Smells Like Bean Spirit
Although the Descendents have been a band to repeatedly go on hiatus and reform, the band has been active since 2010, progressively getting busier and still looking for the perfect cup of coffee.
Although much has been made of Tulsa’s music scene, that attention has mostly focused on the historic Tulsa Sound with artists like Leon Russell, J.J. Cale and Dwight Twilley, our roots in R&B with The Gap Band, and the pop success of Hanson. Much of the current attention is turned toward a largely Americana and blues-based movement often referred to as the New Tulsa Sound in a nod to its roots in Tulsa’s ‘70s movement.
What often gets overlooked is a flourishing punk movement with a flurry of shows at The Fur Shop, Barkingham Palace, and an annual punk festival built around the Fourth of July which just celebrated its sixth year.
What most people don’t realize is that Stephen Egerton, guitarist for seminal California punk bands the Descendents and All, is a Tulsa resident who previously ran Armstrong studios, which saw bands like MXPX stop in to record while passing through Tulsa on tour. Although the Descendents have notoriously been a band to repeatedly go on hiatus and reform, the band has been relatively active since regrouping for some one-off shows in 2010, progressively getting busier and not looking back.
“Yeah, the last time we played Tulsa was 22 years ago,” Egerton says. “Playing a city the size of Tulsa is harder than you might think for a band our size. We usually play about 50 shows a year, so we have to hit the more obvious markets, where we know we do well. We finally got an offer to play Tulsa, so we’re looking forward to coming back.”
Although the Descendents were originally based out of California, Egerton and bassist Karl Alvarez grew up in Utah and played together in the Salt Lake City based Massacre Boys.
“I was living in Washington D.C., not really playing out much and studying classical music, trying to learn all I could about music. My oldest friend, Karl — we’ve been friends since junior high — found out the Descendents needed a bass player and went to audition. When he found out they needed a guitar player too, he called me to come out as well. Karl and I were both huge fans, so it was a dream come true just to come out and jam with them. I think Bill [Stevenson] and Milo [Aukerman] thought, ‘Well, these guys are friends and already have some chemistry and know the songs’ so they hired us both.
“We did our first tour shortly after that. We recorded in ’86 and toured all of 1987. Then Milo went to study for his Ph.D. so we changed singers and became All. We toured and did our laps with All and after Milo was done with school, he wanted to take a year off and spend with the band, so we recorded Everything Sucks at the end of ’96 and toured in ’97, then Milo was off to tend to personal issues and live his normal life.”
When asked what brought him to Tulsa, Egerton explained that, “We had toured again and everyone was starting families. My wife, Natalie, is from here and grew up in Tulsa — she was born in Australia, but her family moved to Tulsa when she was 11, so she grew up here. We had our daughter, Sophie, in Colorado, but the band was less active and she had family here and we had grandparents here to help with the kids, which can’t be under-valued, so we moved here and settled into Tulsa.”
Once in Tulsa, Egerton founded and ran Armstrong Studios with Ryan Wallace, recording a number of local bands as well as some national bands. After running Armstrong Studios for roughly 10 years, Egerton closed the studio, citing the growing number of quality recording studios in the Tulsa area.
“As time went on, I moved more to mixing, because it was something I could do at home, so I moved into mixing and working on TV music. Eventually, All started playing shows again, but Bill had a couple of major health issues. Once the dust settled and Bill was better and functional, we got a substantial offer for some Descendents shows. We took three shows and added another and we really had a blast.
“After that, Milo figured he could play a certain number of shows a year, so we started taking on a few more. At some point, we decided to record a new album and we’re having a blast now.”
The band’s latest album, Hypercaffium Spazzinate, while addressing more adult themes of love and relationships, growing old, and dealing with illness, is also a nod to both the band’s frenetic energy and part of an ongoing in-joke that goes back to the band’s early recordings and the group’s love for coffee.
“Yeah, that’s a big part of our thing,” Egerton shares. “For Bill, it goes back to when he and his buddies made this godawful instant brew, but we’re all four coffee fiends. That was part of our ritual before practice: we’d all go to Dunkin’ Donuts and get the biggest coffee we could, get all wound up and let it out at rehearsal. That’s all kind of woven into our music. Some bands are more beer bands, but the Descendents is a coffee band.”
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