Local punks Burndowns celebrate new EP on Big Neck Records | Pittsburgh City Paper

Local punks Burndowns celebrate new EP on Big Neck Records

Every band has a philosophy, right? "Burndowns are about killin' it," explains singer-guitarist Steve Anderson. "One hundred percent, number one." Drummer Chris Matranga brings him down a notch: "Steve could be lying in a pile of his own filth, face down, on Butler Street, and you could go up and kick him and he'd say, 'Killin' it!'" Matranga completes the impression with a thumbs-up gesture and silly grin.

Undaunted, Anderson continues, "Once someone sees you kick ass, you can't not kick ass after that, or you'll let them down."

It's hard to mess with the simplicity of a rock 'n' roll doxa like this -- or with much else that Burndowns have to say for themselves. They're straightforward guys in a straightforward band; they offer riff-driven power pop/punk and are serious about having a good time.

Burndowns formed in 2006, after Anderson's former band, The Radio Beats, broke up. He united with bassist Bill Julin, whose main band at the time, The New Alcindors, was in limbo. Matranga came in around the time of the demise of his most recent band, Ludlow, and lead guitarist Matt Schor (Test Patterns, Main Events) joined last summer, replacing an earlier guitarist.

Burndowns' self-titled EP came out last month on Virginia's Big Neck Records and gets its official release-party treatment Sat., Aug. 9, at Gooski's; also performing is Brain Handle, which will celebrate the release of a new 7-inch record titled Smiling/Smiling Again. Since the band members believe that CDs are becoming outmoded, the Burndowns EP is a vinyl-only release that includes a digital-download card.

"There are very few people using CDs these days, other than for mixes," Matranga says. "There are people who want the vinyl, and everyone else uses mp3s." And what of the free download system everyone's calling "the Radiohead method" these days?

"If someone asks for the music, we'll give it to them for free" via file-sharing, Schor says.

That shouldn't be a problem with Big Neck Records; Matranga says of the label's head, Bart Hart, "He runs it the way a punk label should be run. He puts out the bands he wants, when he wants, and doesn't care what people think, doesn't care about artwork."

Artwork is something that likely wouldn't be an issue with this release regardless -- the cover is a honky-tonk scene painted by local artist and former Pay Toilets and Ludlow guitarist Jeff Schreckengost. "Jeff did one of the most amazing paintings he's ever done for this," Matranga says.

"It's much better than it should be, considering the record that comes with it," Anderson adds.

The record that comes with it is 14 minutes of fast hooky punk a la bands like the New Bomb Turks. Anderson's vocals are often growly but with extensive range and character, and he sings about the stuff that characterizes carefree punk: hanging out, meeting girls, trying to go home with said girls.

"Our songs are about watching the world fall apart around you, and doing your thing," Anderson explains. "I'm about good vibes, but I know bad vibes permeate." The new record was recorded last year; the band insists its songwriting process has been honed a bit since then, both lyrically and musically.

"The lyrics are about as close as stupid punk songs can come to existentialism," posits Anderson. "But it's still about having a good time."

Guitarist Schor, who has also recorded for a number of local punk bands, including Brain Handle, The Fitt, and Icon Gallery, recorded the Burndowns EP, and has since recorded more tracks the group hopes to shop around to labels for release as 7-inch singles. And the band's musical process has changed some with the addition of Schor.

"Matt knows a lot of theory," Julin says. "There are technical aspects that Chris and Matt bring that we wouldn't otherwise have." Anderson agrees that without the battery of instrumentalists around him, the riffs and vocal melodies he comes up with wouldn't take on the life that they do. "Burndowns would not be any good without these three guys," he insists.

But with all of them together, suffice it to say he's killin' it. One hundred percent.


Burndowns and Brain Handle record release with Weird Paul Rock Band. 10 p.m. Sat., Aug. 9. Gooski's, 3117 Brereton St., Polish Hill. $5. 412-681-1658

Local punks Burndowns celebrate new EP on Big Neck Records
Killin' it: from left, Burndowns Matt Schor, Bill Julin, Steve Anderson and Chris Matranga