Music News & Reviews

Punk legends 7 Seconds in Sacramento for Concerts in the Park

There’s one telling of this story as direct as any 7 Seconds songs: The hardcore-punk pioneers recently released “Leave a Light On,” their first record in nine years, because they could.

But that leaves a lot out. Namely where they’ve been, and what has changed.

7 Seconds hasn’t exactly been on hiatus. They’ve played shows. Singer Kevin Seconds was writing material for the group while working on mostly acoustic solo records and touring behind those. But he was living in Sacramento. The rest of the band – Steve Youth (bass), Bobby Adams (guitar), Troy Mowat (drums) – was in Reno. Families and jobs had to be considered.

“We had no idea what we wanted to do,” Seconds said. No idea if the world wanted another 7 Seconds record. No idea how they’d go about releasing one. A lot has changed since they formed in Nevada in 1980.

“We just got used to embracing the idea of CDs, and now no one wants CDs,” Seconds joked.

Then along came Craig Ericson, the founder of Beaverton, Ore.-based Rise Records. Ericson ran into the band in 2012 at the Groezrock music festival in Belgium. He’s a fan. He also has a history with Seconds. Ericson founded Rise in Nevada City when he was 17. One of its first releases was re-released in 1991 by a label Seconds used to run. Today, Rise has 1 million subscribers to its YouTube channel and does nice business with a lot of young, loud bands.

Backstage small talk in Belgium led to Facebook messages between Ericson and Seconds. In a sign of increasing seriousness, they moved to email. “Finally, I was like, ‘Is it cool if we make you an official offer?’ ” Ericson said.

It was. Rise did. They formed something of an equal partnership, Ericson said. The record was made. The summer tour begins Friday at Cesar Chavez Plaza, part of Concerts in the Park from the Downtown Sacramento Partnership.

“Sometimes I feel like we’re the luckiest band in the world,” Seconds said.

Earlier this year, Rise released “Off Stockton,” his third solo record since 7 Seconds’ 2005 album, “Take It Back, Take It On, Take It Over!” It’s not like Seconds’ solo work is any less punk when he’s not packing loud guitars. “Off Stockton” punched through 11 songs in 22 minutes. One of the best, “The Broken & the Bent,” has lyrics that could be read as Seconds wrestling with the future of his band: “I’m a rocker, but I’m hanging on by a thread.”

But it’s the opposite that’s true. The song was inspired by catching X at Harlow’s and watching the others in his demographic still rocking out. “It’s odd to be 53 and still identifying as a punk rocker or an old punk rock kid,” Seconds said. “But I still feel very connected to those things.”

Nevertheless, recording “Leave a Light On” presented some adult-world problems for the band: too many schedules, too many moving parts. There was no way the members of 7 Seconds were going to be able to get in one studio at the same time.

For help, they turned south to Los Angeles and Steve Kravac, owner of Hell’s Half Acre Studio. Kravac first saw 7 Seconds in 1986. He first worked with them on 1999’s “Good to Go.” Kravac remembered those sessions as rushed. Seconds remembered it being the first record where he didn’t produce the band, which led to inevitable tension at times.

Still, Seconds made the call.

“I hadn’t heard from the guys in a long, long time,” Kravac said. “At first I was kind of shocked. ‘Whoa, they remember me?’ ”

Seconds raised the logistical issues; Kravac said he’d do whatever had to be done to make it work. His website sets his rate at $50-per-hour for production and engineering.

“We probably should have paid him way more money than we did,” Seconds said.

Kravac produced, engineered and mixed the album, with the band largely recording tracks independently. The only time all four members were together was when they attacked background vocals one day in Sacramento. Kovac figured he made about $8 an hour by the time they were done, but he was happy to do it.

“I didn’t want it to sound like it was pasted together,” Kravac said.

It doesn’t. It sounds like the guys got together in a room and blasted through 14 songs in 32 minutes, and added a little polish to their straight-from-the-heart punk rock. Their day in Sacramento was well spent.

“That’s their core sound,” Kravac said.

The title track highlights the handful of mid-tempo numbers (and features the best melody on the album). Most of the rest of the record is sharp, opinionated and classically 7 Seconds. Funny, too – especially when they take aim at themselves on “30 Years (And Still Going Wrong).”

“I keep saying we’re just as surprised as anyone,” he said. Seconds laughs as he looks back at photos from 1985, then 1995, then 2005, and now here they are in 2014, the luckiest band in the world.