At the ripe old age of 23, Adolescents lead singer and lyricist Tony Montana feels he's earned the right to sound off a bit--particularly at local music followers who charge that the band, which broke up five years ago, reunited earlier this year strictly to "exploit" its past popularity.
For their brief moment in the limelight, the Adolescents were the darlings of Orange County punk, pioneering that energetic scene in 1981. They even managed to transcend cult status to certified crossover appeal with their underground hits "Amoeba" and "Big Black Hole."
"We were going out and doing things where we lived that nobody else was doing," Montana says of the early days. "We played parties, we played high schools. We did our share to build up a scene in Orange County. For people to come along now and criticize us for what we're doing--they're out of line. They weren't there in the first place to criticize us, so they certainly don't have the right to do it now."
It's hard to imagine anyone blasting the Adolescents for giving it another try. With only one LP and one single to its credit, the band has hardly been overexposed on vinyl. And even though the band was out of action for nearly five years while various members played with an assortment of other groups (including the Detours, DI, Legal Weapon, the Abandoned and Christian Death), the Adolescents' fans remember--an impressive turnout of 2,000 showed up for last year's reunion show at Fender's (where the band headlines again tonight).
Guitarist Rikk Agnew, 28, recalls a recent Hollywood gig. "When we played the Lingerie," he says, "there were guys coming up to me who looked like they had a couple of kids and worked construction. They were normal-looking everyday Joes saying, 'Yeah, I haven't seen you guys in five years, back when I used to be a punker.' We were a part of their lives."
With the new album "Brats in Battalions" just out on SOS Records, the Adolescents hope to become part of another generation's lives. Even though the Adolescents are older--many simply call the band the Ads, which could stand for either Adolescents or Adults, notes Agnew--the message is still the same.
"Adolescents was a name that meant uncertain change, confusion," says Montana. "The same idea is there--an angry confusion. You're changing but you don't know why or what for."
The Adolescents have gone through some changes themselves. The lineup now includes three original members--Montana, Agnew and bassist Steve Soto--with two new additions: drummer Sandy Hansen and guitarist Dan Colburn. And after all this time the music has changed too, according to Agnew, the original band's principal songwriter.
"It's still got the same energy but it's more accessible, a bit more varied, more melodic," he says. "We've all grown up musically. We're better musicians. The music and the lyrics have matured but not to where we've lost our original sound. We didn't want to disorient people the way some bands do."
For this version of the Adolescents, artistic considerations are not the only concern. Getting along and avoiding the fractious disagreements that disrupted the original band also form a primary focus.
"We've all grown up and we know what we want now more or less," says Agnew, who twice walked out of the band in the earlier days.
"Our egos have gone down. It was just too much too soon for us the first time. We weren't ready for it. I always thought this band would get back together. It was just a matter of time for everyone to grow into it. Being able to do what you really want and semi-live off it is a lot better than having your home entertainment system and working 9 to 5. I wouldn't trade this for anything."