Leftover Crack returns to Houston tonight, near the end of the first day of a bright and shiny new year. We’ve counted down the old one, with confetti raining down on us and champagne flutes (or 40-ounce malt liquor bottles) in our hands, holding fast to the hope that we’ll all somehow do better in the new year than we did in the last.
No such illusions cloud the vision of LoC front man Scott Sturgeon and his cohorts. The New York City-based anarcho-punks don’t advocate for hopes and dreams as solutions. They call for unequivocal, sociopolitical action and have been doing so since Mediocre Generica, their debut album, which serendipitously (or, ill-fatedly, depending on your view) was released on 9/11/01.
That was nearly 15 years ago. It’s been almost a dozen years since the band’s last full length, the ska-core classic, Fuck World Trade. The cuts from those albums were passionate, call-for-change songs about police brutality, ecological destruction, war-mongering and prisons for profit. Because nothing has changed on those fronts — and arguably has gotten worse in practically every case — LoC’s new release, Constructs of the State, has been a windfall of sorts for fans. The album has received solid reviews from listeners in the know at places like Punknews.org and Dying Scene.
The band will blend a healthy mix of the new songs with older ones at the Warehouse Live show, which also features Fat Wreck Chords label mates PEARS and locals Alimanas and Days N Daze. It’s been mentioned here previously as a matter of decorum that my son is the front man for Days N Daze. Aside from full disclosure, I note it again because those Leftover Crack albums, as well as ones under the Choking Victim and Star Fucking Hipsters banners, were instrumental to his development as a musician. It was no small feat when he and his bandmates caught Sturgeon’s attention last year and were asked to tour LoC’s Cracktoberfest run. Because I learned and embraced those songs from years of hearing them played repeatedly (and, trust me, I do mean repeatedly), it was no small feat to get Sturgeon – the artist also known as Stza Crack – to answer a few questions about LoC 2016.
We spoke with Sturgeon, who was in New Orleans and preparing for a half-dozen dates in Texas beginning here tonight. He has some Bayou City history, he says.
“My only interesting Houston story is that for the last ten years that I was riding freight trains, I’d hit Houston and I’d get stuck there," he says. "I wouldn’t be able to get out for weeks at a time. During the summer, the mosquitoes were thick and horrible. The last time was nine years ago. It was my 30th birthday. It was freezing, but somebody got me on the guest list to see the Wu-Tang Clan. So I was able to get out of the sub-freezing temperatures and catch a sub-par set by Wu-Tang.”
Our recollection is Leftover Crack has an avid following in Texas, which seems incongruous at the surface. After all, this is the state of Big Oil, attacks on Planned Parenthood and Ted Cruz. Still, Sturgeon says it holds a special place in his heart.
“So, Texas has always been welcoming to what we have to say,” he says, noting the more conservative the state, the better the response from LoC fans. “Also, it’s right in the middle of the route I always traveled when I was homeless riding freight trains and squatting, and it’s always nice to return to the places that you’ve gotten to know throughout your life."
Regarding what ails this country at this time, Sturgeon was judicious about at least one subject, the current political season. He deemed our lone question “too general, and I couldn’t answer it without sounding boring myself. I don’t want to endorse any candidates.” But, he did speak to the notion that America at large is finally seeing first-hand the police brutality he sang about years ago on songs like “Gang Control” and “So You Wanna Be a Cop?”
“For as long as I’ve been singing about police brutality, I’ve had absolutely no doubt at any point that I wasn’t speaking the truth," offers Sturgeon. "Perhaps it was a brutal or unpopular truth. I certainly understood that the majority of society and the media would probably never corroborate the fundamental conclusions about the police being a corrupt and vicious part of a broken machine, but that just made it all the more important to say and write."
We wondered whether these very topics spurred the completion of a long-awaited third album.
“I just got my shit together,” he says. “Lyrically, I finally finished everything earlier this year and maybe subconsciously the current politics influenced or inspired me, but I feel like I couldn’t even pay attention to any of it while I was working on the record. I was fully swamped and drowning in my own thoughts. It was only after it was finished that I started to get more active in the current political discourse.
“I wasn’t going to put out a record unless it was as good as our other full-length records, and for years that seemed like it was out of reach,” continues Sturgeon. “Of course, the collaborations and the diversity of genres are all important ingredients in what makes a Leftover Crack record worthwhile. But at the end of the day, it has to elicit an emotional response that doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with anything technical or even tangible on the record. It leaves me with a satisfying feeling and that’s when I know it’s done.”
We asked whether he’s noticed that his music has now influenced a new generation of songwriters and how he feels about being – gasp – a role model for some of them.
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“No, I didn’t really realize that there were other bands playing music with similar themes that people gave a shit about," says Sturgeon. "I’m glad to hear that there are finally some bands that I like that I’ve influenced in some way. I guess deep-down secretly I always hoped that there’d be some bands that would pop up that would have gotten it and translated it into something that I enjoyed equally. But let me tell you, there are a bunch of really bad 'crack rock steady' bands out there that make me wonder if I made a huge mistake.”
We pressed Sturgeon. Was he sure he had no comment to make on the broad targets of the 2016 presidential campaign?
“I suggest that everybody read ‘Chasing the Scream’ by Johan Hari,” he submitted. “Legalize it and vote for Crack in 2016!”
Leftover Crack, with PEARS, Days N Daze and Alimanas perform tonight at Warehouse Live, 813 St. Emanuel. Doors at 7 p.m., Tickets are general admission, $15.