Los Angeles' stop-start traffic has been boosting drivers' blood pressure for decades. Yet to our knowledge no band had addressed and channeled this almost universal Angeleno rage until local hardcore duo It's Casual dropped their album, The New Los Angeles Part 1: Through the Eyes of a Bus Rider, in 2007.
Their moniker inspired by a line from 1984 movie The Wild Life, It's Casual are the two-headed baby of burly, bearded Boyle Heights native Eddie Solis. The New Los Angeles is a taut, to-the-point document of Solis' rediscovery of his lifelong hometown since he started religiously using public transport around 2002. His driver's license lapsed long ago; now he can recite bus schedules.
"I started to love [L.A.] more," Solis explains in a genteel timbre, which is disarmingly detached from his imposing frame and withering onstage roar. "I saw it through a different perspective: little neighborhoods, more interesting people."
Although active since 2001, with a revolving door of drummers, It's Casual didn't begin to build buzz until The New Los Angeles. The album's rerelease last year, with 10 additional tracks, and the arresting video for furiously anti-traffic single "The Red Line" (named for the subway connecting downtown L.A. to North Hollywood) upped the chatter. The band has earned props from everyone from Noisecreep.com to this publication, and has shared bills with Mastodon, Fu Manchu and Prong. The L.A. County MTA even posted the video for "The Red Line" on its website.
"I always had a clear vision of what I wanted the record to be," Solis recalls. "A seminal record for L.A. and what is happening in the city, through my perspective as a bus rider."
Musical and lyrical clarity are central to The New Los Angeles' muscular charm. Its massive, Black Flag-inspired riffs are uncluttered rushes of blood, while Solis' bestial bellow tells us how he really feels about everything from car-free living ("EZ Pass") to poor parenting ("Too Many Kids"). Lines like "Los Angeles/There's too many people/I want them to go away!" (from "L.A.P.D.") epitomize its straight speech.
"The Red Line" video, directed by Jackass' Rick Kosick, captures Solis riding and riffing on buses, trains and his beloved skateboard while seethingly name-checking area freeways.
"I think 'The Red Line' resonated because it's a very simple and clear message -- 'The freeways are not so nice,' " Solis says, referencing that song's refrain.
A Spanish-language version of the single is slated for release in September, preceded by a weeklong "Red Line residency," wherein It's Casual will play a venue close to seven of the line's stations on consecutive nights.
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Despite the duo's jowl-rippling live assault -- involving a secret system of gizmos to mimic the absent bass guitar -- and Solis' resemblance to a Colombian cartel enforcer, It's Casual is more about tunes than 'rude.
"We're pretty ragin'; we're pretty heavy," he insists, "but this isn't tough-guy punk." So long as he's not stuck in traffic, that is.
It's Casual perform at the Viper Room tonight.