The Father Figures Dish on Phoenix's Punk Rock Glory Days
"I moved to Phoenix in 1978 from Kansas City," Cornelius says. "In Kansas City, there's no punk rock thing going on, really. I remember my friend that worked in the record store would play the Sex Pistols record to piss off the store across the mall. I was familiar with some stuff like Elvis Costello, Talking Heads, and Sex Pistols when I moved out here, but I'd never been to any sort of punk rock concert scene at all.
When I moved here, my friends were artists. My college friends were art major performance artists, and I started a band with them called The Junior Kims. We did that as sort of a reaction to 'Well, anyone can do this, because look at this stuff, this is crazy, we could do that too.' We did it almost like performance art, not really 'Oh, this is going to be great music, we're just going to do something crazy and have really cool fliers' and that kind of stuff."
Cornelius found himself immersed in the punk scene at an event called "Troutorama."
"It had The Feederz," Cornelius says. "The Feederz were back in '77/'78 and it was just crazy. It was a rented hall and people were being really weird and crazy, and it was a very small scene. We're talking about 100 people showing up to a little hall and three bands playing and you knew everyone in the bands. I met musicians that way, and I met [JFA's] Don [Redondo] through punk rock music. I was at a show at the Mason Jar and a band called The Blue Shoes were playing, and they were like a New Wave cover band. They played a Dickies song and this surfer-looking dude with long dreadlocks dived on the dance floor and started flopping around on the dance floor.
So, [I decided that] I've got to meet that guy because he's a weirdo. We like weirdos."
Eventually, Redondo and Cornelius formed JFA, a band as infamous as it proved to be influential.
"We got banned from the Mason Jar," Cornelius says. "Other bands were getting banned from other clubs, just being worried about getting away with it for right now, let alone what was going to happen later."
Lerma was younger and had different experiences.
"It was different because I was a little kid going to those shows," Lerma says. "For me, it always seemed like it was the safe place for everybody who didn't fit in anywhere else. The artists who didn't make art that conformed to what every other artist was doing. There was a big gay population that came to the shows then that didn't fit in anywhere else, just anybody who was kind of a misfit. Outcast longhairs, it was a safe place to go."
"I guess I'm more of a late bloomer compared to these two because I didn't start going to shows until probably until '84 or 85," Reardon says. "Didn't play until '88. I don't know, I guess it was violent and crazy. There was a lot of times walking out being bloody, but I always thought that was part of the fun. I remember being at the Mason Jar for a DRI show and walking right into someone's fist and it just ruined my face, but that was part of the fun because DRI was awesome and 'Oh, well, my clothes got covered with blood, but that's all right.' [It] just made it look cool.
Reardon played in numerous outfits but holds the distinction of opening for Fugazi with his band The Religious Skids.
"[Religious Skids] got to open for Fugazi, and that was our third time playing in front of people," he laughs. "It was Fugazi's first time in Phoenix. People were pretty jazzed about the fact that it was 'the dude from Minor Threat.' Some folks had copies of the first EP, so that's what they were touring in support of. We were the only non-straight edge band on the bill, but we were the only ones that Fugazi hung out with."
"And we were drunker than everyone else," added Lerma. Here's hoping the three punk statesmen get a chance to crack a few beers tomorrow, when they release their new LP. They certainly deserve it.
The Father Figures are scheduled to perform Friday, January 25, at Crescent Ballroom.