The former Joyride guitarist’s handpicked crew of West Coast punk veterans emerge from the pandemic with a wide-ranging second album
Greg Antista made a name for himself in the Southern California punk scene of the late 70s, playing in groups like Joyride, a band that made several albums, but never broke nationally.
He stopped playing music for a while and worked a series of day jobs. Two years ago, he picked up his guitar, started writing songs and created a new band, Greg Antista and The Lonely Streets. The energy of punk is still there, but the blues, traditional rock and the roots music he heard hanging out at Linda’s Doll Hut is also an influence.
“Linda likes punk and Americana and hosted everyone from Bad Religion to Brian Setzer,” Antista said. “Being around performers like Big Sandy, Russell Scott, and James Intveld had an impact on my songwriting. At first, I didn’t know if I was going to start a real band, or solo project with a backing group and interchangeable members, so I called the group the Lonely Streets. It evokes my youth – running around at night, alone, looking for something to do, or someplace to go.”
The players Antista put together were all veterans. Bass player Warren Renfrow played with The Adolescents and The Damned, drummer Jorge E. Disguster was in The Hangmen and Mink Daggers and the original lead guitarist, Jessica Kaczmarek, spent time in the Buzztop Hurricanes. Their debut, Shake, Stomp and Stumble, got solid notices and led to sold out gigs. Antista was working on Under the Neon Heat, the band’s second album, when the pandemic hit.
“Jessica wanted to start a solo career, so I asked my friend Frank Agnew, who started The Adolescents, to step in.” Antista said. “The songs were taking shape and I finished writing and arranging them with him. We went in the studio in January, 2020 to record. We were still working on March 16, when things got shut down, but we’d finished recording the music at that point. Nobody knew what was going to happen, so we went on with our lives. We didn’t do the vocals until summer of 2020. None of us tested positive but, when we went back in the studio, we were all masked. The lockdown gave us time to rethink stuff and add finishing touches to the songs. You usually knock out an album and hit the road. This time we had time to get on the phone to text ideas back and forth. ‘I hate your vocals, do ‘em again.’ That kind of stuff.”
Last August, while they were waiting to release Neon Heat, they played “Down on Commonwealth,” the album’s lead track, at a live steaming concert.
“It was strange performing with no audience. It was done at the Social Sanctuary, a space set up by a staging company that builds stages for touring bands. They had really strict protocols. They were taking temperatures of the band and crew and fogging us with an electrostatic sprayer as we came in.”
VIDEO: Greg Antista and The Lonely Streets “Down On Commonwealth”
The full tilt rock of “Down on Commonwealth,” sets the tone for Under the Neon Heat. Other standouts include “Lonesome Casualty,” a country punk fusion that describes a shattered relationship; “Unfinished Business,” a folk/rock tune with a political slant and “Carmelita,” a Warren Zevon cover featuring the vocal debut of Warren Renfrow.
“He’s been in a lot of bands, but he never stepped up to sing before,” Antista said. “During the pandemic, he picked up the accordion and taught himself how to play. He started messing around with the lyrics on ‘Carmelita’ and did a rewrite that’s a little jab at the gentrification going on in LA. He never took lead vocals in his other bands. This is also his accordion debut.”
With two solid albums under his belt, Antista is looking forward to what comes next. “Making this album jelled us as a band. We’re all happy to be in the same room, rehearsing again. Sometimes we sit around and talk, when we should be rehearsing. I’ve been in plenty of bands where we don’t have much to say to each other, so this is a nice change.
“It’s tough to schedule a tour right now, due to the Delta Variants, but everybody’s vaxxed and ready to go. We played the first post vaccination festival, the Silverado Showdown, in May. The venue can hold 10,000 people, but they only sold 2,000 tickets, to maintain social distancing. It worked out well.
“With Frank in the band, we can expand our sound. I’ve known him since we were in our teens – writing with him is inspiring. He plays piano, organ, keys and guitar, so we can add more range and depth to the arrangements. There will be some mandolin on next record, too. Americana and punk are the loves of my life. If we can blend them together in a way that sounds fresh, we’re doing our job.”