Like a lot of guys, I’m guilty of mostly listening to all the old bands I grew up on, but holy crap I love The Shrine. The young power trio from Venice plays unironic, razor sharp, and totally fun metal in the tradition of Motörhead with cosmic riffs from outer space like Thin Lizzy and the good times of Van Halen. Yet they are also informed by the stony heaviness of Sabbath and aggro DIY spirit of Black Flag–which is why they have a bitchin’ split 7″ covering songs by both of the bands. But even better is their amazing new LP, Bless Off, which takes off like a rocket straight into your nearest earhole and flies out your ass. The quality of songs, chops, and riffs blew me away.
I met the guys after their killer set at The Roxy a few weeks ago and they happened to be the coolest dudes ever. I went ahead and asked some questions to singer and axeman Josh Landau afterward…
MW: Can you hypothesize why Bless Off shreds so hard when many bands fall short in their second effort?
JL: We’re influenced by stuff with roots–ripping off guitar riffs from old stuff that’s withstood the test of time–and there’s an infinite well of inspiration in that shit. We’re not looking out for what wave is popular right now for 5 minutes.
MW: While you guys always seem to have fun, you are a super tight band. How did you guys meet and how long have you known each other? How would you describe each guy’s contributions to the combo?
JL: We’ve been a band a little over 5 years now. I met our drummer Jeff when he moved out here from Baltimore ’cause he couldn’t get a band together out there. Court and I had flipped out over Thin Lizzy at a party a month or two before that. When we all jammed together for the first time, I realized that just the three of us could make enough noise and decided to just get shit going. We had all been playing music for years, and liked the power of being tight and hitting the nail on the head all together at the same time. So we practiced, I started singing, and we worked at it until we could do it in our sleep.
MW: Is writing songs something that just happens when you’re hanging out and jamming? Or are you killing yourselves, fixing, refining, battling amongst each other?
JL: We used to jam a lot more, like 5 or 6 hours a day, 5 times a week. The first few years of the band we didn’t know what else to do and didn’t want to do anything else. We didn’t tour yet, and had to work really hard to get on a show or to set up our own shows, so we just spent a lot of time jamming and tripping out. The songwriting usually comes out of riffs I make up while sitting on the toilet playing guitar. Nowadays, we’ve been learning new songs as we record them, trying to catch some of the good mistakes that come out and the energy that happens when ya play something new for the first time and are still fighting to get it right–before you totally wire it into your brain and get confident and lazy.
MW: The title cut is amazing. Kinda reminds me of C.O.C.’s “Holier” or Slayer’s “The Crooked Cross” but way more upbeat. Can you talk about being skeptical yet stoked at the same time?
JL: For sure. Around every corner and on every news headline you can’t help but feel in your gut that the human race is totally screwed and on its way out. When ya look at history, freedom seems to build–civil rights, womens rights, segregation, the church’s influence on people–for the last hundred years, all that stuff in this country seemed to really change for the better. But now it kinda seems like it’s all being removed secretly and no one talks about it. I’m not an informed person at all, but it just seems like police brutality and the people in power’s actions toward poor people, sick people, and unfortunate people are at an all-time fuck you. I’m totally skeptical of anyone with “answers” or conspiracy info, too. People and their Internet statistics are shit. Some 9/11 conspiracy site I saw once also had some bullshit about the recreational swimming pool for the guests at Auschwitz. What are you gonna do with that info anyway? I’m super thankful of where I grew up and where I live, and that people aren’t dropping bombs right here and I don’t have to steal to eat or get clean water. As fucked as things are, a lot of people I see complaining have got it so much better than most of the world and they don’t appreciate it. If you’re not gonna fight to try make some kinda positive difference that’s fine; you don’t have to. I don’t really do much. But at least be stoked on what you do have and fucking live. When the lady on the corner starts preaching to you about needing God in your life and a tie around your neck, you can tell her to bless off.
MW: The lead-off track on the new LP totally rips as well. It’s probably already used in a skate video but wouldn’t it be rad to see a Dodgers closer come out of the bullpen while it plays? Would you let such a thing happen?
JL: Sure, why not? If they were to dig it, let ‘em blast it. We’re not gonna be cops and tell people what to do or make rules about who can enjoy our sound.
MW: Of course there’s also “The Duke,” that psychedelic song that was penned by the great Chuck Dukowski. How did you get crossed up with him? He says great things about your band often…
JL: He lives here in Venice and his band plays a lot, so we booked a show with him at Timewarp Guitar Shop about 5 years ago. I was so excited to meet him, and asked him about his songwriting credit on “Little Man With A Gun In His Hand” (The Minutemen song). He told me the story, our bands played, and he was all stoked and was like, “I want to help you guys get your music out there!” We still turn to him for a lot of help guiding us through some of the bullshit that comes up steering a band through tours and scum booking agents and all that fun stuff.
MW: I love how you guys rep Venice and extend the neighborhood’s rich tradition of music and skate culture. Did you guys grow up there or get sucked over there to be part of it? What’s it like to fly such a heavy flag?
JL: I grew up here. I went to city hall meetings as a 10 year old to get the Venice skate park built. I caught a fin from a longboarder surfing without a leash at the breakwater when I was 14, and got like 25 stitches in my head. Our bass player Court worked at a few of the bong shops and other spots at the boardwalk. We both went to Santa Monica High School. We’re big fans of the history and pull a lot from it.
MW: Is Eliminator a real store in Venice? I totally want to go on a pilgrimage there…
JL: Hopefully, one day, man. For now, it’s just a recording studio lair where we’ve got a ton of boxes of records and skateboards and shirts.
MW: Skate rock is almost an oxymoron because the former is a constant threat to the former. Have you guys ever hurt yourselves skating and had to take a break from music, like when James Hetfield broke his wrist on a skateboard?
JL: I rolled my ankle skating inside Dystopia in The Hague, Holland, after our show and couldn’t walk in the morning. Went to the ER and had it checked out for free and then was rolling in a wheelchair for a few days. We kept playing. The first night I sat on a stool and by the second night at this Desert Fest in London, I just limped through our set and wore one shoe. It was retarded but it would’ve been more retarded to miss the shows. Two weeks later my little brother who’s our road dog broke his leg in a skate contest at a show we played in Belgium. It was such a fucking bummer. He had to fly home.