The Descendents Didn't Want to Grow Up, But They Did
From his home in Fort Collins, Colorado, Bill Stevenson sounds as content as any legendary punk rocker can be. The Descendents drummer certainly has a right to be laid back: After more than 30 years behind the drum kit, Stevenson has nothing left to prove. Hell, the guy doesn't even sound that concerned about his band's enduring legacy.
"We missed our 10-year anniversary, our 20 and our 30," Stevenson says nonchalantly. "We've never been much for posterity or any of that stuff. We're thinking it might not be too late to get our 33 1/3 year anniversary. We can be like Naked Gun."
All joking aside, the importance of the Descendents shouldn't be understated. Roaring out of California way back in 1978, the band didn't reach its zenith until 1980, when singer Milo Aukerman was recruited to front the band. Milo Goes to College, the resulting debut, sounds as fresh today as it did then.
"I think we had a good sensibility for melodies," Stevenson says. "Back when we started, we didn't have terms like 'melodic hardcore' or 'pop-punk' available. We didn't spend a whole lot of time thinking about terms and genres. We were just trying to play music that was exciting and challenging for us."
Part of the challenge was finding time to perform, as Aukerman was pursuing an advanced degree in biochemistry. The subsequent trio of albums lacked the punch of the debut and the Descendents went on the first of several hiatuses.
Being cited as an influence by such popular bands as Green Day, Blink-182 and The All-American Rejects resulted in a renewed interest. Stevenson claims that quality bands from back in the day will sometimes fare better this time around.
"What I am seeing is the better bands from back then are rising to the surface while the other bands from back then are being utterly forgotten," he says. "If you were a mediocre band from back in the day, you would not be able to draw people now."
As one of the bands headlining this year's Riot Fest, Stevenson feels a special obligation to represent the punk sound of the early '80s.
"I think people have grown to appreciate that point in musical history, that point in the evolution of rock. People are excited to hear the best bands of that time."
And after the tour, they're heading into the studio to work on their first full-length in nearly a decade. But like everything else, Stevenson and crew are taking it in stride.
"We're slowly creeping towards recording a new record. I would say that we are closer than we have been in quite a long time. It's usually a matter of Milo having time and availability, but we are under no deadline or pressure."
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