There was always a self-imposed feeling of competition with Seattle for those who grew up in Tacoma, Washington—a working class town in the Puget Sound. Even though it has consistently proved to be a city of worth and merit (albeit small), people love to treat anything emerging from it as second-rate compared to the home of Starbucks, Microsoft, and grunge. A concentrated effort to prove self-worth is instilled in most everyone from this particular suburb, and the punk band Burn Burn Burn! is a prime example.
They tread strongly in the footsteps of early ‘80s hardcore, distilled with Hot Water Music, a slight Gainesville lean and look to Epitaph and Fat’s predecessors like older brothers and sisters. Songs are melodic, fast, and dripping with integrity—an amalgamation of DIY ethics and heart. By the time they broke from the pack of small town basement bands and headed to Seattle, the city took note.
The newest incarnation of Burn is comprised of members who are based in Seattle (Brett and Ian), which has made the transition that much more seamless. It’s a mere thirty-five miles between the cities, but having exceptional musicians who all ready know the ins and outs of the Seattle scene has helped to solidify the change and get them exposed to even more new audiences. I talked to the band at one of their practices before a West Coast tour about being on the road, signing to La Escalera Records, their Tacoma roots, and their love of partying.
Burn Burn Burn is:
Drew Smith – vocals
Adam France – guitar
Benny Iler – bass
Brett Skaret– guitar
Ian Walter – drums
Kayla: How long has Burn Burn Burn been a band now?
Drew: We’ve been a band for over four years.
Benny: Drew means he’s been the band for over four years.
Kayla: Yeah, Drew, you’re the only original member left?
Brett: Before Benny joined the band, it was just called Against Drew! [laughter]
Benny: Well the band didn’t really start to take off until I joined.
Drew: We were a band in, like, late 2010 and started playing local shows. We had some member changes throughout and then started being serious and touring around late 2011.
Kayla: Were you always a five-piece band?
Drew: Actually, we were a four-piece—we added a rhythm guitarist a couple months after we formed and that was Cooper. Since then we’ve always kept it as a five-piece.
Kayla: Drew, how did things change for you with this band? Before this you were a drummer in your other projects. What was the transition like?
Drew: I just wanted to be a frontman. I always talked shit and was obnoxious, even behind the drum kit with The Americommies. Honestly, I wanted to start something like Burn—actually sing songs and have something that was authentic, more heartfelt, and not like run-of-the-mill punk rock.
Kayla: Late last year you guys went on a three-month nationwide tour. That’s huge for a band this young. On top of playing non-stop shows, you were audience members in Maury Povich’s show when you were on the East Coast. How was that?
Drew: We did do the Maury show. I applied to get tickets for when we were gonna be in Connecticut. We were all super fucking stoked, but we had to order them separately because there were eight of us.
Brett: They made us wear nice shirts.
Benny: (Adam) France and I stayed behind and took the Maury bus from New York City to Connecticut while they drove in the van. They ended up getting the clip show and we got the full show.
Drew: We sat in the audience and got the bullshit clip show.
Benny: We got the baby daddy show. We got the paternity test and we got free pizza.
Drew: We were super bummed. And then we look in the window and see France and Benny eating fucking pizza about to see the Maury paternity show! So now we’ve gotta wait for these dicks to tell us how awesome it was.
Adam: And it was sooo awesome.
Drew: That was one of the highlights. But we played with some awesome bands that night—Dead City Riot, they tour with Morning Glory and Leftover Crack. We also played with Al Pist who played in The Pist. He did his solo stuff and it was pretty fucking awesome. I got really drunk by that point, but it was so cool—one of my favorite street punk bands, he’s just there ‘cause he lives there, and he’s like, “Man, thank you guys for playing. It was awesome.” Dude, thank you for building my teenage years.
Benny: Remember Springa?
Drew: Aw, dude!
Benny: So when we played Chicago, the singer of SSD Control, fuckin’ American hardcore ‘80s band, he was there at our show and he was real drunk.
Drew: He was lushin’ real hard. He still texts me every couple of months on his fuckin’ flip phone. He T9s that shit. So we played our show and he just walks up all drunk like, “Hey! My name’s Springa.” I’m like, “Cool, my name’s Drew, and I’m pretty drunk, too.” His buddy comes up and is like, “Dude, do you know who that is? It’s fuckin’ Springa, SSD Control!” And then everything clicked, “Holy shit!” I almost brushed him off, just like a random drunk old dude.
