An interview session with First Lady Assassins (FLA) isn't your standard, stuffy, sit around the table affair. After all, that doesn't seem appropriate for Tulsa's leading do- it-yourself punk band. Instead, I showed up with at the band's practice space with the requisite pen, paper and recorder--armed with a cooler and two bags of everyone's favorites from the McDonald's dollar menu (which, incidentally, spurred a minor debate over value menus in general and a ringing endorsement of Taco Bueno's 2 for $1 menu).
What resulted wasn't so much an interview (as hard as bassist Jeremy Crouch tried to keep things on track), but more of a "get to know the band" and ritual hazing session. Luckily, I wasn't the one being hazed, but joining in the fun as everyone verbally dog-piled current drummer Brent Blackburn--who took it all in stride with his signature smirk and an occasional "Oh man--what did I do to deserve that?" response.
Born from the rubble of previous bands, most of FLA's current members are veterans of the old, internally dubbed "T-Town Wuss Core" movement. Bassist Jason Hamilton was part of Day By Day; vocalist Jason Coon, was the original frontman of Wreckless Process; guitarist Brian Bolton came from Least Koalafied; and guitarist Jeremy Crouch played in Urban Tribe.
Reflecting on the old scene also brought up mention of other key bands like Glen Strain, HotrodboB and Cold Summer as well as a few chuckles about the overall devil-may-care attitude of the scene that FLA still carries forward "We're the second wave of T-Town Wuss Core," Bolton proclaimed, kicking all political correctness out the door and continuing "We are the Nagasaki to their Hiroshima!" Who worries about political correctness when you're in a punk band anyway?
The groundwork for FLA was actually laid a couple years ago with Treadmill Trackstar, who played Urban Tulsa's NewVo showcase at The Hive in the spring of '06 with Congress of a Crow, afterEIGHT and Traveler. Shortly thereafter, vocalist Mike Cobb left the band, opening the door for Jordan Coon to join ranks and the group became "the badass rock and roll machine" (quoting Coon) that is now known as First Lady Assassins.
With the transition, the group became a bit more organized and stepped up its game while never turning its back on the band's original mantra: "We just want to play F-ing music!" Image be damned, these guys just want to rock and make music fun again.
The Take-Home Version
After nearly a year in the studio, a few membership changes, a stack of shows and house parties and more PBR and Kentucky Deluxe than can be measured, Tulsa music fans are finally getting something they can deafen themselves to in the privacy of their own homes. Yes, it's true boys and girls: this weekend you can finally get your very own copy of the bands self-titled debut disc, First Lady Assassins.
It's not like there weren't a few bumps in the road along the way, however. While recording started in earnest with Ryan Wallace at Armstrong Studios in June of 2007, the work eventually segued to producer Stephen Egerton, who "respectfully kept pushing us to be more concise and consistent," according to Coon.
Before sessions were finished, original drummer Blake Goodwin departed (but only after completing his drum tracks) and the band is quick to clarify that "Blake never quit the band."
"He just left to pursue a more steady future," Bolton explains, sharing that Goodwin is currently studying music business and sound engineering at Full Sail University in Florida.
"(Bassist) Derek left around the same time, of his own free will," Coon continued, completing the latest band transition.
Although admittedly concerned with the vacancies created before finishing the disc, a solution to the situation was found rather painlessly as friends Jason Hamilton and Brent "The Ogreslayer" Blackwell stepped in to fill the gaps at bass and drums, respectively.
Still, not everything has been smooth sailing since then. Earlier this year, FLA lost both new members for a couple of months as Hamilton broke his shoulder (ironically, while sober) and Blackburn caught mono (purportedly from a fat chick). While the timing for such mishaps fell at the best time possible, relatively speaking (the album was being finished out in the studio), it still left a gap in the band for a couple of shows that had already been booked.
Once again, old friends and allies from the T-Town Wuss Core days stepped up to plate as former Wreckless Process/current Violence to Vegas members Brennan McDonald and Matt Barrett filled in on bass and drums while Hamilton and Blackwell recovered.
"That shows how much the scene has grown," Coon commented. "Just the fact that we could call upon anybody to help us--the camaraderie between bands now versus a couple years ago is a lot different."
Somewhere amongst the drama, an album's worth of songs was finished, resulting in the new disc, First Lady Assassins. With comic book styled artwork, courtesy of Jonden Jackson, the new disc fills a spot in the music scene that has been sorely missing in Tulsa for a few years now. Not since HotrodboB's 2004 release, No Sir-ee Bob, has the local music scene witnessed such a focused punk-rock disc.
While Egerton may be trying to expand his palette beyond the genre with which he began, he can take pride in this disc, which puts the band in a place worthy of being mentioned as a follower of punk icons like NOFX, early Green Day, Meat Puppets, and yes--even The Descendents and All. Eleven songs clock-in at just under 31 minutes with a hit and run, leave 'em wanting more approach that flies by and leaves you wondering what just happened. What more could you ask for out of a real punk disc in 2008?
No candy coatings here, folks; just good old garage punk that keeps a tongue in cheek and the beer on ice. And while early tunes like "COE," "Queen of the Mountain" and "History of Failure" are still in tact, FLA even takes a momentary turn on "Grey is the New Black" that could warrant a little mainstream radio attention, with its mid-tempo groove, melodic pop-punk vocal and strong chorus hook.
Elsewhere on the disc, it's hard not to sing along to the minute and a half anthem "Pills" or pogo to the breakneck beats of "I Hate Your Plans" and "Dan's Song."
"Request Lifeline," the first song the recording lineup wrote together, closes out the disc. Although it was originally written out of frustration with the local music scene and state of radio a couple of years ago (it even name checks a couple local cover bands), it's just as appropriately aimed at what's going on in cities elsewhere across the nation. With a summer tour currently being lined up to expand the group's schedule regionally, the song should hit home immediately for fans in other cities and continue to prove that Tulsa is harvesting a broad palette of quality bands.
At one point in the evening, Brian Bolton described FLA as "more a band of brothers than a leader and his army." While many bands claim that, you can usually tell who the leader is and who's following or fighting for power. That's not the case with First Lady Assassins.
Even though the band has taken a new step forward and is taking things more seriously (creating its own label, Angry Panda Records, to release the new disc; creating a new website at firstladyassassins.com and planning a regional tour) the goal remains, first and foremost, to enjoy playing music.
Coon admits that the challenge now is the try and balance the fun and professional sides of the band, but the group has learned from its own and other bands' past experiences. To quote Coon, the biggest thing when operating with a DIY ethic is "don't be lazy about it, just do it" and FLA is doing just that.
This Saturday night, FLA launches the new disc with a CD release party at the Blue Dome with Swamp Fox, Streetlight Fight and My Solstice opening the show. Tickets are only $10 in advance via Starship Records, Under the Mooch or any of the participating bands and include a free copy of the CD when you arrive. It's an all ages show with doors opening at 8pm and if anyone knows how to throw a party, it's the boys in FLA, so don't miss the fun.
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