Read any article about Bay Area pop impresario Tony Molina, and the lede’s always the same—how can a guy who’s fronted tough-as-nails hardcore bands like Caged Animal and Dystrophy make such pleasant pop music?
The answer is obvious: If there’s one thing all good hardcore kids understand, it’s how to write creative and forward-thinking songs with a limited palette. Whether he’s building up to mosh parts in his hardcore bands or secretly hinting at mosh parts in his simple, addictive pop music, Molina’s a master of making the most of a little.
Molina started making solo music in 2008, when some songs he’d written didn’t fit in with the work of his indie rock act Ovens. Then, in 2013, Ovens sort of fizzled out so he recorded Dissed and Dismissed as a solo effort instead. While technically a full-length, Dissed and Dismissed breezes through 12 songs in 12 minutes. And yet, they’re all packed with hooks, solos, anthemic choruses, and a whole bunch of personality.
“The most hardcore has affected the solo stuff has probably only been the song lengths, I think,” he says. Impressively, however, he’s not editing songs down to keep their terse form. “Short songs are cool. I feel like a lot of times, you don’t really need to have a verse and a chorus and repeat it hella times to make it a real song or whatever. I’ve never written a chorus before. I try to come up with a melody, then try to add some type of riff or guitar part and it feels like it’s done. Sometimes I’ll be like ‘I should add another part to this,’ but rarely.”
Of course, Molina’s not the first person to dabble in brief songs. When asked about his favourite short jams, he inadvertently offers a glimpse into his influences. “As far as short songs that I like, Infest’s Mankind 7-inch comes to mind, that’s one of my favourite records,” he says.” Also the first song on Beach Boys’ Friends is hella short but I forgot what it’s called. That Tobin Sprout song that closes Bee Thousand is a good one. ‘You Suffer’ by Napalm Death is also a classic track.”
Aside from the occasional mosh-ready guitar part, however, Dissed and Dismissed stays strictly in a pop zone. Coreman approved rock acts like Dinosaur Jr. and Teenage Fanclub are notable touchpoints, but it gets even more accessible with hints of Pinkerton throughout. Think the Infinity Cat roster without any of the goofy tongue-in-cheek irony.
Released as a limited run on Molina’s own Melters label last year, the album quickly found a cult following and sold out instantly (the original press of the record currently sits around the $70 range on discogs.com). That was followed by the Six Tracks 7-inch EP on Matador Records, which sold out just as fast.
“I like records fine, but have never been into collecting anything,” Molina says, surprised that his albums have become online trading gold. “Some of the guys in my band are really into it. And I think it’s cool that people are wanting to buy my shit. Time will tell whether or not they will eventually be dollar bin staples like some of my other bands,” he laughs.
For now, Dissed and Dismissed has returned to regular record shelves, thanks to a recent reissue from long-running Bay Area indie pop powerhouse Slumberland Records. The label will also serve up Molina’s next full-length later this year.
“My newest stuff isn’t as short,” Molina says. “I think it’ll sound a bit different. I’ve been trying to write more acoustic stuff, like the old Ovens stuff. I want there to be a lot of more mellow shit on there. The studio I record at got a Hammond with a Leslie speaker, and a piano, so I plan on fucking with that.”
Even if he mellows, there’s no doubt that Molina’s history as a hardcore kid will shine through on his next LP; growing up in that scene instills skills that stick for life. “I think if you do that shit at a young age it’s a good way to learn how to do music, like in a legit way,” he says. “Like you get a better mindset and understanding about shit if you come from that.”
[magazine month=”April” year=”2014″]