Artist Spotlight: The Descendents

Today’s artist spotlight is dedicated to one of my all time favorite bands and a band that you probably enjoy somebody influence by them: the Descendents. A well-known band as far as punk goes, they’re pretty unknown in the mainstream but have huge artists that have quoted their influence – Dave Grohl appears in the documentary about the band Filmage, Travis Barker of Blink 182 has a Descendents tattoo on his leg, and their often credited as the band that invented, or at least was in on the ground floor of, pop punk.

Started in 1977 in Southern California by a few nerds and outcasts, they didn’t really get moving until ’82 when singer and eventual mascot-inspiration Milo Aukerman joined the group on vocals. Eventually in ’86 the band settled on the lineup of Bill Stevenson (original member) on drums, Milo Aukerman on vocals, Karl Alvarez on bass, and Stephen Egerton on guitar. Their songs were faster than most other music at the time, proclaiming their love of coffee, food, and their experience with women; generally covering immature topics. Their first album Milo Goes To College was different than anything that came out at the time and has proved to be a huge influence on the punk and hardcore community.

The band has gone through many hiatuses and reformations, most notably “reforming” with new lead singers under the name All (the name is taken from a Descendents album title and philosophy of “to not settle for some, to always go for All”). Hiatuses occurred primarily when Aukerman would take time off for school and he eventually earned his PhD in Biochemistry. In recent years, the band primarily plays festivals and larger events a few times a year and has been rumored to be working on new material, but I’ll believe that when I see it. I was able to see them at Riot Fest about 5 years ago and the show was incredible.

The members of the band have gone on to continuing influence in music, with Bill Stevenson playing drums for a time in Black Flag then going on to start The Blasting Room, a well known punk/hardcore/alternative recording studio in Fort Collins, CO. Stephen Egerton continues to produce music and Karl Alvarez playing in various side projects.

They’ve become a longitudinal study in punk rock, which is a bit of a rarity. Their first full length release was in 1982 and their most recent full length is Cool to be You from 2004. While their most recent release features songs centered on flatulence and food, it also has songs about Bill Stevenson’s struggle with his father’s death in the song “One More Day” and a fairly scathing comment on American politics and history in “‘Merican” (posted below). They’ve shown they can tackle serious subject matter, but are still the fun, silly guys that started out in the 80s.

Bluelightspecial’s recommended place to start with the Descendents:

The album Everything Sucks strikes a good balance of the unpolished, fast and loose sound of early Descendents with the older, more refined form of the band. Then move to Milo Goes to College, followed by Cool to be You, and fill in the rest.

Further studies in Descendents’ world but not quite the band:

Stephen Egerton’s Seven Degrees of Stephen Egerton – an album of collaborations with various artists and Stephen Egerton
Documentary Filmage – a wonderful look at the band’s existence made by fans and crowd funded through it’s development
Discography of All – called “The band guilty of not being the Descendents”, all of the members of the band with a different lead singer