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Interview: Culture Abuse

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San Franciscans, Culture Abuse, are a hard band to label and put in a box. 

Their fusion of hardcore punk, grunge and slacker indie with a sprinkling of pop sensibility is earning extensive attention and their latest music is already being hyped as incredible.

Culture Abuse

The band has overcome challenging odds to make it this far. Last album Peach an inspiring underground hit, which has seen them sign to legendary punk label Epitaph records for their sophomore record which has so far produced the brilliant single ‘So Busted’.

Fronted by David Kelling, who suffers from Celebral Palsy, they are band with a unique story to tell and different outlook on life.

Kelling spoke to us to give us a little insight into the enigmatic attributes of the band and the positive effect working in music has had on his life. 

The band’s genesis was a very organic one. The line-up is completed by guitarists Nick Bruder and John McCarthy (June Bug), bassist Shane Plitt, and drummer Evan Pierce.  According to Kelling the creation of the band was a tale of ‘who can play what’. 

Following a tour with band Dead To Me, their drummer Pierce, who was aware of Kelling’s skilled composing asked if he would like to form a band.  Their collaboration was soon joined by other friends who ‘sort-of fit’ and there you go – Culture Abuse came to life. 

Their solid foundations mean they now work like a musical family - caring and motivated about their productions.  Without Evan Pierce’s first move, we may not have heard from Kelling for a while or at all. 

Kelling’s condition affects the right side of his body which has inhibited his musical ability.  However, the belief of his band has encouraged and aided his growth into a fully confident player with much-increased skill.  Maybe his teenage dreams are coming true?

I just wanted to be in The Beatles” he explained. 

This increased confidence is evident in their more recent music, with more intricate guitar lines and soaring pop melodies making their way into the unrelenting punk fervour with exceptional results. 

Not that his condition doesn’t still present challenges in a world where audiences expect certain things from lead singers.

 “For the most part lead singers are attractive and command attention.  There was never one who I was like oh that guy also has cerebral palsy.  I always watched the bands where the lead singer was jumping off the speakers into the crowd and I can’t do that.  Growing up with it is weird because there is no example of how I am supposed to do anything.” 

“I grew up watching Iggy Pop strutting around, walking all cool, and I struggle to walk.  It’s crazy because there are videos up now and I’ve watched them and gone fuck I don’t look like Iggy Pop.  There have been a couple of times that people have made me feel bad for it but most people are chill.”

Of course, this only adds to the remarkably impressive layers of Culture Abuse’s unique persona. Plus there is nothing more ‘punk’ than Kelling’s continued perseverance to perform live

“’If you have stairs we are not playing the show’, that doesn’t work, we wouldn’t play anywhere.” 

As the primary writer Kelling names the top three influences of the band’s music as The Beatles, The Specials and The Clash which you can certainly hear in parts.  He goes onto describe the recording process and June Bugs massive part in the process.

 “At the end, it always sounds a little different than I imagined, in a good way.  Usually, I have full arrangements in my head and then I just write it all on an acoustic guitar.  When you put that in June Bugs hands it always comes out sounding like nothing I could ever play.”

“I’m a big fan of big arrangement like if I played an acoustic show I’d still want it to have strings, bongos, to make it more than just getting up with my acoustic guitar and play some songs.  I also don’t ever want to feel like a puppet.”

Kelling favours the recording aspects of the process so much that he even suggests they may reach a Beatles moment where they are unable to perform live the record which they just recorded.  Suggesting an adaptable facet to their music that will allow them to evolve seamlessly and successfully into the mainstream future. 

Their album Peach, released in 2016, is a collection of power pop melodies, shoegaze and aggressive punk with an attitude of not caring about what others think.  Their next album is apparently more diverse. 

According to Kelling you can put it on in your car, chill out and drive slow or put your headphones on and rock out to the guitars. 

 “We make the arrangement so you can turn it up as soft or loud as you want and still be covered in a warm blanket, you know.

“The music is really about learning why you are rebelling against yourself and who or what you’re mad at, then challenging and focussing your energy and talents on something positive for the world.”

The band certainly has a positive ethos, since some rebellious NFSW action in one of their first music videos ‘Perfect Light’, the band is focusing more on moderation but when it comes down to it they tell the truth about where they are in life. 

“With the new record it will a little more obvious about how we feel, in the meantime, we have lost some friends to drugs.  At first it was just showing what we were going through but hopefully one day we will be preaching moderation.”

They all have an incredibly long-term plan, including hopes to still be playing Wembley at 50 years old with a full orchestra, horns and backup singers. 

For, now they have a busy year ahead.  Having just finished up three weeks of recording demo’s in Amsterdam, they are headed to numerous European, UK and American festivals, recording new music and announcing a new tour later on in the year.

Their aspirations are massive but somehow they still have their feet on the ground, their love of music is the glue holding them all together and they are all willing to play the baby gigs for as long as it takes until they inevitably hit the big time. 

“Right now whilst we’re packing in the small punk clubs, we are just gonna go and sweat it out.  Then one day we will be able to do everything.” 




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