Descendents Update the "Whole 'I Like Food' Thing" with 'Hypercaffium Spazzinate'
Published Jul 27, 2016With the possible exception of "Weird Al" Yankovic, no artist uses food for musical inspiration as often or as effectively as OG California pop punks Descendents. From "Weinershnitzel" to their famed Bonus Cup, culinary delights have been a constant throughout the band's four-decade career.
So it's in keeping with the group's legacy that on Hypercaffium Spazzinate — their first album in 12 years — the greatest nod to its members' advancing ages is "No Fat Burger," which chronicles all the foods singer Milo Aukerman can no longer eat due to his family's history of heart disease.
"That was me deciding that with my advanced age I need to update the whole 'I Like Food' thing," Aukerman tells Exclaim!, referring to one of the band's most beloved songs from their 1981 Fat EP. While he doesn't say whether those dietary restrictions are real, the singer does admit that "we can't just stick our heads in the stand and say 'We're still teenagers.' We have to keep it rooted in reality. You can get old, but you don't have to wring your hands about it. You can just have fun with it."
Hypercaffium's origins date back a half dozen years. Following surgery that saved drummer and group mastermind Bill Stevenson's life, Descendents played a series of reunion shows, a period during which Aukerman penned the song "Comeback Kid," commemorating Stevenson's recovery. It was a jumping-off point for the group, and soon he, Stevenson, bassist Karl Alvarez and guitarist Stephen Egerton were trading files back and forth as they tried to put together a record while its four members were living in three different states – Stevenson and Alvarez in Colorado, Egerton in Oklahoma and Aukerman in Delaware.
"We weren't in any hurry," Aukerman says. "We didn't have a record company breathing down our neck. We took our sweet time."
Aukerman penned a dozen tracks, of which six ended up on the album; Alvarez and Stevenson each had an additional two, with Stevenson's "Without Love" being one of the record's standouts, while six of Egerton's instrumentals were augmented with lyrics from the rest of the group.
The band's democratic approach to songwriting ensures that only the tracks that resonate with the whole group end up getting used. Whereas he and Egerton tend to write the band's more aggressive material — Egerton's songs are more musically complex, while Aukerman tries to make up for the simplicity of his guitar work with lyrics that are "more highfalutin" — Stevenson's efforts tend to be "emotional, romantic, but with killer pop melodies."
Discussing his rejected compositions, Aukerman admits that some of them might not have necessarily fit the typical Descendents mould — he describes one as a country tune, while others had more of a heart-on-sleeve folk quality that he likens to labelmates the Lawrence Arms, of whom he's a fan.
Still, he respects the group's decision to shelve them and doesn't see any need to repurpose them for another musical project.
"I respect those guys so much that their opinion on songs," he says. "What we have with the four of us, is a format. I can write songs that fit the format or I cannot. I do both. The question is how important is it for me to have these other songs see the light of day."
As for the band's future, they are able to play more gigs since Aukerman was laid off from his job as a researcher at DuPont. He also says fans shouldn't have to wait another dozen years for the band's next record.
"Whether it's next year or another three years, either way I think people are going to go, 'Great, at least you're not taking a decade.'"
Check out the video for Hypercaffium Spazzinate's "Victim of Me" below before the album arrives Friday (July 29) on Epitaph.