Downtown Lowdown: Reno Divorce brings longtime punk influence

by Bryant Liggett

Music fans need to shout it out for the state of Colorado. Durango itself boasts more bands than ever in the 20 years I’ve lived here, and Denver always seems to be sitting on what could be the next big thing.

With plenty of new-grass-inspired jam bands, often a source of ridicule amongst those soured by festival sounds, there’s an alt-country, EDM, goth-a-billy and punk music contingency that rivals cities from coast to coast. Colorado is also home to The Blasting Room, the Fort Collins studio founded by ex-Black Flag drummer and Descendents founder, Bill Stevenson, the go-to studio for established and up-and-coming rock bands influenced by American punk.

It’s where Reno Divorce recorded its last release, “Lovers Leap.” The Denver-based punk band will perform in Durango on Friday at The Balcony Backstage. Reno Divorce is Brent Loveday on guitar and vocals, Johnny Crow on bass and Jason Labella on drums.

“That was the deciding factor about moving here. It put Colorado on the map for us,” said Loveday in a recent phone interview. “It’s amazing, to be immersed in that history and to listen to those stories, and have those guys listen to you while you’re recording and give you the thumbs up. It’s one of the greatest feelings in the world.”

Loveday founded the band in Florida in 1996. When Orlando proved to be a musical dead end, void of the influence of touring bands and far enough out of the way to build a close regional scene, they regrouped in California and eventually were lured to Colorado.

They’re influenced and often compared to the celebrated era of American punk that came out of 1980s Southern California and Orange County. Think well beyond No Doubt and the polished first-world angst of Gwen Stefani’s fashion and the weed-influenced frat boy ska of Sublime. Purists regard that drivel as nonsense. They were chasing some of the sounds of Southern California from the early 1980s, while bands like Black Flag, T.S.O.L., the aforementioned Descendents and Social Distortion were providing a major shot in the musical arm of American music. The ladder is a major contributor to the sound of Reno Divorce.

Despite an influence of classic American punk, it’s not a sound steeped in two chords and railing against the Reagan era. There’s an obvious nod to roots music, not necessarily a country take on punk but certainly an exploration of roots rock ’n’ roll mixed with classic punk.

“I grew up in Tennessee, so I was raised on bluegrass and country music,” Loveday said. “I don’t realize I’m playing like that when I’m playing, but our sound has more of a roots thing, that classic American music.”

The band is currently writing for a new release, anticipating going into the studio and having the next record recorded and released in 2016.

“It’s a terrific lineup,” Loveday said. “This is the most fun I’ve had making music in years.”

[email protected]. Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager.

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