The Hillstreet Stranglers have long been synonymous with chaos, discord and fury. In the right hands, it’s this precise concoction of volatile ingredients that can lead to the creation of great rock music. In the wrong hands, it can lead to the destruction of bands, and sometimes those within them. The Hillstreet Stranglers are no strangers to the latter. They have been through some wild ups and downs during their nearly decade-long run here in Oceanside and it doesn’t look like they’ll be passing the proverbial torch anytime soon.
Their story is long and marred with tales of tragedy, drug abuse, unexpected pregnancies, temper tantrums and internal turmoil. However, their love of what they produce, the music that they create, is the glue that keeps all three of these guys together, and has for the last nine years. It’s their sound, a disorderly sort of gutter-punk Dead Kennedys-hybrid niche they’ve made for themselves, that pays their bills to this day.
Like most punk music, their lyrics are often belligerent and angry, fueled with the usual dichotomies that plague affected adolescents — I’m confused yet determined, furious but resolute, so drunk I’m sober. The “I don’t know what I want but I know how to get it” mentality that the Sex Pistols capitalized on so well back in the late 1970s. Capturing this idea and turning it into a sound of its own is how the success of The Hillstreet Stranglers must be measured so far.
The Stranglers are singer/guitarist Weaver, singer/bassist Rick aka “Dick Strangler,” and Kendall Rogers, their passionate yet hopelessly erratic drummer. I first met Kendall back in high school when he was just starting out with drums. He played in a band with one of my friends and I’d sit in on practices every now and then. We lost touch over the years but our paths recently crossed once again when I caught a show that the band played last month.
It’s pretty widely known that the band is no stranger to upset or disagreement, especially internally. A quote from their own MySpace page drives the point home: “Come see them play while they’re still willing to ride in the same van together.”
As Kendall describes it, the nature of the relationships between the three members is tumultuous. With almost 10 years on the road trying to scratch out a living, the strain has taken its toll on each of them in different ways. “We love each other, like we all have mutual respect for one another and all that but once band practice is done, none of us hang out or anything like that. It’s just business basically,” he said.
It is true that the band is completely dedicated to its own success despite whatever internal differences they may have. They’ve released several albums (check out “Drunken Stooper,” “Ready, Able, and Unstable”), toured countless cities, and played thousands of shows; and they’ve just completed a new EP called “Imaginary Baggage” which is set to be released sometime later this month.
Their focus now is landing themselves a little indie label that will bankroll some professional studio time and a little tour to generate some buzz. Unfortunately, the record business is in a state of preservation — labels are collapsing left and right and albums aren’t selling. In this kind of environment, it’s a wonder how most bands are getting by.
Perhaps it’s just this sort of environment, however, that a band like The Hillstreet Stranglers can thrive in. After all, they seem to be built for the long haul. Unfortunately in punk rock, glory and fame often comes for bands long after its members are ever able to enjoy it.
So come get your slice of one of Oceanside’s noisiest secrets Nov. 15 at The Metaphor Café (an all-ages show) in Escondido or Nov 21. at The Royal Dive in Oceanside while you can! Check out myspace.com/hillstreetstranglers for more info on the band.
Filed Under: Scene and Heard