Coffee — your best way to start the day, and a source of never-ending inspiration for the Descendents and the entire West Coast punk ethos they helped to create. The band’s exalted repertoire includes “Coffee Mug,” “Kids on Coffee” and a 2016 album, “Hypercaffium Spazzinate.” Descendents drummer Bill Stevenson has also worked with Black Flag, another prominent Southern California hardcore band that paid its own java tribute with “Black Coffee,” a track Stevenson produced and played on.
Both bands are an aural representation of staring at the walls with tons of energy and nothing to do — the ideal sound for ADD-addled suburban L.A. skate rats. Clearly, they aren’t the only ones simpatico with a caffeine spazz attack, as similarly amped-up punk bands have multiplied, while the Descendents themselves — formed in 1978 — barrel along with no finish line in sight. “Hypercaffium Spazzinate” has the energy of a band half their age. And the Descendents’ members have never really rested, filling the breaks with side projects and other endeavors that demonstrate an impressive, even heroic, work ethic.
And yet it took a bit of serendipity to pull the Descendents into the 21st Century as a fully operational band. After “Everything Sucks” in 1996, years went by with individual band members otherwise occupied. Finally, they were approached by an admirer: Michael Burkett, a.k.a. Fat Mike of NOFX, the band, and Fat Wreck Chords, the label. As Stevenson would say later, “If you’ve got the owner of the label saying he wants to put out a record by what is probably his favorite band of all time, that’s rad. That’s the best possible position for a band to be in.”
2004’s “Cool to Be You” followed, and then came an even longer (but productive) interval before “Hypercaffium Spazzinate” arrived on another musician-owned West Coast punk label, Epitaph.
So here we are: 40 years in, still going strong. Some of the Descendents left music entirely for long stretches. Some never stopped playing. Some have kids. Some don’t. Everyone’s old and yet they can still do the damn thing. Whatever else has kept these guys together, the coffee probably helped.
Descendents play April 13th at Revolution Live in Fort Lauderdale. jointherevolution.net ~ Tim Moffatt