Benny: But he ended up kinda being a random drunk old dude.
Adam: He took a picture of the vinyl on our drum head. He really liked all of our imagery and shit. He was a weird dude.
Drew: He was drunk as fuck and weird as hell.
Kayla: Where are the best places to play? Now that you’ve been all over the country, which spots stick out for you?
Brett: I wasn’t gonna do it, but I thought New Orleans was the best. New Orleans has live music on every side of the block. We weren’t even around Bourbon Street or some really touristy part, but there were no open container laws and just live music everywhere.
Kayla: It’s incredible there. I had the best time when I was in New Orleans, too. There’s so much culture all around. Okay, so what about your Tacoma return show? Being a band from Tacoma and ending a three-month tour there after you moved to Seattle has gotta be huge.
Drew: Oh, that was fuckin’ wonderful.
Benny: Was that when we incited a riot?
Drew: People were going apeshit—we were already used to our North West return shows being wild as hell. So everyone starts moving around, we play one song and this tall, bald security guard who resembles Steve Austin came up to me and looked at me stone cold in the eyes and was like, “You have one more song. You guys are inciting people to mosh.” I’m like, “Well, what if I tell everyone to stop?” He’s like, “All right, if you do that, then you’re good.”
So we play another song. This is O’Malley’s—there’s college kids everywhere, the security guys are total fucking meatheads, and everyone who’s in the pit are not bros even though everyone else at the bar is. I get on the mic and I’m like, “Y’all need to simmer down ‘cause they just told me we only get one more song unless there is no moshing. So what I want from everybody right now is to walk up ten feet and cross your arms and when we play songs, I want you to nod your head, up and down. Just think of it like you’re at a show in Seattle.” And all the Tacoma kids just lost their fucking minds. As soon as we started the song, I ran in the pit and started hate-moshing. The whole fucking place just erupted and there was no stopping. Coincidently enough, we didn’t get paid.
Kayla: So there’s a clear difference between Seattle and Tacoma. Now that you live in Seattle, what’s the difference that you can see coming up from Tacoma about the scenester stereotype? Have you become one of those Seattle bands that you hated?
Benny: We don’t hate any bands.
Drew: Honestly though, it depends on where we are, where we’re playing, and what show it is.
Kayla: What kind of audience you’re playing to.
Drew: I mean, it’s clearly obvious if we’re playing a Tacoma house show, which is where our band started. That’s when shit gets really wild.
Brett: I think Tacoma’s a lot more selective about how they operate their underground shows—that’s the main difference I see. There isn’t really any other place to play out there that’s punk rock-friendly anymore. Joe right over here is running the Aurora House, Toby and Phil and all those cats. I think that they’re way more about bringing everybody into what they’ve got going there in South Tacoma. In Seattle, for the entire time I’ve been playing shows, no one’s from Seattle. Everybody’s from the suburbs and the scene is like hella cliquey and divided, and people only really go to shows for people they know of. Out in fucking Tacoma, I’ve seen a couple hundred dollars at the door on a weeknight. People are actually down for the cause.
Kayla: I feel like people in Seattle, they act entitled sometimes and they just get so spoiled.
Brett: Yeah, there’s a lot of shit going on.
Kayla: And that’s cool that there’s so many options.
Brett: It’s a way bigger city, period. Why would you not move if you really want to make a name for yourself and stand out amongst the majority of the other bands?
Drew: But Tacoma’s definitely where our heart is. It’s where we were born.
Kayla: There aren’t a lot of punk houses in Tacoma or Seattle anymore. They pop up here and there but don’t last long.
Drew: I guess if there are, I don’t know of them and don’t get asked to play them.
Kayla: Yeah, they get real quiet so they don’t get shut down. It’s hard to find out about DIY spots in time, which is why places like Nemesis House and The Morgue were so good. They stayed under the radar as long as they could.
Brett: I mean, to tell you the truth, a year and a half ago or so I remember hearing about a ton of punk rock houses that were doing their own shows in the Central District. That’s a change and trend that I’ve never seen before. Like Capital Hill, U-District—these places are pretty well-known for having shows in underground spots. All these houses started popping up in the CD and I was confused as to why I never encountered any of the bands playing there and never knew anyone from the crews who were putting on shows in that one neighborhood.
But it’s the same case—a bunch of cats from the suburbs, it gets too expensive in Capital Hill, so people kinda latch on to the CD. I view that as a positive even though it’s not part of my deal or scene. The more little spots that pop up then the more the spirit of underground shows keeps going on. I can’t be a part of it all and I want to.
