Strung Out, based in Simi Valley, Calif., has been making punk music for more than 15 years. Since its inception in the early ’90s, the band has cultivated a rabid fan base that’s stayed loyal to the group as it flirted with gutterpunk, danced with thrash and constantly tinkered with a signature sound that flutters in the breeze, resting somewhere between horror-punk and hardcore metal.
“We're so lucky to have the fans we do,” guitarist Jake Kiley says. “I think they know we do this for the same reason we always have, which is that we love it. They know our art means more to us than commercial success and they support us because of that.”
Quite a few Strung Out enthusiasts go so far as to etch their devotion into their skin. Singer Jason Cruz makes a reference to the Strung Out tattoo phenomenon on the band’s 2003 Live in a Dive release. Casual listeners are probably unaware of how many of the group’s army of followers have Strung Out’s moniker, logo and lyrics inked on their person. “It’s so amazing to see all the ones out there today,” Kiley says. “It’s the most flattering thing to us.”
Strung Out just spent some time in Europe, where Kiley noticed distinctions between the group’s supporters in different parts of the continent. “It was a great chance for us to play to a lot of new people,” Kiley says. “In Germany, they tend to watch and analyze the show, whereas in Spain and Italy, they go a bit crazier and sing along more.”
While he has nothing but kind words for his fans, Kiley is not so complimentary when discussing the metal-punk genre that forms his band’s core. Save for thrash-punkers Protest The Hero and The Syncope Threshold, Kiley doesn’t like what’s been cropping up of late. “I see a lot of kids just being posers, not punks,” Kiley laments. “It’s really whiney emo crap, mixed with metal that I'll never understand.”
Fortunately for Kiley, his band shows no signs of handing off the torch anytime soon. Steadily releasing a record every two or three years, Strung Out has put out seven albums, two EPs and a handful of 7-inches. Each LP shows the band’s reluctance to choose between storm clouds and Mohawks. “We never set an agenda or try to write in a certain direction,” Kiley explains. “It’s just whatever comes out when we’re making the best record we possibly can.”
For its latest venture, Strung Out is reuniting with old friends, punk icon Pennywise for a 23-city American tour with straight-arrow punk outfit Authority Zero as the opening act. “We've known the Pennywise guys since our very early days, and they've always helped us out,” Kiley says. “We had a great tour with them back around 2000, so we’re stoked to get the offer for this one.”
While it’s grown accustomed to playing at the Launchpad, Strung Out will find itself on the grander Sunshine Theater stage on Tuesday, May 13. The band has made a habit of stopping in Albuquerque on most of its tours. That’s no coincidence, as the band always gets a passionate reaction from the all-ages crowd. “I know Jason loves when the fans are right up front, screaming the lyrics back at us,” Kiley says. “We all need that to give our best show, because we feed directly off the crowd’s energy.”