By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
Around the same time that the band was signing with Epitaph, Aukerman--working in the labs at the University of Wisconsin--began to feel the need to be back in a band. He had contributed backing vocals to several ALL albums, and even played a show with the band in New Jersey several years ago when singer Chad Price had a throat infection. But Aukerman wanted to return to music in more of a permanent fashion.
"Well, we have a long history with Milo; I mean, he's been my best friend since we were kids," Stevenson says. "He's been in and out of the band a number of times, and he's actually been involved creatively with several of the ALL albums, so he's always been kind of a fifth member or a silent partner, but totally absorbed with his science work. He wanted back in the action. He wanted to play music, so who else would he play it with but us?" Aukerman's return caused somewhat of a sticky situation in the Descendents-ALL camp, since the band already had a singer, Price, who had been with the band for two albums and had been living in the same house as Stevenson. The problem was ultimately easy to resolve.
"What we did is, we just thought about it, and we thought, 'Well, hell. There's got to be a way we can let Milo back in without pushing Chad out the other end,'" Stevenson says. "So what we did is, we kind of mutated into two bands. So now we're Descendents with Milo, but we're also ALL with Chad...It's more of like a two-headed baby than anything else."
To that end, the band is releasing another album as ALL in the spring, with Price on the mike, around the same time its first tour in eight years with Aukerman wraps up. The tour is not yet officially under way, although the band has already played several dates--including a full week at L.A.'s famed The Whisky--that Stevenson says, "started out as just being two [shows] and kept selling and selling." While in L.A., the Descendents played with a laundry list of both up-and-coming and veteran punk bands, including Down By Law, the band led by ex-ALL frontman Dave Smalley.
"We see Dave a lot. We're real close with him and his wife, Caroline," Stevenson says. "Caroline was actually pretty good friends with the old version of the band, you know, me and Milo and stuff. It seems like we keep real close with everybody."
More than with any other band in recent memory, membership in Descendents or ALL means belonging to a sort of surrogate family that is impossible to escape from, the musical equivalent of the Corleones. "It's kind of like the incest knows no bounds," Stevenson says. "Tony (Lombardo) and Frank (Navetta) played on the record. Frank lives with me. He's not in the band, but we go fishing all the time. So it's like, it's kind of more of a family thing; I know that sounds really cliche, but if you came out here you would see what I mean."
Everything Sucks sounds like Aukerman never left, touring the country with the rest of the guys in the band's refurbished school bus instead of cooped up in a lab. Ironically, it probably sounds that way because Aukerman has been gone for all these years.
"I think during his absence in the lab and everything, I think our friendship has grown a lot stronger because I think we earned a lot of respect for each other," Stevenson says. "We respect him for basically leaving a rock band and going and being a nerd; him for us having the balls to put our heads down and persevere as ALL even though we lost our singer. It just feels more comfortable than ever on stage. I think, God, we're all 33, and it just feels like a nice, aged bottle of wine: just right."
The album picks up where 1987's ALL left off, with Egerton wielding his guitar like a chain saw while drummer Stevenson and bassist Alvarez lay down a rhythm track solid enough to withstand anything from the upper reaches of the Richter scale. Lyrically, the band has matured--but only a little bit. There are still the adolescent bursts of energy ("Coffee Mug") and humor ("Eunuch Boy," "Doghouse"), but for the most part, the band sticks to what it does best: writing songs about girls and what happens when you fall in love with them.
The characters in Descendents songs have always been brokenhearted geeks who wear their hearts on their sleeves. They lust after the girls they can't have ("You don't feel the same/You made it clear to me"), and even when they find a girl who loves them, they can't be happy ("I guess I'd love her back if I only could").
Lyrics like those could only come from someone who has experienced a fair share of heartache, and Stevenson admits, "We've been known to flower it up a little for the sake of drama, but basically, yeah, they're all pretty much real." That kind of reality has sometimes caused problems for the band.