John Magnifico is visibly nervous. The shaggy-haired frontman for Old Growth isn't used to giving interviews. He's a bit reluctant to talk about himself, and doesn't really see the point of trying to explain something as simple as rock music. "I don't have anything really special to say," he shrugs before continuing. "We're three regular dudes, there's nothing special or fancy about us. We work and we love to play music. It's very important to us."
Normally this sort of lack of access isn't a welcome turn of events in an interview; in fact, it's normally the last thing you want to hear. But with Old Growth, it's fitting. The band prides itself on being a blue-collar punk band with classic rock roots. That's it. I can stop this article right here. There are no grand selling points, no clever marketing schemes, no gimmicks—the band just works, plays music, and intends on repeating that process until the end of time. It's the same work-first, music-second ideology started by bands like the Minutemen—the shut-your-mouth-get-in-the-van mentality that's at the core of Old Growth.
"It would be nice if we were a band that actually made money, but I feel like bands get to be kind of lame when they don't have that struggle in life," Magnifico says. "We work our asses off, get off work, go to practice. It's such a release. It's good for us."
Their maniacal work ethic has paid off, and the trio is set to release Under the Sun, an inspiring collection of haphazard loose rock grooves (think Crazy Horse) that prop up their anthem-rich punk rock tempo and lyrics that tug at the human condition. There is the Tom Joad protagonist of "Right on the Wrong," who is pinned between an honest, moral existence and something more sinister ("I have been getting right on the wrong side of town"). Or the epic struggles of the album's opener "Machine Life," on which Magnifico's hoarse vocals belt out the pained chorus, "I don't want to die with these enemies," before coming to the decision to "tear down the walls between the rich and the poor." The characters of Under the Sun owe something to Guthrie, Springsteen, and Strummer (take your pick), and all of them walk that fine line between good intentions and an easy fix to mounting problems.
Old Growth's tales of the harsh realities of the working poor and the romantic allure of blue-collar pride don't end in the liner notes. Florida transplant Magnifico—who used to front the swampy hardcore act Twelve Hour Turn—and bassist Luke Clements (also of Science of Yabra) are bartenders, while drummer Ben Muha works as a delivery driver. But work takes a backseat to touring (the band is constantly on the road, often in Europe), which in turn takes a backseat to quality of life: "We only tour in the wintertime, because it's horrible weather here. When summertime comes around, it's like, 'Sorry, Old Growth, it's time to have fun.'"