The Descendents

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It took over 30 years for legendary, and legendarily inactive, Californian pop punk band The Descendents to tour Australia. Now they’re coming back after two years. HEAVY asks front man and punk icon Milo Auckerman what’s up.

“I feel like the last time we were there I was struggling a bit, and I wanted to come back and knock the socks off Australia. Come back and really do it right, because that other tour we did by the time I got to the last show I’d really lost my voice. And now that we’ve been doing it for a few more years I’ve tried to learn some vocal preservation techniques and hopefully that’s going to hold me in good stead for this tour.”

Milo’s plans to put his best foot forward with Australian crowds has translated into one of the strongest punk bills we’ve been privy to since NOFX and Bad Religion teamed up for a run through the country in 2009. When the Descendents, Bouncing Souls, Frenzal Rhomb and Bodyjar bill was announced Australian punk fans ubiquitously responded to by saying ‘cool. I didn’t think that was going to happen.’

But then again, that’s been The Descendents’ M.O. for the last 30 years. The band who’s Milo Goes to College and I Don’t Want to Grow Up records set the blueprint for the 90s pop punk movement, are partial to unexpected, sporadic bursts of activity that keep fans wanting more. It was a health scare for drummer Bill Stevenson back in 2009 that spurred the band on to start intermittently playing shows around the world again and has kept them going to now. Auckerman is characteristically self-deprecating when discussing the continued nature of The Descendents.

“I really feel like we’ve gotten not a second wind, but like a fourth or fifth wind. Every time we get back together and do it I think everybody gets injected with a little bit of energy, and we all look forward to doing it.”

“We’ve gone through long periods of inactivity, and looking back it doesn’t seem that strange to us now. We just had our lives to get on with, and our lives are very multi-faceted; different careers and different families, so now when I look back I’m like ‘so what, we took ten years off. Big deal. We’ll be able to pick up where we left off.’ Which is what we’re doing now.”

But is it really as easy to pick up where up left off now, with band members in their 50s and wives and lives and careers to focus on instead of music and the legendary “bonus cup”?

“As we get older now I feel like it’s more of a challenge for me, and I kind of want to rise to that challenge of maintaining that same kind of youthful perspective that we had. That’s really important to me, it’s actually why I play music; it’s about trying to stay young.”

Seeing as the four-piece has been playing shows sporadically for the last three years, I wonder if the band is starting to get questions about their plans to follow-up 2004’s Cool to be You, the last Descendents studio record?

“We do get that question. And for a while there over the last few years we’ve just been deflecting it, saying ‘well, we don’t know’ but once you get a certain critical mass of songs together it’s kind of inevitable that we would commit them to tape, and I think we’re at that point now. We’ve exchanged musical ideas and digital files, at this point we’re just waiting for the free time to do it right.”

“Personally, what I do is that I kind of tend to save up ideas during these hiatus periods, and then come forth with them when I feel like we’re kind of back as a unit and solidified for our next endeavour. So we do have some songs, and I’ve written six or seven or eight songs that I’ve given to Bill and the rest of the band obviously has there own songs. So there are plans, tentative plans, to do some more recordings.”

Though there’s no new album coming in the immediate future, Descendents fan should soon get the chance to watch Filmage, a documentary that has been in the works for some years, chronicling the rise of The Descendents and sister band All. But I ask Milo, does having a documentary made about a band that tried their damnedest to defy their age, make the band members feel old?

“It’s better to do it now than when we’re all dead. I’m happy that it’s happening now so I can be around to enjoy it. I guess it doesn’t make me feel any older than any of the other stuff that happens in The Descendents… Any time somebody tells me that we’re the godfathers of pop punk, that makes me feel pretty old. This is just part and parcel of the same thing… Bottom line is that we are kinda old.”

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