Story by Meg Fair
Pittsburgh’s Detainees are teaching a clinic on punk. In under 10 minutes you can learn nearly all you need to know about what makes great punk music — driving tempos, solid riffs and energetic vocals that are just a little unhinged.
And those punk rock essentials have been at the root of the project from the beginning.
“The idea for the band was Punk 101, just ripping off the records that got me hooked in the first place,” says Tom Moran, the primary songwriter for Detainees.
“[I’d] had the Detainees stuff in my back pocket for a couple years before anything happened with it. I moved to Philly for about two-and-a-half years, and though I met some really great people, I was so bored out of my mind that I spent most of my time at home, listening to records and learning to play guitar.”
When Moran moved back to Pittsburgh, the wheels started moving. Initially he asked Nick “Scud” Leombruno, the guitarist of Concealed Blade, SLIP and more, to play drums in the band. “I figured if I sucked at guitar and he sucked at drums, we’d be equal,” says Moran. “He wasn’t into it.”
Instead, Moran asked veteran drummer Dave Rosenstraus to play. “He’s been an ass beater for quite some time,” says Moran. Once Rosenstraus was on board, he asked John Villegas, who owns Cruel Noise Records and plays in De Rodillas and Peace Talks, to join on bass. Moran and Villegas have known each other for over a decade, and went to the same shows at the old Roboto Project as teenagers.
“John was an obvious choice,” says Moran. “He wears a Misfits shirt all the time.”
Rosenstraus, Moran and Villegas recorded the five songs on the release live to half inch tape at Braddock Hit Factory, Rosenstraus’ studio, home and practice space. Moran then recruited Cole Weber for vocals.
“Cole has been an under-the-radar freak for as long as I’ve known him. The first time I really heard his vocals was when he was recording them for this 7-inch and I was shocked. I knew he’d be good, but goddamn,” says Moran.
The result is something that doesn’t sound quite like anything associated with the band members’ prior work.
“It’s definitely different from what any of the people in this band has ever done, which is really fun,” says Villegas.
The result of all this work is a shit-rockin’ blast of punk that is equal parts aggressive and fun, catchy and edgy. It’s the kind of record you can listen to over and over again, short enough to keep you wanting more.
“One of the Good Ones” and “Reputation” have hooks that are ripe for shouting along to. You can almost picture a packed in crowd of punks thrusting their crushed beer and La Croix cans in the air along in sync.
Songs like the eponymous track, “Detainees,” and “Big Foot” feel like they’re moving so fast that it could crash off the tracks at any moment, while closer “City Grief” has a more hardcore punk energy and lyrics that drip with playful disgust, despair and resignation. “It’s a nice idea, going out, meeting up, being cool,” drones Weber with a tinge of growl, “Saying ‘what’s up’ to everybody, I don’t want to say what’s up to everybody.”
The 7-inch will be available on June 21, pressed by Gotta Groove records in Cleveland, Ohio.
“For the nerds, there are 500 [copies]. 100 of them are white. Jason Lee, formerly known as Laura Pallmall, did the artwork and it came out really awesome,” says Villegas.
And with its first physical release under its belt, Detainees is ready to get at it again.
“For me the most exciting part about this record being out is that we can work on the next one,” says Moran. “Playing shows and touring is cool, but writing and recording are my favorite parts.”
The full demo is available to enjoy on YouTube: youtu.be/aPpZMuscloA