Few bands have been as influential on punk rock as The Descendents. to that end, Staffer Pete V reached out to a bunch of bands and asked them what the Descendents represent. Check out a bunch of bands pontificating on the boys below.
The First Time I Heard the Descendents
Peter Vincelli When I first started listening to punk rock as a teenager, it wasn’t easy to find cds or discover new bands. The internet was just newly established and I only knew one other person who listened to punk. So I relied on the band thanks on the cd sleeves or the various different comps that were released in the ‘90s. After listening to “Coffee Mug” on Punk-o-Rama 2, I rode my bike to the local Sam Goody and bought Everything Sucks. But, I had no idea that the this was a reunion. I thought they were a new band. And I’m sort of ashamed to say, looking back on it, that this wasn’t even the first time I had heard a Descendents song. After attending the Warped Tour in ‘95 and seeing Sublime, I ended up buying 40oz. to Freedom. I remember being disappointed that there wasn’t a whole lot of punk rock on the album and that my favorite song on the cd was “Hope”. I knew it was a cover song, but other than that, I knew nothing about the song or the band who wrote the tune. So, that’s the first time I heard the Descendants. On a Sublime cd. Damn.
Anyway, the following little anecdotes have a lot in common and it’s clear that discovering new bands was way more profound and meaningful prior to the digital age. As Paul from Tightwire said, these aren’t really “I lost my virginity listening to the Descendents” stories, but it’s clear that all of the following musicians remember their first time. Enjoy! ~Pete Vincelli
Yotam Ben Horin (Useless ID)
The first time I heard the Descendents was around late 1995. I had already discovered punk rock but since there was no internet and I was living in Haifa, Israel at the time, I had to rely on music from the local skaters and hardcore kids. Before Ishay and I joined Useless ID, we were buddies from high school and Ishay would pass me dubbed cassettes and CDs he would get in the mail. One of them was Descendents Somery.
“Suburban Home” struck a chord with me right away and I ordered I Don’t Want to Grow Up from SST and discovered they had a melodic sense too. The greatest thing for me with Descendents was that ‘til Everything Sucks came out I had no idea what they looked like so according to the Milo drawing and the other drawings in I Don’t Want to Grow Up, I kept imagining what these guys looked like in my head. After all these years, they still influence me every time they release something.
Paul Kettler (Tightwire)
The first time I heard the Descendents I was in middle school. My cool, “punk,” friend made me a mix CD. I didn’t have a computer and our small town didn’t have a record store. His mix CDs became my punk rock Rosetta Stone. When “Suburban Home” blasted through my buddy’s speakers I was hooked. I was an angry dork and wanted out. I had found the perfect soundtrack to my frustration.
Parker Thomson (Tightwire)
I first heard the Descendents when I was 13. “Coffee Mug” was on Punk O Rama 2 and I thought it was pretty awesome so I decided to buy Everything Sucks. I had a paper route at the time and listened to it on my Discman every morning for half a year.
Russ Rankin (Good Riddance)
After being into punk music for several years, I had heard of the Descendents, and seen their records at the local music store, but the simplistic caricatures of their singer, Milo, did not impress me much, or give me any clear idea of what their music might sound like. Back then, many of my music purchases were based solely on how “punk” a band looked on their album covers, or the occasional live photo on the back.
Based on my admittedly shallow criteria, I dismissed the Descendents, without ever hearing a note of their music, as a whimsical, college rock band.
I began dating a girl who, as it turned out, was a massive Descendents fan. She was also into ALL, the band they morphed into when Milo left to pursue a career in academia. She was the one who showed me their music, and I had to readily admit that I had had them figured all wrong.
I was struck initially by the musicianship and creativity, though I wouldn’t have had the capacity to define it as such at the time, and the often obtuse arrangements, particularly in the later Descendents material and much of the ALL stuff I heard. I also really liked Milo’s ability to sing with melody, while retaining a punk edge to his voice. Other than perhaps Billy Idol’s work with Generation X, I had not heard anybody sing like that. My favorite songs were “Get The Time,” “Silly Girl,” “Hope,” and “Coolidge.”
