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A few minutes into talking to Jacob Serrano, he makes an arguable statement.
“The press doesn’t cover ASS.”
ASS is an acronym for his band American Shit Storm, of which he’s the lead singer. The band’s next show is on April 30 at Three Links, which will mark the release of their third EP, American Shit Storm Vol. 3.
According to the band, known for its theatrical performances and hefty musicianship, the new sound they’ve harnessed on Volume 3 is the most exemplary presentation of their musical identity to date, which is saying a lot considering their style isn’t exactly the easiest to pinpoint.
“We were nominated for Best Hardcore Act [at the Dallas Observer Music Awards] and lost to Power Trip,” Serrano remembers.
That was way back in 2016.
“Then we won for punk,” says drummer Chris Galbraith continues. “I wonder what we’ll be nominated for next time.”
But they don’t really care about that.
“The lyrics are punk!” Serrano says.
As far as genre-bending goes, though, they all agree that the new album represents the most diverse approach the band has taken thus far. Volume 3 is an accomplished, very well-thought-out record that takes its cue from early ’90s grunge bands and other hyphenated “post” varieties of punk. Serrano refers back to the genre’s originators like The Damned and Dead Kennedys, who were uninhibited by any genre-specific orientation.
“Those bands just do whatever they feel is right, and it ends up being punky,” he says. “I’ve always seen it as being absolute freedom to do whatever you want.”
Serrano also sings in cover bands of The Dead Kennedys and The Damned called Dallas Uber Allies and The Darned, respectively. Ultimately, he’d like American Shit Storm to be reminiscent of another hugely influential and socially conscious band, Faith No More.
“We are the Faith No More of punk,” Serrano asserts boldly, as his bandmates nod in agreement.
We can’t blame them. That influence is apparent through their music’s overall sound and particularly in a song about global warming called “Sinking Ship.”
A love of Faith No More was the defining common thread that brought all original members together in 2005.
For a punk band that can hardly be defined as still, their waters do run deep. As much as Serrano embodies the image of the band, much of the group’s vital characteristics come from beneath the surface where every member is fit to bring their own ideas and criticism.
“I think that’s one of the coolest parts about our approach. It doesn’t always come from a single direction and especially with [Volume 3] it really was a group effort,” says Matt Ostman, the band’s bassist.
The burden of providing criticism varies among members these days. Classically trained instrumentalist Juaquin Reyna is the newest addition to American Shit Storm, where he plays guitar, and is happy to step up to the task.
“I probably have the shortest leash too. If they play something and I don’t like [it], I’ll just be honest about it,” he says. “Kudos to them — I’m kind of an asshole.”
While his guitar playing was included on 2019’s Volume 2, Reyna wasn’t actually present for much of the writing of that record. He considers Volume 3 as his debut with the band, one that his bandmates consider “a big, magical contribution.”
“That’s the interesting thing with a band that has a couple years under its belt,” Reyna says. “There is something within that original conception that must continue moving forward. So, when I approach the songs I try my best to put on that cap.”
It hasn’t all been peachy keen for the newcomer though. Some (probably drunk) fans have gone so far as to razz Reyna for his variety of playing, specifically his guitar tone. He says he’s trying to avoid putting “crazy distortion over everything.”
Producer Dustin Mason at Lemontree Studios, who recorded the record and was pivotal in crafting the guitar sound heard on Volume 3, was tolerant, however, and ended up nerding out with Reyna over the quality of his tone.
“He totally enabled me to craft the sound I wanted,” says Reyna.
As a music teacher by day, the guitarist is also cognizant of American Shit Storm’s departure from a typical ABAB song structure, a choice that comes up frequently in the band’s music.
“If a song is wanting to be unique, I can’t stop it, “ he says. “We definitely have a lot of movement in our songs.”
“None of this happens without conflict,” says Ostman, hurling a glance at the band’s guitarist. “There’s always going to be challenges with the songs and someone saying that it just doesn’t fucking make sense.”
All of that makes for an extremely controlled sound that can often give the impression of seriousness, but they don’t drift too far from their name “shit storm.” Volume 3’s final track, “Deathbed,” for instance, also happens to be the EP’s longest and most unusual considering the inclusion of what they call “purposely cheesy keyboards.”
The song also stretches the band’s sound into new wave territory as Serrano sings, “On Wheel of Fortune today I couldn’t think of a word/ My memories are all blurry and every day they start to fade/ I took another pill to help but it’s all gone/ Be still my heart, babe/ Seriously, it’s gonna beat right out of my chest from all these amphetamines.”
“That’s a funny song,” Serrano says. “It sounds really happy and catchy but it’s also very sad. It’s comical. But ultimately it’s about an old man dying alone in a hospital bed.”
Dark-humored as he may be, Serrano says his music allows him to put a time stamp on his life and have something to show for when he’s gone.
“‘Deathbed’ is a satire on a personal fear,” he says.
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