Music, good music, speaks to something within your soul. It doesn’t matter what genre it falls into, nor what age the listener happens to be. When you hear music that moves you in unexpected ways, you find yourself wanting more of that feeling.
Opening yourself to music across the spectrum means finding hidden gems that you once thought didn’t exist. The trick is to listen with an open mind, shedding preconceived notions of what other people think about an artist or band that you enjoy.
Giving music more than a cursory listen leads to finding music that touches you on a deeper level.
One such band that has done exactly that are The Bombpops, from southern California. A rock band with a punk rock attitude, coupled with lyrics that go beyond scratching the surface, they are writing music that speaks to everything from teen angst to being real with your life. They will tour Europe in May with the Punk In Drublic Festival before returning to the United States to play the Camp Anarchy Festival on June 2.
Comprised of Poli Van Dam, Jen Razavi, Josh Lewis and Neil Wayne, they stay busy with touring, recording, collaborating on craft beer, and so much more. I caught up with Jen Razavi recently to talk about the past, the present and the future of the band.
Acknowledging that the band is much more than the pop punk label that many have sought to tag them with, I mentioned that the lyrics go deeper than many might think.
“Thank you,” she said. “I was just thinking about that yesterday, because we’re writing right now for a new record. The songs are a little deeper than the pop punk realm and we’re like Should I do this? Should I go this way?”
Having started the band in 2007 with Van Dam, they went through myriad drummers and bass guitarists before landing on the right combination with Lewis and Wayne in 2012. The chemistry is plainly evident upon first listen.
“It’s funny,” she continued, “because Poli and I grew up and been in bands together since 2007. She’s been the person with me the longest, by far, and most consistently in my entire life. So, her and I are on the same wavelength in how we play and how we write songs. It’s an unspoken thing for us.
“Josh and Neil have actually known each other since kindergarten, having grown up in the high desert together outside of Los Angeles. They communicate with each other through music…”
Although it took them a few years to get the recipe of the band correct, the fact is that they are playing on a much higher level now than they were less than ten years ago. They are a single unit that is on point with their music.
“Yeah, yeah,” she exclaimed. “Those two (Josh and Neil) are pretty amazing in how they’re able to communicate. Usually I’ll bring a song or Poli will bring a song and we kind of take it from there, and it is pretty amazing to watch how Josh and Neil kind of build their parts.”
Their sound, from the EP Stole The TV (2011) up to and including 2017’s full-length album Fear Of Missing Out, has surely tightened and most definitely matured. While the maturity is to be expected, what stands out is how they are constantly honing the craft of songwriting.
“I couldn’t agree with you more,” said Jen. “When we started the band, we wanted to do it so badly…I mean, some bands have it right off the bat. We just wanted to do it so badly that we got up there and probably shouldn’t have. But we loved doing it. We kept at it so long that we were able to mature and get tighter just by doing it.
“I think NOFX is a band that has tightened up and matured. I think Bad Religion is the exception and has just been so on it. As we’ve grown, we wanted to get better at the art of telling a story. It could have a great melody, but if it doesn’t have a story that you can feel and relate to, then I don’t pick up on it as much as the great melody.”
From “Fear of Missing Out” comes the song CA in July and the line “I made you listen to all the songs I wish I’d written…” It’s something that almost everyone can relate to. Did she imagine that an older generation would take as much meaning from their songs as the younger ones do?
“Well,” she said, “you are a music lover.”
It’s one of those songs that most people might only scratch the surface when they look at the band…
“I think when people see us, especially for the first time, like when we’re walking up on stage, they really do just scratch the surface. It takes until something tips the blocks to realize what we have going on.”
One thing we both agree on is that “female-fronted” is not a genre. Good music is good music, regardless of gender.
“Um… we are,” she said with laughter in her voice. “But I also appreciate that… you know no one would ever refer to a ‘male-fronted’ band. I mean, why can’t you just be a band?”
Another aspect of the music industry that we try and shy away from is pigeonholing bands into a neat and tidy genre label…
“You don’t realize how much we appreciate that aspect of music journalism,” she said. “Especially around an album release… we do a lot of interviews and stuff… everyone’s great, but there are times when you can tell if somebody has done this for a while or when somebody has done their research and listened to the record.”
Another thing that we have in common is a love of beer, especially the craft variety. In 2018, the band collaborated with Amplified Ale Works in San Diego to present Bombhops (IPA) in conjunction with the release of their Dear Beer EP.
“Poli and I are from San Diego,” Razavi said, “and there’s a huge craft beer scene in San Diego. There are all kinds of breweries, left and right. So, we met this lady named Aubrey who works at Amplified Ale Works, and they do collaborations with bands. They’re kind of a smaller brewery, but they also have a restaurant down at Pacific Beach.
“She approached us, and we were like ‘That’s funny’, because we had just done an EP and the cover looked like an old-time beer label. It was one of those things that just worked out perfectly. The beer came out shortly after the release of the EP.”
Beginning in May, they will be part of the rolling circus known as the Punk In Drublic Festival, sharing the stage with NOFX, Bad Religion, The Real McKenzies and more. The excitement of this upcoming tour was evident in her voice.
“This is probably the biggest thing we’ve ever done. I’m trying not to build it up too much, because I’m excited for it. But it is pretty huge. It’s a dream tour for us. It’s also a lot of the same lineup as Camp Anarchy. We’ll all being coming home from Europe, straight off that tour and going to Camp Anarchy. That’ll be fun!”
Literally a few days after returning from Europe, they will find themselves thirty miles east of Columbus at Legend Valley in Thornville, Ohio for the Camp Anarchy Festival. The family atmosphere at last year’s festival, continuing with this year’s event, is something that reminds me of when I lived in Germany for a few years in the late 1980’s.
“That’s great!” she exclaimed. “You know, that makes sense, because a lot of the people going to this are… grownup. NOFX fans, Bad Religion fans… it’s not that they don’t have young fans, as well, but it’s really cool to have events like this where people can bring their kids and their family to expose them to a cool environment where you can drink, you can camp and you don’t have to drive. It’s a very European thing”
We circled back around to their music bridging multiple generations, culminating with a song that resonates deeply with this old-school punk. That song is I Call Bullshit, from their Dear Beer EP, written by a friend of the band.
“Chris Fogal is in a band called The Gamits,” said Razavi. “One of the reasons we went with him is because we love The Gamits. He’s one of my favorite lyricists of all time. When he presented the song to us, he said ‘I’m not going to do anything with this, it’s not quite a Gamits song, not quite anything I’d use for anything else…’
“The whole song was written. I just wrote the guitar lead. We were honored to have that (song) on there. What I liked about it is that it fit the whole vibe and content (of the Dear Beer EP). We are a little bit dark, kind of. This song kind of fits in that realm of just calling someone out on their bullshit.”
From FOMO to I Call Bullshit, do yourself a solid and really listen to the lyrics within their music. There’s something there for everyone, from teenagers to the over-fifty crowd. You won’t come away disappointed.
A final life lesson from the band can be summed up in one line…
“Stop bullshittin’ your way through life…”
They will play Day 3 of Camp Anarchy on June 2 at Legend Valley in Thornville, Ohio.
The Bombpops – FOMO