Last updated: 09/22/2007 12:00:00 PM
Pity the cops patrolling suburban streets: Allister has recorded the soundtrack to a million speeding tickets--and probably a few other offenses it's best not to mention here. The quartet's second disc, "Last Stop Suburbia", races past your ears faster than its seventeen songs can be absorbed. The energy is contagious.
With one foot crushed to the floor, one hand cranking the radio and the other hand steering out of town, the Chicago-area quartet delivers sing-a-long melodies that bounce around your brain for days. Over the breakneck chord changes and hyper-kinetic drumming, the band's sentimental lyrics supply what every suburban upbringing ideally should but so rarely does: experiences you won't want to forget, much less escape.
Ironically, escape from suburbia is exactly what Allister's new disc will provide the band. Even before the album's release, the quartet criss-crossed the States on the Drive-Thru Records' stage on this year's Vans Warped Tour. Prior to that, they road tested the material in Japan with label mates Home Grown. But while "Last Stop Suburbia" and the band's energetic live show will undoubtedly help Allister reach a wider audience, the band's final destination seems unavoidable to singer-guitarist Tim Rogner.
"We were talking about how it's really funny that whenever we're done with these tours, we go back home to suburbia," he says, explaining the album's title. "The suburbs that we're from aren't bad, but they're not great, either. But we've learned to accept the fact that we're from the suburbs--that's where we grew up; that's where we are. We're not proud of it, but we don't hate it."
Despite the finality in its title, "Last Stop Suburbia" actually captures the band in transition. Songs like "Radio Player," "None Of My Friends Are Punks" and "Somewhere On Fullerton" (a tribute to Chicago's soon-to-close punk venue, Fireside Bowl) are consumed with balancing the past and the future. Questions abound. How do you preserve the past when it's being torn down around you? How do you stay true to your punk ideals when all of your friends are taking straight jobs? How do you stride into adulthood when your band is named after the barely teenaged host of a kids' show?
Yes, Allister formed in 1997 and named themselves--phonetically, at least--after Alasdair Gillis, the host of You Can't Do That On Television. Before then, the Nickelodeon-syndicated '80s children's show was known for spawning two things: green slime and Alanis Morissette. (Which is more stomach-churning? You be the judge.) Inspired by punk's D.I.Y. ethic--and perhaps the show's anything-goes vibe--Allister quickly recorded a demo and shipped it to various labels.
The band's charming irreverence and catchy light speed punk caught the ear of Drive-Thru's Richard and Stefanie Reines, who were then literally operating out of a garage. The label subsequently released the band's "Dead Ends And Girlfriends." The debut was recorded for a mere $700 and featured songs such as "Jacob Thinks I'm Gay" and covers of "Fraggle Rock," the theme to Jim Henson's Muppet-tastic spin-off, and "I Want It That Way," the hit by those other puppets, the Backstreet Boys.
No, the word "mature" wasn't tossed around in any reviews of the disc, but then no one expected that from the teenaged band members, all of whom had suffixed their first names with a "y" or "ie."
"I was 16 when I first started writing songs," explains Scott Murphy, the bassist-vocalist formerly known as Scottie. "The first song I ever wrote was about macadamia nuts, so, I mean.... Now I'm 23, the subject matter is more mature."
Stints at college accelerated the maturation process, too, even if homework temporarily retarded the band's release schedule. But while the songs on "Last Stop Suburbia" are more thoughtful, the band certainly hasn't lost any of its exuberance. In fact, the tempos are so fast, the tracks demand repeat listens just to pick up on the lyrics, even as the vocal melodies linger in your head.
"Exactly. That's how we get you," says drummer Dave Rossi.
Where does all that energy come from?
"It probably comes from my mid-section... or my overuse of drugs," he jokes. "Actually, a couple songs were originally slower, but when we were rehearsing them, I kept speeding them up--especially Scott's 'The One That Got Away.' I kept speeding that song up more and more and then we just kept it there."
"That's what I used to love when I'd buy CDs," says Tim. "If I listened to a song and it was over before I could blink my eyes, I'd be like, 'Damn, I want to hear that again.' Growing up, punk rock was Screeching Weasel, Green Day and the Queers, and that's all they wrote: fast pop-punk with catchy-as-hell melodies. That's what we try to maintain."
Remaining true to those roots hasn't always been easy, especially when friends have shed punk's ideals for conservative lifestyles. As Tim sings on the album's closing track, "None of my friends are punks. They're all working corporate jobs while I sit here like a slob."
"That's just one of those songs that you write in like two minutes because you have to get it off your chest," he says. "I was driving to a friend's house who I hadn't seen in a long time, and I was thinking that I really don't have any punk-rock friends anymore. Everyone has either grown up or was never into punk rock in the first place. It's really kind of sad."
One recent casualty was guitarist John Hamada, who left the band shortly before this summer's Warped Tour. It wasn't an easy transition for Allister, but the band quickly found an eager replacement in guitarist (and Tim's brother) Chris Rogner. The improved attitude translates in the band's fun, dynamic live show.
"John just wanted to go home and start a real career," says Tim. "I was kind of bummed because John and I started this band from the beginning; I've known him the longest, since 7th grade. Now I'm technically the only original member. But we're still having a really good time, and I'm excited to have my brother in the band."
The suburban punk scene once provided an identity and an extended family for each member of that line-up, and Allister remains dedicated to giving back to that scene. If they ever need to refresh their memories of those times and what they meant, it's all preserved in the music.
"My parents got a divorce and I moved to the Northwest suburbs," recalls Scott. "And because I'm a really shy person, I didn't meet anyone the first year I was there. Then I found out there was a space near my house that had local punk-rock shows. I found my niche with those bands and that whole scene. It helped me through what could have been some tough years. It was like this big family. Anybody who would go to the shows, you felt like you had something in common with them already."
Like the band's music, he lingers for a moment on the past, then applies it to the future. "It's really great to think that we could be what some of those bands were for me at that time."
Thanks to Kaylynne HarkaCoair@hotmail.com for submitting the biography.