Kayla: Especially when all the good venues get shut down by the city anyways.
Drew: Well, that’s the other thing, too, about venues in Seattle—all the legitimate venues in neighborhoods keep going up in rent so pretty much all the punk rockers are going down and moving south. White Center, Burien, and Sea-Tac—that’s where all the real punk rock is.
Kayla: And when it gets to be too much there, they just start the cycle over again. What are your songs about? What kind of themes do you cover in your lyrics?
Drew: You know, lyrically I don’t get too political, just ‘cause I’m not very political myself. Aside from the WestboroBaptistChurch.
Ian: I think that’s the only political song we have.
Drew: Pretty much. That’s the only one that we really hit a nail on the head for any issue, which is one that needed to be addressed. But mainly we just write broad songs that we hope people can relate to. They’re nothing that can date our band within a certain time period. If anything, if someone could take a song that we all wrote and relate to it, that’s fucking awesome. We have some negative ones and some super positive ones about like, no matter how shitty your life is, at least you have good friends who will stick by you. And then we have sad songs.
Kayla: How many releases have you put out now? Early ones were self-released and now you’re signed to La Escalera Records out of San Diego.
Drew: We’ve done a demo, a split digital release, then we did a split 7” with Buddy Jackson. Then we did This Machine on La Escalera. In July we have a split with Stabbed In The Back coming out.
Kayla: How did the La Escalera signing come about? Was it just from being a super active band for so long, meeting more and more people connected with DIY music?
Drew: I think it was pretty much a mixture of all of that. We’ve always been close friends with all the bands attached to La Escalera. We got offered to play a fest which then turned into a nationwide tour. That got us in the mindset to record some solid shit that we can get out to people ‘cause I didn’t want to tour on T-shirts alone. None of us did. We were in a sticky situation at the time ‘cause our drummer left and didn’t wanna tour or record. Luckily, there’s three drummers in the band, so we recorded the songs to coincide with us leaving for tour. We announced that and La Escalera asked if we were interested in them releasing it. They’re one of our favorite indie labels so that was fucking great.
Kayla: That’s really awesome. It doesn’t happen for bands unless you put a real effort into it. Once you start putting the work in, everything just snowballs.
Drew: Yeah, it totally did and we’re extremely grateful for everything that Will and Ziggy and everyone at La Escalera did for us, ‘cause it really helped. They gave us physical CDs with a label on it, but they also gave us the confidence that we needed and the opportunity to prove ourselves. Bands don’t tour for eleven weeks unless they have fat record support. And the bands that do—not all bands of course—just kinda coast it on burnt CDs. We want to get our music out there and do the best we can, and I truly feel like we succeeded in that.
Kayla: A lot of you guys are in other bands and side projects. Can you go around and talk a little about what you do outside of Burn?
Ian: I’m in Generation Decline, Expired Logic, Raw Dogs…
Kayla: You’re like the Mikey Erg of Seattle.
Ian: Sure, I guess. I just started another project called Sister Act.
Kayla: How do you balance all that? I mean, you work a full-time job, too.
Ian: I don’t know, it’s weird ‘cause of all the bands I’m in, Burn and Expired are the only ones that jam every single week. Generation Decline, we’re lucky if we get to jam once a month because of our schedules and the band is out of Bremerton. With Raw Dogs, it’s like, “Oh, we have a show, let’s jam.” Not every single band is really serious right now.
Benny: I play in Bomb The Streets. Then Brett and I are starting a punk rock karaoke band. We do cover songs that you guys can sing, all the classic punk rock songs.
Kayla: That’s fucking rad. Songs everybody remembers that are engrained in your body.
Benny: You can request one if you hit us up on Facebook a few weeks before a show and as long as it’s not something like A Wilhelm Scream but more like Warthog or Circle Jerks, we’ll learn it. We’re called Sing-Alongs and Circle Pits.
Brett: All the songs that are too cliché to cover with your real band. [Laughter, then Brett’s phone rings]
Drew: Is that a Pantera ring tone dude?
Brett: I don’t know how to put it on silent.
Kayla: You guys do a Pantera cover, right?
Drew: We do do a Pantera cover.
Benny: Our own Burn rendition.
Ian: “Walk Walk Walk.”
