In­done­sian Junk keeps spirit of glam-punk alive

Wisconsin Gazette - - Opinion - By Mike Hol­loway Staff writer

When Don­ald Trump was elected in 2016, Daniel James was up­set with more than just the out­come of the elec­tion.

“Peo­ple were say­ing that punk is go­ing to get good again,” James says. “I felt al­most of­fended by that and didn’t want to par­tic­i­pate. Peo­ple are los­ing their health care and los­ing their rights.”

It’s not that James doesn’t use his plat­form as a mu­si­cian to take po­lit­i­cal or so­cial stances. He’s vo­cal about his ze­ro­tol­er­ance pol­icy of “no ho­mo­phobes, no racists” when pro­mot­ing and per­form­ing at shows.

“We will call you out,” James says. James writes up­pity, glam-rock-in­spired punk mu­sic that would fit into the New York punk scene of the 1970s. His band, In­done­sian Junk, even looks the part — stud­ded belts, pin-rid­dled leather jack­ets and leop­ard-print tops are of­ten part of the garb. The mu­sic is a nod to the past, but not a re­cre­ation of it. In­done­sian Junk’s sound feels fresh.

Fans con­cerned about the state of punk mu­sic need only to look — or lis­ten — to bands like In­done­sian Junk to re­al­ize that good punk-rock never re­ally went any­where.

In­done­sian Junk was formed af­ter James up­loaded some mu­sic for an un­named project to Band­camp in 2014. He even­tu­ally named it af­ter lyrics from Cheap Trick’s “Sur­ren­der.”

James met cur­rent bass player Johnny Cyanide dur­ing Alice Cooper’s 2012 per­for­mance at Sum­mer­fest. Cyanide was stand­ing in the row ahead of James.

“Cooper was play­ing a lot of stuff I didn’t like, so I yelled out ‘Dwight Fry,’ and he turned around and high-fived me,” James says. “It seems like such a cliché ’80s thing.”

Cur­rent drum­mer Mike Mat­tner was added to the mix af­ter con­flicts with the band’s pre­vi­ous drum­mer cre­ated an open­ing. Mat­tner made his first recorded ap­pear­ance on the band’s de­but full length, Stars in the Night, last year.

“I feel like we’re a re­ally good band now,” James says. “I feel like it’s the ul­ti­mate ver­sion of our songs when it’s us play­ing to­gether.”

The most re­cent ev­i­dence of the band’s chem­istry comes in the form of a new EP, Dark­ness Call­ing, re­leased Aug. 23. The EP has four songs — power-pop-punk bliss, with catchy riffs, even catchier hooks and mas­sive so­los.

The first track, “When I Find You,” uses a warn­ing as its re­frain: “I heard you were back in town / When I find you, you’re gonna get beat up.” From the head-bop­ping bass line in the verses to the solo that erupts from the mid­dle of the song, the band’s strengths are quickly ev­i­dent.

Next is a cover of KISS’ “C’mon and Love Me,” which re­flects the in­flu­ence such artists as T-Rex and Hanoi Rocks have had on James’ song­writ­ing. The band wraps up the cover with a teaser of an­other KISS hit — the open­ing riff to “Detroit Rock City” is played, then fades out. It’s a fun lit­tle joke.

The third track, “I Could Die,” slows things down with somber lyrics of heart­break and self-dep­re­ca­tion. The down­ward shift is repli­cated with a gui­tar solo that wails just as wist­fully as James’ vo­cals.

The clos­ing track, “See the Light,” is a rock­ing and rolling num­ber that shows the darker side of the band, as James asks, “Do you see the light? Do you want to die?” Car­ried by a bluesy gui­tar riff and group vo­cals and cul­mi­nat­ing in a flurry of noise, this track con­tains the lyric that be­came the EP’s name.

In cel­e­bra­tion of the new EP, In­done­sian Junk is em­bark­ing on a “Dark­ness Across Amer­ica” tour, which will cover the Mid­west be­fore head­ing east and then back.

When tour­ing is over, James plans to re­turn to the stu­dio to record an­other al­bum.

“I def­i­nitely have a lot of songs still in me,” James says. “It helps me com­part­men­tal­ize my life — it’s a great out­let.”

PHOTO: SOME WEIRD SIN RECORDS

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