INTERVIEW: Tony Molina at the Beat Kitchen in Chicago

posted Friday May 30th, 2014

Tony Molina's breakout album, "Dissed and Dismissed" (2013) was originally released on the Melters imprint, the album is equal parts "Pinkerton", with all the lyrical sylopism of the original, and equal parts Iron Maiden, with powerful, riffing metal breakdowns that border on hyperbole. Most songs clock in under the two-minute mark, with a signature pop arrangement that garnered the attention of such giants as Slumberland Records, who repressed the album this year, and Matador, who released the "Six Tracks EP" as part of their vaunted and ongoing singles series, "Singles Going Home".

The name is taken from a song by the savage, heavy-hitting hardcore band Breakdown, who formed in 1986 as part of a right-coast resurgence of hardcore punk. When asked, Tony admitted "I didn't really think anyone would know that song, so I didn't think it would ever come up." With his recent success and simultaneous presence in both the Bay Area's pop and hardcore scene, one can be sure that by now, someone has figured out the homage.

While he doesn't hesitate to borrow both lyrically and musically in his projects, no one can deny that he is an incredibly prolific songwriter. Along with a 7" under his pop-project Ovens, they ambitiously released a TRIPLE LP, comprised of 44 songs of a similar length to those released under the Tony Molina moniker. Covering Guided by Voices on Dissed and Dismissed, and an incredibly awesome redux of "The Secret of Life" on the Ovens' 7" scratch the surface of his penchant for borrowing from the lo-fi and punk alike and making it distinctly his own. Add in the odd, minstrelly-sounding track, and you have an album that resembles Frankenstein's monster, assembled of random parts, struck by lightning, and animated into something awesome and full of strange life.

When I caught up with Tony at his show at Beat Kitchen, he had just emerged from the green room and was ripping cigarettes outside with the same gusto I would later see him smoke riffs on stage. In a few minutes, he disappeared and re-emerged with a bottle of what I would later discover was terribly cheap table wine, something I would later learn he has much love for. While initially, the lithe frontman seems a bit nervous to talk shop, he opened up as myself and my friend Justin Conway, a long-time California native, discussed his tour so far and just how fucking early the show that day was starting.

After openings by Chicago's Empty Isle, comprised of the solid crew of Josh, Alyssa, Tom and and Keith, as well as pop-punk slammers The Please and Thank You's (Geoff Schott, Tim Crisp, Vince Aguilar, Marcus Nuccio), the "Tony Molina Band", as he affectionately called himself and fellow members of Ovens that it comprises, took stage. Without a single fuck given, Tony played through the vast majority of Dissed and Dismissed as well as some slamming Ovens tracks, which for the most part sound as if they could be from a previous TM release themselves.

After the show, we made the decision to go slam more booze over at a nearby friend's house. When we got there, I spoke with Tony regarding his influences, the makeup of the Bay Area scene, and how his projects, Caged Animal, Ovens, Dystrophy, and Tony Molina coexist with scenes as disparate as the makeup of his albums.

While discussing the merits of Teenage Fanclub (consesus: fucking awesome), stories of Justin Conway calling out an East Coast hardcore that will not be mentioned in this article while wasted on stage in an early emo project, and learning a hybridization of the card game War and Poker that was invented by Tony and his Bandmates ("It's a Bay Area thing", he explained. "No actually, I think it's just our thing."), we got to the topic of the close-knit community of DIY bands in the Chicago community. I asked Tony if he experienced the same type of communal support from the pop/punk/hardcore scenes in the Bay Area. Tony explained that the first time he was put on a bill with a few other hardcore bands in SF, he was terrified that his particular blend of pop/punk/metal wouldn't go over too well. However, the reaction has been overwhelmingly supportive and positive between the two scenes. Much of this is no doubt related to the vast amount of credibility that TM has accrued in the hardcore scene over the years in his sludging, powerful project H/C Caged Animal, and his personal love of the hardcore scene ("New York hardcore is and will always be the best hardcore that ever came out of the fucking scene.") What came out most in our conversations was he and his bandmates have the musical knowledge and background to discuss, in detail, both pop and hardcore, often in the same, manic conversation fueled by the wino-grade vino that they were slamming.

Given he and his band's incredible talent for writing pop jams, their dueling-banjo's, "Deliverance" level onslaught of guitar riffs, and TM's Rivers Cuomo-esque vocals, I anticipate their next album, whether under the Ovens label or as the "Tony Molina Band" is going to contain some sick ass riffs. And, in a world where things are often too tightly constrained to a single genre and pigeon-holed by specialities, we should all be thankful for that.