girltears04(photos by Alice Baxley)

I met Skrillex once and he was the nicest person on the entire planet. Just genuinely warm, kind, and humble, even though he is like the third highest paid DJ in the world and could probably sell out the entire city of Las Vegas. This is really not hyperbole. I think that if they gave awards like Nobel Nice Prize, he would probably be on a short list to receive it. That being said, while I don’t exactly bump his records in my Hyundai or while DJing at a bar or ever in any situation at all really, I am happy with every ounce of success he has gotten, because he is SO NICE. Good people need to win sometimes, or else I’m packing my things in a hobo sack and hitchhiking to Montana where I will live out my days working at an off-brand grocery store unless a truck driver mercifully kills me before I arrive.

Anyway, Girl Tears is like Skrillex, except they make much better music and also have better haircuts. The Orange County band is made up of three of the honest-to-goodness great dudes, best friends who work real grown-up jobs and have wives (two of them anyway) and probably floss every night, and who just play music (very cool, fuzz-laden noir punk music) together because you know what? They just love it so much, and who cares about the rest. Their great sound and unique, specific visual aesthetic (bassist Tristan Ellis hand-draws the art for all of their flyers and album covers), and also probably their glowing GOODNESS, caught the attention of Captured Tracks, and they just got signed to its new sister label Sinderlyn. Because sometimes good things DO happen to good people goddamnit, and every time they do, I remove one item from the hobo bag that is packed and ready to go under my bed.

I hope Jesse Michaels reads this and sends them an edible arrangement. I truly do.

Now here’s an interview:

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How did you guys become a band? Tell me the great legend of Girl Tears.

Kam: Well, it all started when we were stealing the Declaration of Independence…no. Let me think. It’s not really that interesting…

You can make it up.

Kam: I don’t have anything cool to say! I mean we just were all friends, and we had all been playing in bands together. We were all in this band Sweet Valley Slumber Party together, and we were all doing other types of music as well, but we were all itching to do something more aggressive. So we were just like “we have to do a punk thing” and then we just…did it.
Did you guys all know each other from high school? Or Craigslist? Or what?

Kam: We met through friends mostly. Sal and I met like ten years ago when we played in the same band.

Sal: I remember the first time I met you, I was playing in another band, and you came to the show, and I was like “who is this guy who is not talking?”

Kam: You didn’t talk! I thought “who is this guy who is not talking to me?” I guess we were both in love at first sight, and too shy to talk to each other. (Laughs).  Anyway, we met, and then ended up playing in a lot of bands together over the years. We all also play in another band called Son of Heatwave, and that’s how we met Tristan.

Tristen: Yeah, I play bass in that band. Our mentor is this guy named Jeff Mayfield who lives in Orange. He’s a little bit older than us, and he’s like the patriarch of all of our friends. He’s an amazing songwriter and loves making music but doesn’t want to make a living off of it. He’s a kindergarten teacher. He actually married me and my wife.

Kam: He married me and my wife too.

Tristan: Yeah, he’s just really our mentor. Kam used to play bass in Son of Heatwave, and then I first met Jeff he was like “Well you play bass, right?” And I was like “kind of!” So he was like “Kam will move to guitar, and you’ll play bass.” It’s just really this whole family of all these bands, and Girl Tears is just one of them. Also the biggest secret that they never reveal is that Kam and Sal are cousin-in-laws.

Kam: Yeah, my wife is Sal’s cousin.

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Guess you’re not pulling any dirt of tour huh? As you have a family member watching your every move.

Kam: (laughs)

Sal: I’ve got my eye on you.

 

Sal, are you married?

Sal: No.

 

So you’re the only one in the band who isn’t married. What’s that like?

Sal: It’s pretty awesome. I just go home and sit by myself when we’re not playing. I watch TV and play with my cat.

 

I mean, that sounds pretty similar to my life. Tell me about some of your guys’ earliest influences, the bands you heard in your youth that made you want to play music.

Kam: Well I was really into all the DC hardcore stuff in high school, Minor Threat and Teen Idols and all that stuff. And punk, mostly. I feel like more than any other type of music, you can really fall into a rabbit hole of discovering bands with punk. You can look up one band and they’re connected to some other band. There’s this kind of web that connects all these punk bands, especially 80s punk bands. I don’t know why I was so fascinated with that, but I fell really hard into it when I was in high school. When I got a little older, I got really into The Replacements and less sort of hardcore stuff. The Ramones and stuff like that. The Replacements are a big one for me.

Sal: Who I am has been pretty formed by three movies. Ghostbusters, Buckaroo Bonzai, and Back To The Future. But the music aspect came from Back To The Future. That opening scene where Marty McFly turns all the amps up and gets blown away, and later on when he plays that Chuck Berry song…that made me want to play guitar. So for the first part of my life I played guitar, because when I saw Marty McFly play that Chuck Berry song at the Enchantment Under The Sea dance, I knew I had to play guitar. That is one of the biggest influences of my entire life.

Tristan: I always go back to Operation Ivy. I was just kind of listening to the radio, and I really liked Green Day and Offspring, just like every 7th grader at that time. But I had a friend who was this punk kid, and I really latched on to him. I always valued what he was listening, and the first band he showed me was Operation Ivy. I thought there was something wrong with the speakers or something, because it didn’t sound like anything else I had ever heard. I was so fascinated with that, and the whole energy of Jesse Michaels. Operation Ivy made me want to be in a band that had that energy but that wasn’t that polished…

Kam: They were pioneers of their genre for sure. It’s like what I was saying about finding bands. I remember I was into Rancid, because I heard them on the radio or whatever, and I went to Bionic Records in Fullerton, to the Rancid section, and it was like “Also see: Operation Ivy, Downfall, Common Rider” and all the other bands of those guys. So I went and bought all those records, and that’s how I found out Operation Ivy was amazing. The first band I started in high school was with my best friend Alvia, and when I first met him I was wearing an Operation Ivy shirt, and he came up to me and was like “That band is amazing.” And we started a band the next day.

