If you were in one of the most popular and successful rock 'n' roll bands on the planet, and had been entrenched in the Write-Record-Tour-Repeat cycle almost completely for well over a decade, you'd be forgiven for wanting to use your scarce patches of time off to sit on a beach somewhere, take it easy, and enjoy some quiet time before the next stadium tour loomed.
No thanks, says Green Day bassist Mike Dirnt. He'd rather hit the studio to record with his beloved side project the Frustrators, and return to the punk rock dives he started out in — including Berkeley's legendary 924 Gilman and Petaluma's Phoenix Theater — for an upcoming minitour.
The Frustrators' new EP, Griller — out Feb. 15 through Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong's Oakland-based label, Adeline — is the quartet's first new material in eight years, having released its debut EP Bored in the USA back in 2000, followed by 2002's Achtung Jackass.
And as you might guess, guitarist Terry Linehan explains that he, vocalist Jason Chandler, and drummer Art Tedeschi are basically at the mercy of Dirnt's regular gig. "Mike's job takes up a lot of time," Linehan laughs. "He's been busy nonstop since 2002 with American Idiot and then 21st Century Breakdown."
Spying a break finally, in February 2010, he and Dirnt got together to write material for what would become Griller. "We went right to the practice spot and brought a mobile recording unit in, so we wouldn't forget any of our ideas," Linehan says. "But it went so well, we ended up making the basic tracks right there and we've been working on it since, doing some guitar overdubs via the Internet. Jason started singing around Christmastime."
The resulting four tracks adhere to the Bay Area pop-punk tradition, while offering a bit of a twist. "It's modern punk that you would hear on the radio," Linehan explains, "but it also has a post-punk aesthetic that was more popular in the '80s, from bands like the Fall or Public Image Ltd. It's kind of a combination of that with West Coast pop punk."
The band members are particularly excited about their six upcoming live dates, as they offer the foursome a rare chance to get together. By day, Dirnt splits his time among the Bay Area, Los Angeles, and a tour bus; Linehan is a bar owner based in Providence, R.I., where he performs with his other band, Hope Anchor. Chandler makes a living as a graphic designer, illustrator, and animator (he also designs the Frustrators' artwork). Tedeschi lives in Portland and works for a rock merchandise company. This tour will be the band members' first performances together in nine years. "Playing with my old friends is going to be awesome," Linehan enthuses. "Just being able to play packed club and, as all of us approach forty, having a reason to get on a plane and play music is a pretty fortunate blessing."
Also feeling blessed right now? Green Day fans who want to see their favorite bassist in an up-close and personal setting. Hardcore fans have been known to fly in to see the Frustrators perform from as far away as Japan.
"It is something that we have to deal with," Linehan says. "Our second show ever was our record release party, and Mike was a little nervous about what our turnout was going to be. But when we rode in for sound check, there was a line down the street, wrapped around the corner at four in the afternoon. It's a nice problem to have!"
So, as underground as the Frustrators remain, it would be wise to get your tickets in advance if you're planning to attend any of the dates this month — especially since support comes from a plethora of indie-punk favorites, including the Fleshies, Phenomenauts, and Star Fucking Hipsters.
"We're definitely trying to do this Lollapalooza style, where there's something for everybody," Linehan explains. "It gets boring to just have five bands that sound the same playing the show. I don't think there are too many bands on the bill that we don't know — we're making it a family affair."
As for the headliners, they plan on providing value for money, playing almost all of their back catalog, plus any new material that's ready.
"We're gonna make it as high energy as we can," Linehan promises. "Also, a big thing about the Frustrators is that a lot of what we do, although the tone may seem serious, is tongue-in-cheek. There's not going to be any dancing puppets or props or anything, but there certainly will be a comedy element as well. We're hoping it'll be a lot of fun."