RNRG catches up with the former Joyride guitarist about his killer new band
To most Americans, Orange County is best known as the home of Disneyland and a hotbed of deep conservative Republican politics. During the punk uprising of the 1970s, the county’s young people began thumbing their noses at the establishment.
A community of politically anarchistic bands – The Adolescents, Agent Orange and Social Distortion, to name just a few – arose to challenge the status quo. Songwriter and guitarist Greg Antista came of age during those heady days, eventually collaborating with Steve Soto (Adolescents, Agent Orange) in Joyride, an influential band that never broke out nationally.
After decades of bouncing between bands and day jobs, Antista put together The Lonely Streets, a quartet of punk veterans that make short, sharp tunes that blend punk, country, rockabilly, blues and traditional rock. Their freshly released debut, Shake, Stomp and Stumble, is packed with songs of heartbreak, backstabbing and betrayal. They’ve only been together for a year, but they’re filling clubs and earning rave reviews wherever they go.
Antista sat down with The Globe to talk about his band and his life in music.
Pick up a copy of Shake, Stomp and Stumble here or wherever you get your records.
Why did you choose Shake, Stomp and Stumble as the album title? There’s no stumbling on it, just great stomping rock’n’roll songs.
Thanks for not labeling any of the songs as a stumble! I do think there is a theme throughout the record of stumbling and getting back up again. That has been the story of my life. Beyond that, I just love the retro vibe of a three-word alliterated title.
Does Orange County have any influence on your music?
Orange County has everything to do with the sound of my music. In Fullerton, we have a rock tradition that goes back to the late 1970s, with bands like The Naughty Women and Mechanics. Out of that grew the Orange County punk scene of The Adolescents, Agent Orange and Social Distortion. I was lucky enough to be there when all those bands were playing their first gigs. It inspired a lot of us to pick up guitars and start making music ourselves. The roots rock elements on the album are inspired by my years behind the bar at the legendary Linda’s Doll Hut in Anaheim. Being so close to performers like Big Sandy, Russell Scott, and James Intveld had a profound impact on my songwriting.
Tell us about making this album.
When I was in the process of writing the songs for Shake, Stomp and Stumble, my focus was on playing live. I had no clear plan in regards to recording. By June 2018, I had The Lonely Streets together and we were scheduled to go into Buzzbomb Studios with producer Paul Miner to knock out a three-song demo. Unfortunately, we lost my lifelong pal Steve Soto that same month. This was just a year after losing another leading light of the OC music scene, Mike “Gabby” Gaborno. Both of those guys had so much more music to make. Seeing them lose that opportunity spurred us into tossing out the idea of a demo session and going for broke with a debut album.
Who decided on the final sound of the record? It has a dense band sound, without a lot of soloing. Jessica Katzmarek is a great guitarist, but she’s a bit submerged in the mix.
The sound of the record comes out of the Linda’s Doll Hut scene of the ‘90s, where punk rock and roots rock lived side by side on a nightly basis. As far as Jessica’s solos go, you have to realize that I come from the OC punk scene of the ‘70s and ‘80s, where an extended guitar solo would earn you a bottle to the face. I do feel that I am a much more evolved creature now. If the people want more Jessica, I am not opposed to letting her cut lose. I think the fact that I had written and performed these songs acoustically, prior to getting the band together, helped to tighten up the arrangements and find that essential three minutes.
What’s a live show like?
We strive for our live shows to be loose, raucous affairs that can take on a life of their own. There are plenty of cover tunes and we have no problem with Jessica wandering into the crowd for a few minutes during a solo. When it comes to live music, my favorite bands have always been the ones that realize they are entertainers, as well as musicians.
The lyrics are political and personal. Has the current political climate of the country affected the subjects you write about?
Not yet. While I am truly disgusted and disheartened by the hypocrisy shown by those in power these days, at the moment, my writing is in a more introspective place. That’s not to say it won’t change though. I got my start in a band called The Bleeding Hearts. We wore our politics on our sleeves and sadly, then, just like now, there is never a shortage of outrages to write about.
What’s the most important aspect of a good song?
A good song is all about inspiration. It’s about the melody and the chorus and those elements can come to you even before you have a guitar in your hand. The arrangement is what is crucial, and it can be figured out even before the lyrics are done. I don’t know if it’s right or wrong, but where I came up in Fullerton, it was always about showing up to a rehearsal with a song you could sing and play on guitar all by yourself. It was never about showing up with a riff to jam on and seeing where it would go.