The girl I was seeing explained that, after Milo left the band, they changed their name to ALL, and recruited Dave Smalley, who had sung in hardcore groups like DYS, and recorded an album with Dag Nasty. Smalley did a couple of albums with ALL, and was then replaced by Scott Reynolds. She lent me her cassette of Allroy’s Revenge, and I listened to it obsessively for weeks. “She’s My Ex,””Scary Sad,” and “Mary” became my favorite ALL songs, along with “Just Perfect,” which Dave Smalley had sung on an earlier release.
Eventually, we went up to see ALL at Gilman Street in Berkeley, CA. The show was packed, and after the band finished setting up, they opened with a Descendents song, “I Don’t Want To Grow Up,” and the place exploded with energy. They played a mix of Descendents and ALL songs, and I loved it. I saw them several more times, and also the Descendents when they became active again with Milo in the late 90s.
A.J. Condosta (Hit The Switch)
I remember exactly when and where I was the first time I heard the Descendents.
I grew up skateboarding in the ‘80s. Through skateboarding I discovered Metallica. Through Metallica I found the Misfits. And being a 6 year old kid trying to ollie up curbs in a “Legacy of Brutality” t-shirt, I got the attention of the older skater kids in my neighborhood. I thought they were the coolest guys in the world and I wanted to be just like them. Especially this 13 year old kid, Jason. Jason’s sister Jennifer also used to babysit my brother and I, so I got to spend a lot of time at their house. Jason played guitar and drums and had an extensive vinyl and cassette collection. One night, as my parents came to pick me up, he hands me a mixtape and says “Here, take this… this shit will change your life!”
August ‘86, in my room bumming out about the fact that this amazing summer was coming to an abrupt end… I popped that cassette into my brand new Sony Walkman that my mom had gotten for me as a back to school/birthday gift. Side A. First song. Spastic bass line followed by this fast shuffling snare roll and crazy guitar riff… “Almost ready, almost there, or is it already over?!” FUCKING “MYAGE”!!!!!
I was instantly blown away by not only the musicianship displayed in the first 20 seconds, but also by Milo’s delivery of those lyrics and that vocal melody. He meant what he was saying and he made me feel every word! I grabbed my deck and skated as fast as I could to Jason’s house screaming for MORE DESCENDENTS!!!
I owe so much to my old friend Jason. I owe even more to the Descendents. Thank you both for introducing me to the sound that would ultimately shape the man/musician that I am today… for better or worse.
Miguel Chen (Teenage Bottlerocket)
The first time I heard the Descendents has to have been Punk-O-Rama volume 2. My friends and I all started getting into punk rock in typical mid-90s style, because of Green Day. Then we realized the older kids seemed to have the scoop on “real” punk. I remember seeing a kid with a NOFX shirt that looked like a box of Trix cereal, and another kid had a Bad Religion shirt with the crossed out cross. My friends and I immediately went out and found all of the NOFX and Bad Religion cds we could find, which led us to Epitaph Records and their Punk-O-Rama compilations. That blew the doors wide open. “Coffee Mug” was the first track on Punk-O-Rama part 2, and in a short 30 seconds we understood: this band does not fuck around. And they still don’t.
Toby Jeg (Red Scare)
I used to DJ a community radio in my teens and played “Bikeage” a lot. A whole lot. For me (and mind you, this is before the internet) the Descendents were one of those mythological bands like Dead Kennedys and Black Flag. These bands were like a Pterodactyl. I mean, I *guess* they existed because you say so and we have some evidence, but they were just… folklore. Then they came back! Do you know how fuckin’ dope it was when the ‘Dents came back?! And Everything Sucks is real good by comeback standards. Then I even got to see them play live that same year and I learned that the Descendents were not a myth, but very real. Real awesome.
Somewhere I have a hilarious picture of me as a teenager with Milo. He’s aged much better than I, as legends do…