F-Minus formed in 1997 in Huntington Beach. They began modestly with some definite goals in mind. The area they originated from was awash in too many utterly deplorable bands trying to make it big. "When we started getting shows, we were bumming out pop punk and ska bands left and right," co-lead vocalist and guitarist, Brad, said. "It felt like our band was constantly playing in front of someone else's audience." Putting F-MINUS' assault in the middle of all that cheery chirping and radio pandering was like a direct piss into the audience's ear. No matter. They continued, persevered, and gained their own fans on their own terms.
F-MINUS plays songs that sound like they could level any venue with nihilism of blasting notes. It's a basic equation, really. Plug in, keep it simple, play it fast, remain heart-felt, don't worry too much about tuning, try to cope, here's the fucking song, here we go. There's no need for mass appeal.
It's not all just hot, misdirected, angry air either. They inject a healthy dose of realism in an industry often bent on hedonism. Beyond gaining the respect of such long-time veterans, Agnostic Front, and becoming the contemporaries of bands such as Kid Dynamite, F-MINUS realizes that there are deep motivations steering the band. "We're not preachers, teachers, or speech givers, there are other bands worthy of that," Brad said. "We just write about what we see, what's going on around us right now...and our reactions to it. Conviction hammers the meaning home. Brad continues: "We're not trying to be mean and tough or 'the most punk,' or anything. We're screaming because it hurts to live, you know?"
Gordon Solie Motherfuckers. Nausea. Out Cold. Poison Idea. Voids. Minor Threat. Aus Rotten Paint It Black. Neurosis. Doom. Ring any bells? Huffing with nervous drums, bass lines played so hard there isn't time from floppy melodies, guitars tuned for demolition, and lyrics spit out with such force, you can just see the polyps forming on the singers' vocals chords, F-MINUS has stripped image to bone. It's abrupt music to make a point.
In 1998, F-MINUS' lineup steadied and they released both their debut LP on Hellcat, Failed Society, and Won't Bleed Me on Pelado Records. What's immediately obvious was the oscillating female-male vocals. The female vocals are real and powerful screaming and shouting, like Crass' Eve Libertine. Their self-titled in 1999 and Suburban Blight in 2001 sharpened F-MINUS' sickle with quick jabs of songs, most all of them under a minute each. The music continued to sound like they were reaching through fire while singing about sifting through a nation in ashes.
Without deviation, progress isn't possible. Enter Wake Up Screaming, recorded by Steve Albini. "We wanted to work with someone who understood the underground," Brad said. "It was just a fantasy, we sent him a tape and he was into it and totally supportive." It meant less to F-MINUS that this guy that recorded Nirvana and The Pixies than pairing with "someone who finally got it. "He's recorded some great shit like Melt Banana, The Jesus Lizard and his own stuff like Big Black. With us, he left most of the mistakes on the record. There's fucked up vocal lines and missed cues." The band couldn't be more stoked because instead of making them sound "more pro," Albini captured the true feel of F-MINUS.
The result? Right along with the blasts is the overwhelming feeling of getting hunted down. All the mistrusts, distortions, confusions, and tackling of conformity sound closer to the throat than ever. Through the album's fifteen songs and thirty-six minutes, it finds time to change paces. Instead of all full springs, F-MINUS sounds more whipped, rabid and more thoughtful than ever before.
The short of it? A real record by a real band, warts and all, and they wouldn't have it any other way.