The trio consists of Zach Abrego on guitar and vocals, David Medlen on bass and Bilardo Artiga on drums. The seed was planted when Medlen met Artiga while playing briefly together in another group, The Dolly Llamas (which, full disclosure, included this author as frontman).
“I met Bilardo along with [that band’s] 17 other drummers,” Medlen says with a laugh. “Playing with them helped me to relearn to play the bass."
Medlen and Artiga both hail from Los Angeles and found commonality in their origins, along with a newfound longing to chase their musical aspirations after years of being dormant by independently moving to Texas.
“Between work and water polo in high school, I’d play when I could,” Medlen says. “At 16 years old, I always wanted to play in a band. It went on the back burner when I had kids, but now that they are older at 18 and 11, I can make it more of a priority on top of everything else.”
Artiga chimes in: “I played back in L.A., but [then] I joined the punk scene out here," he says. "Prior to that I hadn’t played music in eight or nine years. That was me coming back into the scene thinking that I’d never do music again.”
Now Artiga showcases his skills roughly twice a week as an in-demand drummer that presides over an assortment of different bands, including Hard Detox.
Artiga and Medlen remained close through the years since they first met. Though they were playing in separate projects, they often discussed branching off and starting something of their own. It wasn’t until word got out about Abrego leaving his well-established and now-defunct punk band Blot Out that the two actually decided to pull the trigger and shoot for a new project.
“We just threw a dice out there,” Artiga says. “It was kind of funny because [Abrego] fronted a well-known local band and I thought he would be a douchebag who was too good for us.”
The gamble paid off after they approached Abrego at a show to propose he join the band. It was last February at Gas Monkey Bar and Grill while waiting on legendary punks The Addicts to play. Abrego remembers it well.
“When they came up to me, I was there with my girl and I was like, ‘Sure, I’ll jam,’ but in my head I was like ‘I really don’t even know these dudes,’” he says. “I had seen Bilardo drumming for Chief Swiftwater, though, and when I figured out it was him I was like, ‘Oh shit, that’s that drummer' ... Of course, Bilardo thought I was a hothead.”
When it came down to it though, Artiga was quick to move beyond his imagined impressions.
“We set up a practice and after that first jam we pulled some stuff out of our ass immediately,” Artiga says. “It came out like a greasy shit.”
Bathroom humor is one of the other common binding factors among the band members, though they say they now handle conflict like adults.
“I think we are kind of a mature group … We just make dick jokes,” Artiga says. “We’ve all come from different bands that have dealt with a bunch of stuff. They are either super serious or argue about everything or someone is a hothead. You don’t get that vibe in this band. Everyone is all for one.”
Abrego agrees with that assessment.
“It’s just cool to be in a band where everything isn’t a fight," he says. "I’ve been in bands where every riff is a discussion. It’s just like, ‘Goddamn bro, shut the fuck up!’”
Sitting in the jam space on the second floor of Artiga’s family home, it’s clear these guys are in it for a good time. The jokes fly around consistently even in between respectable accounts of each member's busy personal lives, as they discuss their full-time jobs, upbringings, community contributions and caring for their little fur baby “kitters” at home.
But Hard Detox was able to stop joking long enough to put out a three-track EP last summer called The Great Cleansing that’s full of simple, hefty sonic structure, providing a medium for Abrego’s gritty and grimy vocalizations.
“We set up a practice and after that first jam we pulled some stuff out of our ass immediately ... It came out like a greasy shit.” – Drummer Bilardo Artiga
A simple “punk rock” denomination will do just fine for Hard Detox. It’s heavy and fast and as versatile as their tastes allow; they’re definitely not trying to be anything they’re not. The band’s individual influences vary from Artiga’s taste for Latin music and metal to Abrego’s strict diet of crust/street punk and Medlen’s all-encompassing preference for anything heavy.
They also just finished tracking a new six-track EP called Death Mullet — actually named for one of Abrego’s old haircuts — which is tentatively scheduled for a fall release.
Musically the band promises a few changes in sound compared to the minimalistic chord progressions that laced the songs on their last EP.
“On [The Great Cleansing] we didn’t change up riffs a lot but on this new EP there are a lot of changes,” Abrego says. “I don’t want to give too much info about it, but none of the songs sound the same.”
Expect an official date announcement regarding their upcoming Death Mullet release soon.
"Some of it is about the political state of the world, and how people are suffering and the human race is just fucked as a whole," Abrego says of the album, “or how working retail sucks. The other half is lighthearted though. It’s like our band — nothing super serious.”