Music

Peter Pan Is Punk

Japanther's DIY Blueprint

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A recent feature in LA Weekly wondered if No Age's success had hurt their home base, eclectic DIY venue the Smell. After returning from a wealth of touring, the band lamented that the energy had changed. It wasn't just family anymore—it had become something bigger. The intimacy was gone, replaced with cool.

Such are the spoils of success, I suppose. And No Age took that route, signing with a label (Sub Pop) and accepting gigs like the Nike showcase at last year's MusicfestNW. Not long prior to that, it was free shows at vegan grocery stores, but now they're clearly too big to perform alongside soy products. No Age turned a corner and they can't likely turn back. I do not mean to chastise their decisions—we should all be fortunate enough to embrace success if it comes knocking—but one must wonder how sustainable being a band becomes as the distance grows between them and their foundation.

There is, of course, an alternative path, and another noisy duo, New York's Japanther, have followed it. For the last eight years Ian Vanek and Matt Reilly have been touring furiously, bringing their fuzzy, thrashing, life-affirming, and succinct dance punk to anyone who'll listen. They play squats, basements, kitchens, fields, and bars. They're open to anywhere and anyone, as long as it means staying true to their non-corporate, punk ideals.

This ethic drew in one of DIY's originals, Crass member Penny Rimbaud, who produced Japanther's latest recording, Tut Tut, Now Shake Ya Butt, as well as contributing spoken word. Aside from the album, Rimbaud's fit, fun-loving, 65-year-old presence showed Japanther something perhaps more important: Living the punk ideal is not just a youthful fantasy—stick to it and you can emerge happy, inspired, and vital.

To be sure, this path is at times fraught with difficulty, but persevering makes the accomplishment all the more worthwhile. It has a sort of Peter Pan effect, says Vanek. "I'm still a little kid. Right now we've been stuck on summer vacation at [age] 14 for the last 10 years. It's not bad, my friend... 14 years old on summer vacation is all right."

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