Condom,’ and one time we dressed as KISS and spit blood all over the crowd. We’ve all worn a dress before, and if it’s your turn, you have to be the bitch who meets the muzzle.”


With an adherence to core punk values, Narcoleptic Youth were a natural fit for Susan Dynner’s 2007 documentary Punk’s Not Dead, which features both underground acts and superstars like Sum 41 and Green Day. The film festival hit, now on DVD, includes an interview with Narcoleptic Youth along with their songs “Dear John” and “Headcase.” 


While the film obviously questions punk’s supposed demise, Sin admits it can be tough with fewer clubs hosting aggressive acts, some not wanting the rowdy kids and others wanting an older drinking crowd. Still, the band sees this as cyclical and notes that many modern punk classics came out during its prior downturn in the ’80s. Case in point, the New Wave-Hair Metal decade produced such pivotal punk albums as Operation Ivy’s Energy, Minor Threat’s self-titled release and Bad Religion’s Suffer and No Control. According to Sin, the band sees a similar opportunity to recapture punk’s soul in the post-FM era. 


“People say punk’s dead, but it’s just dormant right now, just like it was before it came around the last time,” says Sin. “The thing is, when no one is paying attention, that’s when your angst is at its most. I see this as being more real. The dormant times are when people are pissed off and bands have something to say and they say it.”


Narcoleptic Youth with All or Nothing H.C. and Godzilla, Q-Bonkers at 9364 Magnolia Ave., Riverside, (951) 688-4866, www.myspace.com/QBonkersBilliards; Sat., May 16, 8PM; $10. All ages.  



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