The southern California suburbs birthed hardcore –– a caustic sound made of surging guitar, breakneck drum beats, and copious amounts of inextinguishable adolescent animus. Descendents, a four-piece from Manhattan Beach, CA, were a wholly unique fixture within this scene.
While their counterparts raved about Reaganomics, government censorship, and the inescapable suburban sprawl, Descendents engaged listeners’ ids with snotty, feedback-filled love songs. Those punchy, yet melodic bursts of emotion changed hardcore and served as the blueprint for a new generation of apolitical acts deemed “pop punk.”
Filmmakers Deedle LaCour, Matt Riggle, Justin Wilson, and James Rayburn attempt to chronicle the history of Descendents and their undeniable impact on popular music with “Filmage: The Story of Descendents/All.”
You can catch a screening of the film Sat. Dec. 7 at The Palace Theater, 2384 James St. The doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets are $12.
Deedle LaCour and Matt Riggle, both of whom are part-time musicians and full-time video editors, chose to document the band after meeting current Descendents guitarist Stephen Egerton during a studio session.
Riggle had become acquainted with band as a teenager when he discovered All, drummer Bill Stevenson’s philosophical side project featuring Descendents members Egerton and bassist Karl Alvarez.
“I first got into All and then worked my way back,” says Riggle. “When Descendents reformed in 1996 I got to see them live for the first time –– they were a singular band and I felt like I knew those guys going into this because of their music. With [the film] we wanted pull back and understand their career.”
Descendents formed in 1978 when guitarist Frank Navetta, Stevenson, and bassist Tony Lambardo began recording caffeine-fueled surf punk. In 1980 the band hired bespectacled singer Milo Aukerman and, after a year of shows, put out “Fat” (New Alliance).
In 1982 the band released their most well-known effort “Milo Goes to College” (New Alliance), a reference to Aukerman’s actual exodus, as he’d enrolled at the University of California, San Diego. Stevenson disbanded Descendents and joined Black Flag upon Aukerman’s departure.
The band, including new guitarists Ray Cooper and Doug Carrion, reunited in 1985 to produce “I Don’t Want to Grow Up” (New Alliance) and “Enjoy” (New Alliance).
Stephen Egerton and Karl Alvarez joined Descendents in 1987 for “All” (SST), the concept album that produced Stevenson’s splinter group All.
In 1987 Descendents went on hiatus once more and Stevenson pursued All full time.
Descedents have reunited multiple times since the 1980s. And, in Nov. of 2010 the band headlined Fun Fun Fun Fest in Austin, TX. It was at this show that Riggle and company conducted and filmed their initial interviews.
The crew spent two years collecting and editing footage.
“Filmage” contains live performance video, archived images, and on-camera interviews with the band and other key punk personalities, including Dave Grohl and Mike Watt of The Minutemen.
Riggle says the band was involved throughout the filmmaking process but ultimately refrained from censoring any of the material.
“We showed them rough cuts and they were all touched. They each had their own opinions but everyone was supportive. They’re very humble guys.”
Though the band’s cooperation was integral to the film’s success, Riggle cites another important factor: teamwork.
“The crew –– me, Deedle, our director of photography Justin Wilson, and co-director James Rayburn –– we’re all either musicians or huge music fans. And, we worked together like a band; we wore each other’s hats.”