September 8, 2012

California X

Born and raised in the spoils of Western Massachusetts, AS will be the first to tell you that there isn't really anything particular remarkable about the area. It's quite easy to liken it to the New England equivalent of a West Texas Friday Night Lights scenario where sprawls of suburban doldrums, decaying industrial downtown sections, shopping and strip malls alongside the obligatory large movie theater complex define the most recognizable sights. Tucked away safely from it all however is the area's rough gem known as the five-college area that encompasses Northampton and Amherst, both art-minded communities which saw their cultural impact peak during the '90s alt-rock era after spawning the likes of Dinosaur Jr. and later becoming the adopted home of Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon (At one point, SPIN called Northampton "the next Seattle.") Those glory days may be gone, but the embers of the area's snarly riffed roots still burn inside a close-knit punk and hardcore community, with Amherst trio California X its thread. AS has written about several DIY bands in the past, but these WMass rockers live and breathe the culture in an extensive way. Consisting of frontman Lemmy Gurtowsky, bassist Daniel Jones and drummer Josh Smith, they not only play together, but live together as Josh -- with the help of his bandmates and friends -- operates a punk and hardcore record store, Damage Records out of their garage (he also releases their music as well as that of their peers on his label Feeble Minds.) While California X's brand of ear-swelling, anthemic noise punk stabs your senses with a modern edge (think Japandroids with J Mascis joining as a third member,) their sound is still rooted in the Western Mass indie rock legacy. First single, the double A-side "Sucker" / "Mummy," saw the trio recording alongside Justin Pizzoferrato (Sonic Youth, and any project dealing with Thurston Moore or his Ecstatic Peace! label for that matter) with results promising enough to put them on Pitchfork's radar. This fall, California X will release their debut album (once again recorded with Pizzoferrato) on Framework and Feeble Minds. In the past, they've shared the stage with recent BUZZSounds White Lung and Nude Beach, and their live visibility outside the region should expand once they play a few select dates in mid-October with SoCal punk vets Toys That Kill (they also plan a short weekend tour with local natives Potty Mouth to support the new LP. More extensive tours are in the works once Gurtowsky graduates college this year.) God knows Western Mass could use something to get excited about these days...

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