Houston Music

Reagan Era Rejects Swing for the Fences on No Democracy

Reagan Era Rejects
Reagan Era Rejects Photo by Denniz Polk, courtesy of Reagan Era Rejects

Alex Seay is a Houston Astros fan. You’re as likely to see the Reagan Era Rejects vocalist donning a ‘Stros’ ballcap as you are to see him wearing whatever passes as punk rock fashion these days. So, it seemed natural to pose the question: if Reagan Era Rejects (or, RER to loyal fans) was one Astros player, which Astros player would the band be?

“I have two answers for you,” said Seay, sounding excited as if he was penciling in the lineup for today’s ballgame. “So, the first one is going to be (Carlos) Correa. His attitude is very bold, abrasive, which is kind of where our music is. It’s hard, fast-hitting, which is what he does. Very in your face.”

Hard, fast and in your face is the punk ethos, after all, and it comes through loud and clear on RER’s new album, No Democracy. The first studio full-length effort from the hardcore band dropped last month and its tracks fit the Correa blueprint like a (baseball) glove. The first single from the album is “Hands Up,” a timely and scathing look at police brutality in America. The band chose that track from a dozen on the album to be represented in the first video from the record.

Seay said RER has a recorded live set and an EP on its Bandcamp page, but the new album is the first to feature the band’s latest all-star lineup of power-hitters. The veterans of this squad are Seay (also of Gen Why), guitarist Gil Lira (Killer Hearts, Satanic Overlords of Rock N Roll) and bassist Mike Simmons (Toxic Origin). They joined forces in 2018, Seay said.

“I think that Gil had asked Mike to start a band and some time before that me and Mike, I think we were at a show at Rudyard’s or something having a couple of drinks, and I kind of jokingly said, ‘Hey, if you wanna start a band I’m totally down to do vocals. So, he hit me up about that,” Seay recalled.

The band's debut full-length studio album released June 11. - PHOTO BY DENNIZ POLK, COURTESY OF REAGAN ERA REJECTS
The band's debut full-length studio album released June 11.
Photo by Denniz Polk, courtesy of Reagan Era Rejects

“Originally, it was just Gil on guitar and then we decided that we needed a second guitarist just to give it a more full sound and maybe do some leads,” Seay said. “We had Edwin Carson from Liberty and Justice, he practiced with us, and I think he only played one show with us, which was actually the Live at Rudyard’s (recording) that we have and he left the band just because he was already in two or three other bands so his schedule was getting full. After he left, that’s whenever Bubba came in.”

That’s guitarist George “Bubba” Dennis, who rounded out the group with drummer Julio Bonilla (FUSKA, Skatastrophics). This is the quintet heard on the new album which, as Seay told it, began years ago but nearly came together in one single day.

“A lot of the songs on it were some of the first that we ever wrote,” Seay offered. “A lot of these songs are three years-old. We had some other songs that we would play live and we released an EP and when it came time to get a full album out it was like, hey, we already have most of these songs here, might as well use them.”

They decided last year during quarantine to record the album. Even through the hiatus, they met weekly to rehearse in anticipation of recording dates in the fall. Or, more to the point, a recording date in the fall.

“We did about 90 percent of the album in one day,” Seay explained. “So, the album is 11 songs, 12 if you include the intro. But, it’s like 18-and-a-half minutes long. The way that it worked is that the music and the vocals were recorded separately. All of the guys recorded their instruments at the same time. We did it at Sugar Hill so there’s plenty of room in the studio to isolate the amps and everything.

“We did a lot of the songs in groups, the same way we do it live, so the first three or four songs were played pretty much back to back,” he continued. “Then, they would take a break and do the next three or four songs kind of in one take.”

“All of the songs aside from one song — I think it was actually on ‘No Democracy’ and then the chorus and one of the verses for ‘Suds,’ – aside from those two parts, all of the main vocals were done on that same day,” Seay said.

The band also chose a label versus working independently to get the music to listeners. Seay said he reached out to Austin-based Grimace Records and its owner, John Hale, responded within the hour. If there’s a single label representing Texas punk acts more earnestly than Grimace, we’re unaware of it. Some bands associated with the label include All Gonna Die, Archaic 3, Broke Off, The Dead Rabbits, The Elected Officials, Noogy and Texas punk legends MDC.

“It’s been incredible. I’ve known John for a few years now and we’ve always been really cool. He’s busy so I really only see him at shows, but Grimace is kind of helping out basically every Texas band,” Seay said. “Everybody on the label knows everybody so it’s just a bunch of friends doing this one thing together.”

Grimace helped with the video for “Hands Up,” Seay said.

click to enlarge RER has three scheduled shows in Houston this month. - PHOTO BY DENNIZ POLK, COURTESY OF REAGAN ERA REJECTS
RER has three scheduled shows in Houston this month.
Photo by Denniz Polk, courtesy of Reagan Era Rejects

“The song ‘Hands Up,’ it’s about all of the protests that happened over the last year in relation to the murder of George Floyd and just all the police brutality that you continued to see while people were calling for the prosecution of this police officer who did this horrible thing,” Seay said. “Some of the songs on the album have kind of a broad meaning, kind of open to interpretation in a way, but this one is very straight-forward.

“You know, as a punk band, one of the things we’re gonna be singing about is anti-government, anti-cop, and we kind of felt like this one, as far as the meaning of the song and the timing with everything going on in the country, was the right song to do.”

Fans will have a few chances to hear “Hands Up” and other songs from No Democracy live this month. Seay said RER was just tabbed to play a set July 8 at Trip Six with User Unauthorized, a hardcore band from Austin. Next is a July 10 show at House of J with Noogy and FUSKA. Trip Six hosts a Grimace Records showcase on July 31 which RER will play.

We circled back to Seay’s other Astros’ player, someone else who might seem to embody Reagan Era Rejects.

“The second answer would be (Yordan) Alvarez. It seems like his only goal is to get up there and hit the ball. He gets up to play baseball,” Seay said. “Whenever you see us play a set, we’re there to play our set. We have four songs and then a beer break, and then three songs and then a beer break, four songs and then a beer break. We’re there to play.”

In other words, like “Air Yordan,” RER is focused when it steps to the plate. It knows its job and it does it with the steadiness of a solid ballplayer. And, when the occasion calls for it, they swing for the fences.

Reagan Era Rejects plays Saturday, July 10 at House of J, 323 Hutcheson. With Noogy, FUSKA and more. 6 p.m., free.

The band’s new album, No Democracy, is available at Grimace Records and is streaming on Spotify.
KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Jesse’s been writing for the Houston Press since 2013. His work has appeared elsewhere, notably on the desk of the English teacher of his high school girlfriend, Tish. The teacher recognized Jesse’s writing and gave Tish a failing grade for the essay. Tish and Jesse celebrated their 33rd anniversary as a couple in October.