The punk rock pedigree of John Reis is littered with an impeccable series of releases that date back to the late 1980s, yet his work still triumphantly marches onward without even the slightest indication of losing speed or relevance. This includes the jagged bounce of his San Diegan youth (Pitchfork), the post-punk monolith by which all other bands of the same ilk will forever be judged (Drive Like Jehu), the party band to end all party bands (Rocket from the Crypt), the raw garage punk icons back for one last stab at the crown (Hot Snakes), the stripped-down vintage rock band (Sultans), plus a collection of side projects far too extensive to dare list here. Reis has sunk his influential claws into seemingly every element of independent culture of the past few decades, a body of work that also extends from the stage with his label (Swami Records), radio show (Swami Sound System), and even his very own hip San Diego watering hole (Bar Pink Elephant). After all that work, I'd need a drink too.
All this leads to the Night Marchers, the latest project from Reis. Sounding like a violent combination of every single band he's ever been in, the Night Marchers don't so much as tread new ground as they stomp new territory, torching the soil as they go. Unlike Hot Snakes and Sultans, the Marchers aren't afraid to leave the garage for the urban grit ("In Dead Sleep"), dramatic flair ("And I Keep Holding On"), and retro pop ("Whose Lady R U") of their debut full-length, See You in Magic. All of these things were a natural progression for the fresh band, who recorded the album in four days, feeding off the spontaneity of the process.
"It's hard to expect a record to really do anything," says Reis. "You go in wanting the guitars to ring, the voice to be captured a certain way, the drums to do something specific that you have in mind, but there's a point very early on in the process of making a record that things stop being what you want them to be."
What See You in Magic turned out to be was a jittering livewire of dirty rock songs that is as frightening as its name (Hawaiian folklore for the ghosts of deceased ancient warriors) suggests. And it's not all Reis. The band—a lineup rounded out by guitarist Gar Wood (Hot Snakes, Tanner), drummer Jason Kourkounis (Hot Snakes, Delta 72), and newcomer bassist Thomas Kitsos—has taken advantage of their quick formation by embracing the urgency of forming/recording/touring in such a short amount of time. Such frantic pace leaves little time for Reis to ponder his place as one of the premier figures in modern punk music.
"I don't think of it as a legacy. I just keep moving forward. The Night Marchers just feels like a new band the way Hot Snakes felt like a new band, just like Rocket from the Crypt felt like a new band when we first started." He adds, "It's no different from when I was 16 and started a band with my friends and practiced in my bedroom. You just have to keep moving forward."