Having a music nerd question punk's vitality isn’t the best way to check the pulse of your favorite music. Floyd Willis, bassist and spokesman for Houston punk veterans Dead to the World, says there’s a much simpler way to know if punk will ever truly flatline (FYI: it won’t). In his clinical opinion, if you are alive then punk is alive.
“The way we see it is there will always be people going against the grain, people who cannot follow with societal norms, and those people need anthems,” he says.
The band is adding a few new anthems to the punk catalog with War, its latest release. Warehouse Live hosts the album release this Friday. For $10, everyone in attendance will get a download of the EP and sure-to-be-raucous sets by the band and openers Khobretti, Hogs of War and Action Frank. That might sound like a bargain, but Willis says you’re getting even more than that if you attend.
“Dead to the World, like many bands, recognizes the negative in the world, but we strive to create a sense of community between artists, musicians and fans that helps to embolden us all,” he notes. “You aren't just coming to a concert, you're getting off the couch, getting off your device and meeting new friends. We want everyone to feel like a part of our family and encourage them to sing along with us.”
The new album promotes that communal spirit with music that churns like the engine of a death machine. And yet, there’s something comforting in singer Brandon Lyday's emphatic vocals, even when he's delivering lines like "I don't give two shits about your motherfucking laws." The EP opens with the title track which joins Dead to the World with its band of brothers, the troops of working-class bands in Houston and beyond. "Push Back" is a full body-slam against our oppressors, whomever they may be, while "Oi" is probably self-explanatory. Suffice to say, it's going to be a circle-pit favorite in Houston venues for years to come.
"War was written at a turning point for [guitarist Mohawk] Steve when he quit his job to dedicate his life to music, to face the struggles that came with that decision," explains Willis. "You can't be free without something in your life worth going to war for and for us it's being on a stage."
Dead to the World has been onstage plenty over their seven years as a band. Notably, they have played some huge gigs with some of their own musical influences in that time.
“The shows that have meant the most to the band are easily Bad Religion and Pennywise," Willis says. 'Both shows were the biggest crowds, but they were some of the bands that influenced every member of Dead to the World. They also have been performing for a long time and it showed us that we can always play the music that we love.”
That love will be evident at the CD release, promises Willis.
“Being working-class musicians, we don't like to put on airs — this show is still bare-bones punk rock," he says. "How it is different is how we want to share our music with our family, that's why everyone who comes to the show gets a copy.”
While the band’s major influences skew towards West Coast punk acts, there’s something very Houston about Dead to the World. It’s more than the hint of a Southern twang in the vocals, too. It’s an attitude, one Willis says many local acts share.
"Everyone in the band has always been into the rock scene," he says. "We could go to see Mastodon and Rancid in the same week. I see that for Houston musicians as well. Bands can come and go, and the players move on to try out other passion projects.
“I like local shows because they tend to be more diverse lineups,” he continues. “You can see everything Houston has to offer in just one night. Some of our favorite bands to play with are 30footFALL, Dead Rabbits, The Velostacks, Venomous Maximus, Hell City Kings and Cut Ties.”
The band continues its run of solid gigs this fall, supporting Bickley at its 20th anniversary reunion show October 24 at Fitzgerald's. It’ll play the multi-genre Houston Whatever Fest in November.
You could catch the band live at any of those shows. When you do, expect to hear the anthems that remind you that punk isn't dead. It's just Dead to the World.
"Whether those anthems come from punk, rock, metal or rap, people will keep writing those songs about being different," Willis says. "You don't need a studded jacket, tattoos, [or] a Mohawk to be punk rock, you just have a need to be heard."
Dead to the World's EP release takes over Warehouse Live, 813 St. Emanuel, this Friday. Doors open at 7 p.m.; all ages; $10.