The Last Gang: We talk to Brenna Red.
The Last Gang are first and foremost great entertainers, Brenna Red (joining us today) is on record as saying she writes songs “just to be alive” and (like all great punk) this music would kick start a corpse. This was a feature we reached out for as the 2021 album “Noise Noise Noise” was one of our favourite punk albums of the year.
The band is comprised of:
- Brenna Red.
- Robby Wantland.
- Sean Viele.
- Ken Aquino.
Not only was this a great album, but the title song (and single) of the same name was a fascinating trip into Ska music with a twist of reggae in the mix. Without risk of accusations of being overly pusillanimous, it’s a piece of inventive and powerful songwriting, musically tight and on the nail.
Brenna- I think you got it right, it’s very much under that influence. Obviously, we are very much influenced by The Clash. A good piece of advice is to be like your heroes. Don’t try to play like them, listen to what they listen to. When I was growing up, I’d listen to Toots and The Maytals, Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, and stuff like that, because that’s what influenced my heroes. With this song, I don’t think we set out to have a Madness feel to it, but it kind of evolved into it.
It excited me as a listener, and the LA scene at the moment for punk seems really vibrant. Here in the UK, we were the home of punk to begin with in the 70s, but then it seemed to become more friendly with punks appearing on postcards welcoming tourists to London. I wondered how Brenna felt about the LA scene at the moment.
Brenna- I think all communities have their own new bands with music coming out with their art. But for me, when punk came out, there were different facets to it. There was danger, and some of it was more expression and art. I think another aspect was community, having someone to be next to you who was like you. I think all those factors have evolved into the greater beautiful monster that it is today. I think LA really pulled on creativity and pushed the boundaries. I don’t think it is dangerous as such, but it is electrifying out here. Personally, I want to make art and something that’s beautiful.
We discussed the way that songwriting takes place in the band, and how Brenna Red describes herself as a dystopian writer. Dystopian concepts of the future world, social breakdown, environmental concerns all seem highly relevant to the world today.
Brenna- I figured out I was a nihilistic optimist, I love joy and the pure form of it. But at the same time, I feel nothing will change and as a species we are just going to destroy ourselves and we will all die miserably! I am at the point of asking why we are trying when nothing matters, but at the same time, I feel we must try. It has always been a part of me.
I wondered if Brenna looked to present a message in her lyrics that moved toward these concerns or whether she stayed out of the more political/pressure group feelings.
Brenna- I definitely do. I have an opinion, but I’m not educated in the sense that I didn’t go to university. So I may not know the scientific facts, but I have my opinions. I can get frustrated when people say this is happening, but my opinion is that we are like insects on this planet, an infestation, and we are just eating it and we are doing it at such a volume. This is not a political band , it’s not an activist band, but I write about what I feel at this time and what is prevalent.
The Last Gang are a highly melodic band, and they do switch genres. There is punk to the fore, but there is the aforementioned ska and reggae blended into the mix too. We detect The Specials in there too, who in the UK are seen as a political band, but The Last Gang are really more melodic, catchy and have entertainment factor 10!
Brenna- I’m a sucker for melody. It makes me happy and think of all the facets of being in a band, the rehearsals and writing. All these can get me weary, but I am never too tired to discover new melodies and harmonies. That is what gives me chills and makes me excited every time.It’s a beautiful thing.
We discussed the entertainment aspect of the business, and the importance of entertainment. How the great entertainers of the past, like BB King, would go out and put on a show. I felt more than anything the music of The Last Gang entertains and takes you away from the troubles of the day.
Brenna – That’s what I try to do. I try to create an emotion in the listener, a bittersweet sadness or joy. I aim to do that.
Part of the impetus behind The Last Gang is their working relationship with Fat Wreck Chords, a superb label for supporting new punk music, backing emerging artists.
Brenna- They are very much like family. They are not what you might think, as they are effectively an indie label… They are a strong platform for an artist. When they like an artist and sign them, it is up to the artist to make their voice heard. Get on tour, do the promotions, write new music, and do the videos. They don’t tell you, but as an artist I have a lot of freedom… I like the way they do business.
The philosophy of Brenna is “If you don’t try, you never know,” and the band was reborn after a hiatus. I wondered if the second version of the band had shown evolution. Was it a different experience.
Brenna- Previously, we were a local band who had a couple of cool tours here and there, but (for me) it was really ruled by a fear of failing, it was one foot in and one foot out. There was a fear of failing and not living the dream you may have had. But the second time around, came the feeling that you should swallow the disappointment in yourself, or the fear, and just do it. That disappointment is better than regret. That is a huge lesson I have learned since we took that break, and this time around there was a desire to just do it. Let’s dump some of our money into that first album. There was a determination to move forward. We are not going down till the bitter end. Even then, we will refuse to go.
Possibly the greatest wonder of punk is how it never gives up. I love punk because, into every life, a pile of shit sometimes falls, and punk, with its never say die attitude, just gets you through. As a last point, what is there in the remainder of 2022 for this great little band?
Brenna- We have an upcoming tour in October, we do AntiFest with Anti Flag, and that is along the West Coast. That will be so much fun, and we have just got back from Europe, so busy times.
And there we are! For a full on blast of melody, entertainment, and modern day punk, check out The Last Gang and their material. Music with no abbreviation!
By E. M. C Chambers
One Reply to “The Last Gang: Brenna Red, a voice for Modern Punk.”
This is great! I am now enjoying listening to The Last Gang! Thanks, Rock the Joint!
I shall look forward into delving into this magazine some more.