By Al Kaufman
It doesn’t take a sociology degree to know that Brooklyn has its own attitude. Folks from there are headstrong and arrogant, but also have a strong sense of justice, and an even greater sense of pure enjoyment. The guys who make up The So So Glos have that Brooklyn mentality.
Brothers Alex (lead vocals, bass) and Ryan Levine (guitar) started the band with step-brother Zach Staggers (drums). Good friend Matt Elkin joined before they released their 2008 EP Tourism/Terrorism, an album that won them many accolades in the punk community and led to an opening slot on the …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead tour.
The group gets a bit smarmy on their new CD, Blowout, which opens with a little kid getting all excited about the death of Kurt Cobain (“We’re listening to Nirvana, and as you know, Kurt Cobain . . . Pow!”) before breaking into “Son of an American,” a song about idols not living up to expectations. It’s an impishly brilliant way to broach the subject of dissatisfaction. That’s what they do. They’re part Beastie Boys, part Strokes. They have fun without appearing too juvenile, and keep the guitar melody front and center. And while it’s dangerous to compare any band to the Clash, and The So So Glos is more interested in having fun than changing the world, the band captures that same manic energy and DIY spirit. They helped found two all-ages venues in Brooklyn, Shea Stadium and Market Hotel. Joe Strummer would have been proud.
Blowout sets The So So Glos up to be the next Green Day, or the next Rancid… if they can keep it together that long. Alex has already needed to get his jaw wired shut after a dust up with brother Ryan. But it’s all in the name of music, and The So So Glos deliver it up hard, fast, and brash, all the while keeping an infectious beat.
In his brief interview, Alex Levine talked about the relationships within the band, as well as what it was like hanging out with punk heroes, the Pogues.
Who’s the little kid at the beginning of the album, and how did you come up with the Kurt Cobain idea?
That little kid is me at seven years old. I have no idea what I was thinking. One reason we kicked off the record with it was to illustrate that old “kill your idols” type of feeling. In a sense Kurt was kind of the ultimate “Son of an American.” A seven year old calling bullshit on his hero seemed like a pretty “so so glo” type of thing to do, so we threw it in.
You guys are a tight group: two brothers, a step-brother, and a friend. Is there a pecking order? Are fights, or “creative differences” more combative then they would be if you weren’t as close? I know there has been at least one broken jaw.
There are fights, some creative differences, some aggression and some passive aggression. It’s constant and real and that much more intense being a family. We wouldn’t have it any other way though. It’s an insane energy that propels us.
Are you worried your brotherly love will go the way of the Davies (The Kinks), Knopfler (Dire Straits) or Gallagher (Oasis) brothers?
They all made some pretty great music, so I’m not too worried if we turn out like any of those groups. The Kinks are our favorite.
You shared a stage with the Pogues. Any good drunken Shane MacGowan stories?
The Pogues are such great people. That night was a surreal blur. I remember being at the bar pounding on the table to “Blitzkrieg Bop” with Shane. I’ll always remember that moment. Since playing with them, Spider [Stacy, Pogues’ tin whistle player] has become a good friend of ours and we see him whenever we’re in New Orleans. Much much respect to those guys.