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Wank
Wank
Stephanie Estrada

Life Is a White Knuckle Ride With Wank

For a Brit such as this writer, the childish giggles that a band named Wank inspire are unparalleled. The word, Anglo-slang for jerking off, resonates a little less on this side of the Atlantic, but that mild masturbation mystery has helped make these Costa Mesa–based punks alluring since they formed in Huntington Beach back in ’95.

Yeah, it’s all a bit childish. But maybe the world needs a dab of infantile humor right now. The irony is that guitarist Danny Walker and singer-bassist Bobby Amodeo say they’ve done a lot of growing up in the last 10 years while on a self-imposed break. As proof, they offer up a new album, called White Knuckle Ride. GETIT?

“I would say that we used to have more fire in the hole, uptempo songs, felt the need to have everything be very fast,” Walker says. “Whereas this is a little bit more measured. We do have a couple of fast songs but we don’t feel the need to be doing that. I think our sound has matured quite a bit. We’re more focused on the songs than the tempo or the feel. Maybe our songs have matured a little bit along with us.”

Mature? A Wank album called White Knuckle Ride is mature?

“We can’t help ourselves a little bit,” Amodeo says with a chuckle. “But I think our songs have gotten better over time — definitely more thought’s gone into the lyrics. We’re not in a huge hurry at this point.”

You have to love that. These guys are faced with the interesting juxtaposition of getting older while keeping the momentum of their wittily named band going. Despite the wordplay of the new album title, much of the lyrical inspiration comes from life experiences.

“Some of the stuff we’re writing about is learning a little bit more about life, and learning about what’s important,” Walker says. “We hit upon that theme in ‘Salvation.’ We’ve got a couple of songs that are maybe a little bit more reactive to a situation. There will always be bad people in the world, and there will always be a reason to sing songs against them so we’ve got some of those. Thematically, I think we’ve matured a little bit more as well. But we’ve still got some fire in us. We used to come off more pissed off over time, but now we’re only pissed off maybe half of the time.”

“Salvation” is Wank’s new single, a song that saw Foo Fighters lead guitarist Chris Shiflett step into the studio to take production duties.

“We wanted someone to help us with ‘Salvation,’ and see if we could get somebody who could get it to a level where we could put it on a record because it started out as an acoustic song,” Walker says. “I had Shiflett’s number in my phone because we had done some work together in the past few years doing a few little shows. We’re old friends from the rock & roll ’90s. We got him on board to produce. He was all into ‘Salvation.’”

“The second that he came into the studio, he had ideas for bass, drums, guitar riffs and vocals,” Amodeo adds. “He spent a lot of time dissecting that song, and the ideas that he brought completely elevated that tune from where it was. I always felt ‘Salvation’ was a good tune by itself, but the changes that he brought to it and the parts he made us take out of the song — it was well thought through. He knew what he wanted and how to get us to execute it. The end result is an amazing song. I’m very grateful for the time he spent with us.”

In the decade that Wank have been away, the world pretty much fell apart. There’s always been an interesting dichotomy between the traditionally conservative politics of Orange County and the O.C. punk scene.

“These past few years it’s been really quiet in Orange County, and there’s been a big resurgence in ska bands,” Amodeo says. “They’ve been popping out of the woodwork as of late, and as far as the O.C. punk bands, it’s been the staples that have stayed. The bands that have been around for 15, 20 years are still playing and going strong. They’re the dominant force in the punk scene right now, at least in Orange County. It hasn’t really changed that much, it’s stayed the same.”

On Nov. 16 and 17, Wanks make a triumphant O.C. return with two gigs at the Doll Hut, their old stomping ground.

“We haven’t played the Doll Hut in 10 years, almost exactly,”  Walker says. “Prior to that, it was another 10 years. This is a homecoming for us, doing both nights. Live video shoot on the Friday, and we’re expecting sold-out, packed shows both nights. It should be a blast.”

They’re referring to those shows as the “Wank Weekend,” which is enough to make any Englishman titter like a schoolkid.

“The Wank Weekend will be totally out of control, and then ‘Salvation’ is also coming out the week of those shows,” Walker says. “That will be a cool part of that. What’s gonna follow is a live attack, so we’ll hit the streets at that point.”

Wank play with Mr. Mirainga and Gasoline Addicts (Friday, Nov. 16), and The Cornfed Product and MonoDeluX (Saturday, Nov. 17) at 8 p.m. at the Doll Hut.