“DIY til the day I die” is the mantra for the Rundown Kreeps. Dubbed a ska-punk band from Los Angeles, they are definitely a lot more than that.
They are brash, they are energetic, but most importantly, they bring a signature sound that is getting them noticed.
Most in the Southern California music scene got to know them when they put out their legit hit “Me and Jay in Space.” Maybe it was the video, maybe it was the song, whatever it was, it got people talking about this band.
They bring the energy of the Bosstones, with the attitude of Voodoo. Somehow without horns, they pull of a ska-punk sound that’s unique and screams L.A. ska-punk!
Over the years, they’ve had a string of other hits, but it was their cover of Coldplay’s “The Scientist” that got them noticed nationally and the much coveted radio airplay.
The thing about this band is they stand out even in the place where bands like No Doubt, The Untouchables, Aquabats, Sublime, Save Ferris and Voodoo Glow Skulls captured the hearts and souls of the locals. Southern California certainly knows good music, and the fandom will definitely let you know if you don’t measure up. To stand out in this sea of these juggernauts is an accomplishment all on its own. Yet here we are.
The Latino ska-core scene in L.A. can be brutal and challenging, and yet bands like Matamoska and La Resistencia make it look effortless. Then, there’s The Interrupters, they too call Los Angeles home, and blew up. Hopefully this band can follow in their footsteps.
I first met the Rundown Kreeps when we were sharing bill at a Portland ska festival supporting staples Pilfers and Monkey. Seeing Rundown Kreeps perform made a huge impression on me right away. I had never heard a band so together and it was like they knew each other’s thoughts as they would bring a fresh jam to the table.
My admiration of their group grows with each new thing I hear from them. Now they’re on Spotify’s essential ska playlist, releasing their own music videos, and freshly signed to My Grito Records.
I caught up with front-man Richard Lamas to talk about their tenacious start; recording in garages at 14 years old, touring nationally and internationally before hitting their 20s, recording and releasing singles for the last decade, and all on their own merit. This band is truly an “IT” band and I think in the post-pandemic era, they will blow up the national festival circuit.
Jenna: “Everyone is a sucker for the origin stories, especially me. Give me the story of the early beginnings of The Rundown Kreeps.”
Richard: “I’m really the only original member, but I wouldn’t really call it Rundown [Kreeps] up until the three members that are in it now. I started the band when I was 14 and in high school; that’s just what you did back in L.A. … I found myself at these [backyard] shows all the time and I had been playing guitar since I was a kid.”
Richard went on, “I started Rundown and our first shows were in South Central, Watts. We played a lot in Lincoln High, just the backyard scene up in L.A. As the years progressed I formed a psychobilly band … and toured Europe, but when I got back I wanted to do more emphasis on what I originally had done [with the Rundown Kreeps.]. By that time I was 18 and that’s when we recorded the first Rundown album, so that came out when I was 19.”
Jenna: “You said the other two Kreeps make the line up what it is today. Can you tell me about them?”
Richard: “Stevie [the drummer] has been my brother. As soon as we lost our first drummer back before the first album came, Stevie jumped in because he was always at the shows with me and knew the songs. Alan was in my first band when I was 13 and when we lost our bassist a week before we were supposed to go up north on a tour Alan came in that week, learned all the songs, and the first practice we had together was a live show we had in Tacoma, Washington. Since then, we’ve been what I consider Rundown [Kreeps] now. The band is about 12 years old.“
Jenna: “You guys release a single just about every year, how did you decide what gets recorded?”
Richard: “We’ve never been people that have released anything unless we thought it was a decent representation of ourselves, or of decent quality. So we tend to save up and take our time with things a little more. I think that’s one of the things that attributed to what we are now; because as adults with full-time jobs and full-time students with side hustles, we finally have time to fund ourselves. Luckily it’s been working out for the most part.”
Jenna: “Completely understand trying to prioritize what’s important when you don’t have a lot of green. Do you think those early backyard shows were a big part of forming the Rundown Kreeps sound?”
Richard: “Writing as a 14 year-old is much different than writing as a 24 year-old. With age you kind of open up. At 14, it was all metaphor and 21 was a little less metaphor and more heartache. Now at 26 I don’t mind saying, “Yeah I was f*cked up on Cheeba Chew, Xanax, and vodka.”
Jenna: “Okay, so let’s talk about the banana in the room: I saw the “Held Down” video. Is it true you shot it yourself?”
Richard: “Yeah… With COVID, I didn’t want anyone at the house. We’ve had videos in the past where we didn’t get any creative control you know, it just didn’t feel like it was representative of us. With “Held Down” I wanted to do my own creative process, so I invested in a home studio. A little audio interface with final cut pro and that became my first introduction to video. I got camera and gave it a shot. Many, many Youtube videos later I learned how to direct it, shoot it, color graded it, edit it. Did all of the video just the three of us. Now this is all 100% us. We screen print our own shirts, we record our own music, we do our own promoting, we do our own accounting, and now this.“
Jenna: “You wrote this (”Head Down”) when you were 14 and now it has a new life?”
Richard: “I wrote it when I was 14 when I got high for the first time. It was at the time just a song that people wanted to skank to. We were a crowd-oriented band and “Held Down” was perfect for that. In recent years, I wanted to tap into that again. I re-wrote the lyrics and tapped into the same feeling I had. The lyrics were very naive and now it’s more angry. I wrote it in the perspective of a 26-year-old chicano having to go to the same job six days a week – always indebted to somebody. It’s a weird feeling growing up chicano in L.A. It was written with that in mind, like the air being poisoned and just being a cog in a machine that you ultimately don’t know. The frustration of breaking away from that. But there’s beauty in understanding what it is because at the end of the day, when you understand what you are, at least you know where you stand instead of just being mindless. It’s that along with the realization of this needs to change for me and I don’t know how.”
Jenna: “One of my favorite things about your group is how honest your songwriting is. It gets me right in the heart every time and I am sure many people feel this way when they hear your music. You recently joined up with My Grito Records, tell me more about them.”
Richard: “Teaming up with My Grito made sense for us. It’s a Latino-run label and an off branch of Wiretap. They’re a DIY label and we are a DIY band. It just clicked. They’re super cool guys. A lot of what they do benefits immigrant rights and the community.“
Jenna: “Thank you so much, Richard!”
The future was already looking good for this trio, but with the sun in the horizon again for all of us, life may be getting back to normal soon. Remember the name Rundown Kreeps. They may be that next band to come out of L.A. that blew up!
New singles are on the way, keep your ears open for an album dropping sometime this year!