Drew: I think it was the third song we ever did ‘cause of one of our metal head friends who had no interest in punk at all. When we started to write songs we hadn’t come up with a name yet, but I was adamant on Reinventing The Steel. In this genre we’re too close to American Steel—even though we sound nothing like them—but if we could, we fuckin’ would. One of our buddies was like, “You should totally be Reinventing The Steel and do a Pantera cover,” so I looked up the “Walk” lyrics and started singing them, and it fucking clicked. Everyone thought it was hilarious and our metal head friend was drunk and just like, “Yeah dude, that’s fucking tight!”
Kayla: Did you listen to a lot of Pantera growing up?
Drew: I fucking love Pantera.
Benny:My niece’s name is Pantera, I swear to god.
Adam: You swear to Satan!
Kayla: Adam, you do a solo project as well right?
Adam: Yeah, I’ve got a solo acoustic thing where I sing about ex-girlfriends and stuff like that. Then I sing in a powerviolence band called Violent Occurrence where I just kinda talk about dying soon and going to hell.
Drew: He’s deep as fuck.
Kayla: And Brett you do On the Ground, Whorewoods, booking at Black Zia Cantina, house shows…
Drew: Brett’s a goddamned renaissance man.
Brett: That’s just what I do for fun. I’ve got my hands in a couple different pockets.
Kayla: Drew, you’re mainly focused on Burn right now but you used to be in the Assassinators, the Americommies, and you were also booking local shows for a while.
Drew: Yeah, I just do Burn now. I work, I still book shows.
Kayla: It’s really nice to see a band that not only plays lots of shows but puts them together, helps out local acts and touring acts, and becomes an all-encompassing part of the scene. You guys do a great job giving back.
Drew: And that’s pretty much what it is. If we can’t take care of a show we can at least point them the right direction. We’re not going to tell anyone to fuck off ‘cause, as a band, we know exactly how it is.
Kayla: So, you got hit pretty hard at Warped Tour one year Drew?
Ian: That was probably his all-time low.
Drew: Yeah, I am YouTube famous. So one time I got really drunk—this is actually the first time I met Benny and Garrett, and I think it was Streetlight Manifesto was playing right after All Time Low, so I was gonna sit through that bullshit first. We were just kinda pushing people and stuff and crowd surfing and I was like, “I gotta get out of this,” all these teeny weenies everywhere.
I walked past the stage and hocked a loogey on the bass player and casually walk back. A security guard grabs me so I run back in the crowd. Then, three security guards mob on me and I was so drunk I didn’t realize anything. I thought I just crowd surfed and hocked a loogey on some wiener. So this giant security guard just starts pounding on me super hard and Puddles from the Americommies shoves him over and starts laying on people while I’m getting the shit kicked out of me.
I remember, I still have a scar on my wrist—I had this sweet Star Wars watch and a guard grabbed my wrist and started slamming it on this pole, just rocking the shit out of me. It was fucking bullshit. The security guards apprehend me and I see the entire Warped Tour crowd. I didn’t know they stopped the show, and I just see four thousand dorks chanting “cocksucker” and looking me dead in the eyes. And let me tell you something, that shakes a man.
Look, I’ve been called that before, but like four thousand scene kids chanting, it was crazy. Puddles is in handcuffs and all he was trying to do was say, “No he’s just a drunk douchebag, it’s okay.” So we get escorted backstage and I see the Vandals’ Warren Fitzgerald and the drummer of Bad Religion as I’m being taken by security and all that bullshit. This is when drunk Drew turns into sober Drew, like, “Fuck, I’m going to jail. I’m going to Warped Tour jail.”
They put me in this fenced off area and I’m getting questioned by security and cops and the head security guard that beat the shit out of me was like, “Why’d you do it?” and I just kept saying, “I didn’t do shit.” So I’m denying everything and the bass player of All Time Low shows up and is like, “Yep, this is the guy.” He kept asking questions like, “Why would you spit on me of all people?” They told me they were going to press charges for assault, laying it on really thick.
Finally I had a quiet moment where they’re not screaming at me and I’m like, “Dude, where’s your band from? Maryland? So here’s the thing, if you press charges, I have the right to see my accuser and I’m gonna fight it. The court date is gonna be wherever the crime was committed and I don’t know where the fuck that dude’s from, but he’s your only witness.” Lo and behold they never pressed charges. Me and Puddles got escorted out of Warped Tour and I’m completely 86’d from every Live Nation event for life. Since that, I’ve never been to Warped Tour. Why would I? I’m a fucking adult.
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