U.S. Roughnecks Bio
If you're sick of all the whiny emo shit that gets lumped in with punk these days, then the U. S. ROUGHNECKS are your remedy. Serving up punk the way it was meant to be played -- rabidly, rapidly and proficiently -- this forceful, guttural five-piece from Sacramento, California is one of the last authentic American hardcore units left in existence.
"We're all about bringing the toughness back to punk," says bassist Big Jay, who also doubles as a member of Lars Frederiksen's other band, the Bastards. "Fuck that wimpy shit, get some balls and play some rock & roll."
And with the U.S. ROUGHNECKS' Hellcat debut, Twenty Bucks and Two Black Eyes, these cats get right to the claw. As rugged and uncompromising as the title suggests, the disc explores frontman Mike Hennessey's troubled youth ("Summer of '96"), celebrates the 'Necks' hometown scene ("Sacto's Alright") and flips the bird at local law enforcement ("Serve And Protect.")
Founded as the Knuckleheads back in '97 by chief throat Hennessey, the band assumed their second and current moniker when Jay joined the band that same year. After toiling it out in the mostly healthy Sacramento punk scene over the last half-decade, the group endured a couple of member changes before the Twenty Bucks line-up was solidified. Bolstered by the spine rattling potency of Jay's four-string, the power of kitman Gabe Van Dyke and the blistering tones of guitarists Mike G. and Kemal, the U.S. ROUGHNECKS' sonics are an ideal match for Mike's raging vocals.
"Some of the songs are about streetfighting and getting arrested," Jay says of Hennessey's hard-hearted lyrics. "Mikey has quite a few issues with the cops. They fucked with him a lot and he had a really rough time growing up. You know his mother died of cancer when he was twelve and his dad was in jail at the time. And his aunt was clinically insane, so he bounced around from different foster homes. Finally, when he was seventeen, they eventually cut him loose."
It's no surprise, then, that themes of freedom and independence play such a prominent role in Hennessey's lyrics. "Midtown Nights" for instance, is a shout-along anthem inspired by young punks roaming the Sacto boulevards and alleyways in the darkness. And the uplifting "Saturday" is a symbol for liberty and optimism, as Hennessey's Drano-gargled pipes sing a line like "bad times come/they won't last" from experience.
For all Hennessey's struggles, one hurdle that came rather easy for the U.S. ROUGHNECKS was aligning with Hellcat. "We recorded a demo, and I took it to Tim [Armstrong] and asked him what label he thought would be good for us," Jay explains of the band's self-recorded debut. "And he said, 'I'll do it. We'll put out an album.' So, it couldn't have worked out better."
As for the album's title, rhythm guitarist Mike G. came up with it after the band got offered a show down in L.A. "Mike G. asked, 'What's gonna be the guarantee?' Because he wanted to be sure that we were covered for gas money and stuff," Jay says. "So the promoter says, 'We'll give you vouchers.' And we're like, 'What the fuck are they?' And he's like, 'We'll give you these vouchers, you go and you sell them. Then the people come to the door and say, 'We're here to see the U.S. ROUGHNECKS and we'll mark you down for them.' So in his typical wise-ass way, Mike G. goes, 'Great. We'll get twenty bucks and you'll get two black eyes.'"
It's that same impenetrable spirit that steers Twenty Bucks and Two Black Eyes. In Mike Hennessey's songs, he refers to it as "Roughneck Noise" or "Short Haired Rock-n-Roll," but whatever you call it, the U.S. ROUGHNECKS play pretension-free, head-cracking, ass kicking, heartfelt punk rock. Now take your medicine and toughen up.