Strung Out : Jason Cruz
Girls, guns and caffeine bombs

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Every now and then comes a band that's got an edge over all the rest of their peers. Either they pioneer some kinda new sound or milk an existing one to the point where they're skilled enough to wrest away some instrumental dynamic and apply it to their own and can suddenly declare their momentary independence.
    No, Strung Out's not so far beyond their Fat Wreck brethren, or the So. Cal scenesters in general, but their hardcore/metal/punk hybrid style takes 'em a step further than your typical pop-crossover radio pansies. With beefier dual guitar chops and melodic bloodlines that trace clear back to Beatles-bore histrionics, Strung Out's an atomically charged presence poised to rise above the waves and waves of bleached blonde undercurrent still failing to make a mark on the So. Cal shoreline.
    You've got five similarly dressed guys with varying musical interests that probably couldn't piece together a minute long dialogue together outside the studio, but get 'em in there behind their instruments, fuse influences flung as far back as classic rock, pop, metal, and punk, and you've got a technically proficient unit with progressive ambitions and heightened motor skills.

Strung Out - Click to enlargeJust prior to catching their current headlining tour with Rufio and Poison The Well at NYC's Irving Plaza, I hung with Strung Out's wiry frontman, Jason Cruz; band lyricist, spokesman, and all out character actor who embeds well bred intent behind smiley-faced song titles and self-destructive stage maneuvers.
    So some 90 minutes before their appearance, and only about 40 before the mad dash for the Heineken mini-kegs, Jason and I discussed An American Paradox, vagrancy, frustration, trust, integrity, the two Elvises, and the Australian outback . . . amidst 5-7 minute intervals of start and stop button pushing and unintended pleasantries with walk through wanderers. All in all, a highly eventful and earful of an evening that caught me a near buzz and left me satisfied with the future of young punk music.

counterculture: [Beginning with our voices raised like two rock music veterans of one too many concerts in close quarters, but really necessitated by the crowded conditions and external blaring from the stage below] First off, nice set of tattoos . . . I'm a little jealous; I dropped off the pace a few years ago but still looking to fill some space pretty soon. They still have that old Sunset Strip Tattoo shop out there in West Hollywood?

Jason Cruz: Oh yeah, that's still there. That'll be there till the end of time man. It's an LA standard!

cc: It's where I got my second one done back in the day . . . I moved from there a little over ten years ago and it's funny I can still remember the guys' names and that black t-shirt you used to always see walking up and down the strip . . . Yeah they were pretty good. So anyway, tell me about An American Paradox as a title and image on your latest work.

JC: To me it's just Americana at its finest. The gun imagery and the girl and the tits and the title . . . we're an Americana band, it's just as simple as that. I don't think we've ever been a very political band and never tried to make some grand statement or save the world. It's kinda like the beer commercial type thing. What's more American than a fucking gun with a girl holding it?

cc: Holding a Budweiser in the other I suppose . .  Okay, so no real mystery or intrigue involved there, but I do like the creativity that went into the gatefold and all that darkened matter. So tell me how American Paradox ties in with the music.

JC: Honestly, I ripped it off from a bum who was sitting on the sidewalk with a piece of cardboard and he had 'American Paradox' written on it. He was sitting near the freeway and it was brilliant to me. It says so much about everything without having to explain. Everything about our existence and our culture and what we are as a band is a fucking paradox. So the whole record is a bunch of stories . . . there aren't too many girlfriend songs! [laughs]

cc: To me, 'paradox' might not apply so much to your production as a band, but maybe subjectively from what people might expect from the 'punk' label . . . and even that's not as firmly planted as it used to be . . .

JC: Yeah, it's all about noticing your environment mostly . . . being aware of your surroundings - that's what the record's all about. And interpreting them the way you see things.

cc: Speaking of which, how's the homeless situation in Santa Monica these days? Has it improved at all since a decade ago?

JC: No, I see homeless guys pull out fucking rolls of one's on a daily basis . . . [laughs] So it's gotten pretty lucrative right now! But California's the place to be if you're a bum.

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