What’s the most memorable show you’ve ever been to? Whether it was the most amazing or the most bizarre or whatever.

Kam: I remember when I was in 10th or 11th grade I went to see Common Rider at Chain Reaction (in Santa Ana) and Jesse Michaels hung around after the show. There was no one there really, and my friend and I just went up and talked to him for an hour. We just asked him about his life and what he was doing after Operation Ivy, and he was super cool and just sat and talked to these two high school kids forever. That was really memorable for me.

 

He might read this. You never know.

Tristan: Oh man. Hi Jesse! We still love you! I think for me it was when I was in high school as well. My friend Jesse (not Michaels) and I, and these two girls were the only punk kids in our school, and one of the girls had her license. AFI, The Distillers, and Rancid were playing at Cane’s Bar in San Diego. We thought it was so far, we left at 4pm for an 8pm show. We of course got there at 6pm, and we were the very first people sitting outside. The bands got there, and Tim Armstrong and Lars walked up, and they looked at us, probably thinking we were super fans who got there really early with the intent of meeting them. So they came right up to us, and we talked to them for a long time. We were in shock that they were even talking to us. I think they took a Polaroid of us. We felt so cool. That was right when AFI was just starting to become well known. I remember some guy elbowed me in the face at the show, and I got a bloody nose, and it was pretty much the best night of my life so far.

Sal: I was in this band and we played this big festival called Cornerstone, and the band that headlined was Me Without You. All the other bands wanted to see them, and we all got to go on stage and watch them from behind, and the crowd knew every single word was singing along the whole time. They were just amazing. That was one of my favorite shows ever. That or any Nine Inch Nails show. I’m really into them. They have the best showmanship I have ever seen, technically, visually, everything.

 

Sal, imagine you have to describe the sound of Girl Tears to someone who has never heard the band, but you can only use movies. What movies does your band sound like?

Sal: I guess I would say it’s like a punk version of Dancing In The Dark. Here’s the thing, that’s probably Lars Von Trier’s most accessible movie, and he has this irreverent sense of humor, but it’s really dark, and there’s a lot of tension. At the core of it though, there’s something really beautiful. I think a lot of Kam’s songs are mistaken for being really dark when a lot of them are actually love songs.

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Tristan, you do all the art for the band. Is the art in a style that you have always sort of drawn in, and you just applied to the band’s stuff, or did you cultivate it specifically to go along with the band.

Tristan: It’s actually more similar to the first thing you said.  I had always drawn, I always had sketch books full of mostly figurative stuff. These weird, cool looking kids…I don’t know. When we started the band, for a minute we were like, hey let’s just be super anti-social media. Let’s not have a Facebook or an Instagram or a Twitter or anything…

 

Or any fans.

Tristan: Exactly. We didn’t really think about it. Then we realized it’s not like the days where we could go around posting flyers on light posts and get noticed that way, so we had to face reality. Kam was like “Hey, we should use your drawings for our band.” We had all always talked about how we’ve always been really big fans of bands who stuck to a certain aesthetic. I think working for a brand, like I work for Altamont, it’s been ingrained in me that you have to be recognizable, but not in a cheesy way…I don’t know. Anyway I just added our logo and flyer info to those pictures I had already drawn. I think it’s developed a little more into the band’s style versus mine, but it was just kind of a happy accident. I’m just lucky I have an outlet for this stuff, because I’m drawing it anyway.

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Do you guys have day jobs? Tristan, you just mentioned you work at Altamont.

Kam: Yeah, I’m like a social worker of sorts at a non-profit that does family therapy.

Sal: I’m a graphic designer. I do lots of corporate work, 9-5 stuff.

 

So you guys all have real jobs and two of you are married. You’re like the good, responsible punk band. What’s coming up next for Girl Tears?

Kam: We’re going on tour for a week with Terry Malts, our favorite band, doing West Coast shows.

Sal: Our record comes out September 23rd on vinyl, cassette and CD. The vinyl is really cool because if you pre-order it you get a poster. Also the entire album fits on one side, so the other side just has a really cool etching on it.

Kam: Yeah the whole album is on Side A, and Side B is an etching of Tristan’s art.

Tristan: We should mention our label Sinderlyn, which is Captured Track’s sister label. We originally released our album on Lolipop Records, those are our bros for life, and then Mike Sniper from Capture Tracks hit us up to ask if we had released it on vinyl yet, and told us he was starting a sister label called Sinderlyn and that he wanted us to be one of the first bands on it. And we of course were like “oh shit.” We’re all big fans of Captured Track’s catalog, so it was all really strange and surreal that they even found us and had enough faith in us to have us help launch Sinderlyn. The etching on the vinyl was their idea, and they also want to do a 12 page booklet of all of my illustrations that comes with the LP and the CD. They also wanted to do a 12 x 24” hand silk-screened poster that comes with the pre-order LPs. They have such amazing ideas that we don’t even know if we deserve them. It’s really cool.

 

That’s the lesson here kids. If you have good hearts, and work hard, and keep your noses clean, good things will happen to you. Now go catch Girl Tears on tour, and be sure to follow them on Facebook and Twitter:

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Yasi Salek

About Yasi Salek

likes parentheses.