Blessed Are The Obsessed: Off! – Breathing New Life Into A Genre That’s Seen Better Days

Perhaps the worst part of loving this sort of music is understanding that coming from generation Y, I missed punk’s hey-day, when it was in its true form – before it became riddled with corporations, branding, slogans and auto-tune. So with the impending arrival of hardcore supergroup OFF!‘s debut Australian Tour, I came as close as I have ever been to the 80s while I chatted to ex-Burning Bridges frontman, and current Off! guitarist Dimitri Coats.

Off! Began back in 2009 as the love child of current frontman and previous Black Flag and Circle Jerks vocalist Keith Morris and Coats, though really began to take form after recruiting Shane McDonald (ex-Redd Kross) and Mario Rubalcaba (ex-Hot Snakes and Rocket From The Crypt). The band internally composed and produced the 2010 released First Four EPs. Choosing the beginning as the best place to start, Dimitri and I discussed the behind-the-scenes genesis of Off! “It was sort of like a … it was a band that was never meant to happen, it was an accident, I was hired to do the Circle Jerks’ record that never happened … during that time they were having a hard time coming up with songs, so Keith put the guitar in my hands one time when they weren’t around and said “what would you do?”, so I started playing and he got really excited. That’s pretty much how Off! Was born”.

Following that moment, the pair composed and recorded 6 new tracks originally meant for the Circle Jerks’ album, which suddenly fell through. “So after that, Keith was like ‘hey … why don’t we start a band?’ Ha ha – I had never even thought of that!” With Off! already starting out at the top, they had the pick of the crop with the rest of the band members, describing the addition of McDonald and Rubalcaba as “their first choices”. It didn’t take too long to persuade them to join the rhythm section either, playing them some quick fix, very crude recordings of Coats “hammering away at the guitar in Keith’s living room, with no vocals yet … they were both equally as excited!” It was all downhill from there, possessing a classy punk sound right off the bat.

It was beginning to sound as though Off! had the powers that be on their side. Coats described it as a very “organic beginning”.

Steering the conversation towards their first release, the First Four EPs album, I mentioned the dirty, sexy sound of the recording that’s almost as though it was some undiscovered relic from the early 80s. Was this the original idea or the side effect of recording with four dudes who practically sweat punk rock? “I think that’s sort of where the music’s coming from. When Keith and I were writing the songs, it was all reminding him of his roots, when he was in Black Flag, you know? That’s where everything was pointing and when we first played it all in a room together, Keith described it as Led Zeppelin playing Black Flag!” Such an apt analogy if you check out these tunes. Coats continued, “You know, so it’s all kinda like 70’s classic rock mixed with early 80’s hardcore, LA hardcore. We didn’t really put much thought into the sound; it’s not like we recorded analog or anything like that – it’s just how we sound. We just let the songs do all the work, and you know what? It’s probably the songs that sound that way, not so much the tone.” So putting it simply, this heavy, fast punk sound that bands nowadays work tirelessly to mimic, Off! does it without even trying, and as Coats puts it “We didn’t even spend a lot of money doing it! We recorded the first two EPs in two days and everything we do is live. The 3rd and 4th EP we did in 1 day after we had already played live; it’s right after [the track] ‘Panic Attack’ where you start to hear a band that’s played together.”

Already breaking the rules with their inception, Off! didn’t stop there. Making their first live debut at South By South West 2010, they played a 15-minute set, totally blowing people’s minds and solidifying them in the upper echelon of the Punk universe. I asked Coats how this set went down from his perspective. “Oh man! It was amazing, looking out to the crowd and it was PACKED! A lot of people we knew were there, a lot of people from other bands, you know, like, peers of ours. I think a lot of people were curious as to how this band would actually translate live because on paper it looks pretty good, though playing live is a different situation entirely, you have to deliver the goods. Fortunately we, you know, put our money where our mouth is.”

After that, I was interested in knowing what kind of crowd they bring to their shows while on tour. I asked Coats if they see more old school punk rockers, or a lot of younger kids. “well you know, oddly enough, it’s the younger audience; we seemed to have crossed over into a bit of all ages, almost hipster crowd. Some of that is due to Pitchfork waving our flag and giving us best new music, you know, getting invited to play festivals with a bunch of other current bands, relevant bands. We’ve made a choice to avoid playing into Keith’s strengths – not going the generic punk route. We have no problem playing with Deer Hunter or bands like that; we don’t really want to play Warped tour, we’d rather play All Tomorrows Parties.

With their Australian tour dates locked in, we got chatting about touring and the band’s expectations of Australia. Dimitri, coming from Burning Bridges, is only just getting used to touring with a punk rock band. “I don’t really come from hardcore, or punk rock; I come more from hard rock, I’d even say like Metal. I didn’t grow up doing the all ages thing, I missed out on that. So my contribution is as someone discovering this scene for the first time. For me it’s wild, seeing some of these kids react, just so physically, to what we’re doing, getting on stage, jumping off and freaking out – and I’ll tell you man, it’s really exciting because they make us feel as though we’ve breathed life into a genre that’s seen better days” Having previously toured our shores with their associated acts, I learnt, however, that this will be Keith’s first time in Australia. “He’s more excited than the rest of us,” Dimitri added, chucking in an amazing plug for our nation. “If I had to live anywhere other than the US it would be Melbourne, it’s just such a rock city”. It was now I interjected saying I was from Sydney, making the conversation a little bit awkward.

And any warnings to their Australian fans salivating at the thought of seeing their live set? Off! has one message “don’t move; don’t go to the bathrooms; don’t look away or you’ll miss out”. You’ve been warned.

Off! Australian Tour – December 2011

Keith Morris | Dimitri Coats | Steve McDonald |Mario Rubalcaba

Tickets on sale 9am Thursday 13th October

Friday 2nd December – Amplifier Bar Perth (18+)
Tickets from http://moshtix.com.au 1300 GET TIX, Oztix on 1300 762 545 & http://heatseeker.com.au 08 6210 7270

Sat 3rd December – Enigma Bar Adelaide (18+)
Tickets from http://moshtix.com.au 1300 GET TIX

Sun 4th December – The Zoo Brisbane (18+)
Tickets from Oztix on 1300 762 545, http://thezoo.com.au or http://destroyalllines.oztix.com.au

Tue 6th December – Sun Distortion Brisbane (AA)
Tickets from Oztix on 1300 762 545 or http://destroyalllines.oztix.com.au

Wed 7th December – Annandale Hotel Sydney (18+)
Tickets from http://annandalehotel.com, Oztix on 1300 762 545 or http://destroyalllines.oztix.com.au

Friday 9th December – Corner Hotel Melbourne (18+)
Tickets from Corner Box Office 03 9427 9198 or http://cornerhotel.com

Sat 10th December – Meredith Music Festival (AA) – SOLD OUT

Sun 11th December – Fitzroy Bowls Club Melbourne (AA)
Tickets from Oztix on 1300 762 545 or http://destroyalllines.oztix.com.au

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