They’re among the most vital bands to be formed in Sacramento – not just in the thrashy world of punk rock, but any genre.
Trash Talk was birthed in the underground, do-it-yourself factions of Sacramento music, but its sound has since gone worldwide. From Japan to London, and any number of American cities in between, Trash Talk has earned a reputation as a leader and taste-maker in the latest generation of hardcore punk. But its influence goes beyond that. Trash Talk has built an extended community that links the worlds of hip-hop, skateboarding culture and other urban expressions into one swirling mosh pit.
But for all its connections to the 916 area code, Sacramento remains a kind of outlier city for the band. Trash Talk’s show on Thursday, Oct. 20, marks a fairly rare local gig for the band, which has called Los Angeles home for the past few years. Trash Talk basically split from Sacramento not long after forming in 2005. For the rest of us, as the group was once named by Rolling Stone as one of the “hottest bands” at the long-running CMJ Music Marathon, we’ve pretty much had to watch Trash Talk blow up from afar.
“I love Sacramento,” said Trash Talk frontman Lee Spielman, in a recent phone call. “My family is there. I grew up there. But everyone would be lying to themselves if they say they don’t want to achieve more and get out of their own city.”
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The band’s lineup has shifted quite a bit over the years, but always featured Spielman at the helm. The current roster includes its longtime core of bassist Spencer Pollard and guitarist Garrett Stevenson.
Sacramento still figures as a key influence for the independent ethos that drives Trash Talk. Spielman’s introduction to a nationwide hardcore punk community arrived via West Coast Worldwide, an underground venue near 16th and S streets run by Mikey Hood of Sacramento’s The Hoods. Back then, Spielman was bouncing around between El Camino and Mira Loma high schools, not caring much for school yet finding punk rock purpose at West Coast Worldwide. The place was more then a venue, but also served as a home base for a record label of the same name and ground zero for hardcore bands passing through town.
These formative experiences helped solidify Trash Talk, which founded its own Trash Talk Collective label and turned its warehouse living spaces in Los Angeles into a hub for printing T-shirts, skateboarding on a mini-ramp and renegade shows. This epicenter of activity was like an extension of the lessons learned back in Sacramento.
“Inside those walls (at West Coast Worldwide), everyone was more advanced than the people at my high school,” said Spielman. “I felt like high school was a space for children. I wasn’t worried about going to baseball practice. (Mikey Hood) put me on to so much that I use to this day, whether it be accounting, working the door, paying bands, booking and promoting. It was 100 percent a place where I just felt more in touch with people.”
This city is also key to one of Trash Talk’s signature songs. It starts as a blast of breakneck punk, like one of Suicidal Tendencies’ slam dance anthems from the early 1980s, before the tempo drops in half and Spielman unleashes a primal scream of a chorus that doubles as the song’s title: “Sacramento is dead! Sacramento is dead!”
The song might seem like a diss on the 916, but it’s expressing a broader state of mind: Hometowns sometimes have to be sacrificed for bigger dreams; ambitions sometimes trump allegiance to area code. For Trash Talk’s first five years, Spielman says he basically lived in the band’s van and played upward of 300 shows a year. Sacramento might as well have been just another tour stop.
“When you’re a kid or a young adult, you’re not going to be young forever,” said Spielman, “so I figured I had to see everything, to get out of my hometown and see more.”
Trash Talk has since ascended and moshed through the independent music scene. The band is known for an especially intense and enthralling live show, a detonation of a set (usually 45 minutes) packed with swirling circle pits, stage dives and other bombastic ways to blow off steam. Many of its shows are multigenre and include hip-hop acts as openers, such as the San Jose rapper Antwon who shares the bill Thursday at Midtown Barfly.
“I love punk and hardcore, but I don’t want to see a punk band play five times in a row,” said Spielman. “I want a breath of fresh air. I like a function where there’s graffiti writers, skaters, photographers, punks. If you have the ball, you do something with it instead of getting stagnant.”
The independent hip-hop community has in turn embraced Trash Talk. The band was the first non-rap act to be signed to Odd Future Records, a label led by the acclaimed rapper (and brief Elk Grove resident) Tyler, the Creator. That kind of underground cred and ability to bridge various subcultures led Spielman to emerge as a tastemaker of sorts. Converse tapped Trash Talk to release a leather skate shoe in 2014, and Spielman now runs a Los Angeles boutique called Babylon LA that merges all of his interests, including art, streetwear and a wood bowl for skating behind the store.
“It’s an open space for people to come and be themselves and be creative,” said Spielman. “Everyone can sell T-shirts. I’d rather give kids an experience and plant ideas in their head and show they can do this, whether it’s making ’zines, photos or skating.”
But soon on the agenda, it’ll be time for Trash Talk to plug in and set it off in Sacramento.
“Trash Talk is the only band I’ve ever been in,” said Spielman. “I want to get these life experiences while I can.”
What: The hardcore punk band appears with Antwon and Black Noise
When: 8 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 20.
Where: Midtown Barfly, 1119 21st St., Sacramento