With a median age of 43, the members of No Anger Control skew a little older than the popular perception of a punk band, but Tiff Badger doesn’t give a shit. In fact, the foursome’s maturity is a sign of strength, she says.
“The older you get, and the more you see, the harder life gets,” says the 35-year-old vocalist who performs as Tiff Tantrum. “Our music reflects that.”
Guitarist Levi Erickson agrees with Badger’s assessment of the band’s musical evolution, particularly as reflected in No Anger Control’s latest album, Lessons of Mass Destruction, which drops February 22 with a CD release party at Tommy’s Pub.
“When we first started writing songs [for the album], I thought we were going to do all mid-tempo [tunes],” Erickson remembers. “Instead we ended up with our hardest, fastest and darkest album yet.”
Launched in 2012 by Erickson, drummer John Ehlers and bassist Jason Damiano, No Anger Control draws on influences ranging from New York City hardcore to classic punk like The Ramones. They played a few gigs as a three-piece and recorded an EP at Ehlers’ house, but it was the addition of Badger, who had recently moved from Raleigh, that shifted the Charlotte combo into overdrive.
Propelled by Ehlers and Damiono’s steamrolling yet supple rhythm section and Erickson’s shredding and shape shifting guitar, No Anger Control delivers dynamic tunes spearheaded by Badger’s staccato delivery of her lyrics — a message of hope, anger and defiance. Those thoughtful and challenging words are not at odds with the band’s increasingly edgy approach, says Ehlers, who also plays with highly regarded punk trio South Side Punx.
“Punk is antiestablishment,” Ehlers says. “It’s always been about being rebellious.”
That rebellion and the emotions it unleashes stick with people regardless of age, Damiano adds.
“Punk is an energy release — getting angry about stuff,” he says. “You just want to see a punk band, feel their energy, and feed off that energy.”
In that respect, No Anger Control is in accord with punk godfather John Lydon [AKA Johnny Rotten], when he sang, “Anger is an energy.”
We talked with the members of No Anger Control in the lead-up to the record release to chat about gateway punks and Lessons learned over time.
Queen City Nerve: What was your gateway to punk rock?
Badger: Mine was The Ramone because I was a real geek growing up. I heard them before I saw them and thought they were fantastic. When I finally saw what Joey Ramone looked like it was like, “Holy shit! That guy is so nerdy and awkward. That’s fantastic [because] I can do it too.”
Erickson: My involvement in skateboarding at a young age informed me about music. It was the videos and bands featured in Thrasher [Magazine] in the mid to late ’80s, bands like Suicidal Tendencies. My roots were and continue to be the music that goes along with skateboarding.
Damiano: I was growing up in Pennsylvania. The bands that were coming to play in the late ’80s and early ’90s were New York hardcore bands, so I got into listening to that music, bands like Sick of it All, Toxic Run, Biohazard and Sheer Terror.
Ehlers: My first punk rock club concert was when I was in high school. I’d only been to arena heavy metal shows before. So I walk into this small club in Stamford, Connecticut, and the band Dag Nasty was playing. That blew my mind. I had never seen shows where people had mohawks and were jumping off the stage. I thought this is me. This is awesome.
No Anger Control started as a three-piece. How did Tiff come into the fold?
Badger: I had been living in Raleigh. I was married to my guitar player who had been in three of my bands. I had just left [my husband], and I moved to Charlotte. I had played The Milestone a couple times with the one of my bands called the BAMFs, which stood for the Bad Ass Motherfuckers. I fell in love with The Milestone. When I first moved here I was going down there a lot hoping I’d run into people needing someone for their band. John was out one night when I was at a show. He came up to me [and] asked if I wanted to front a band in Charlotte. He told me that the first cover they were doing was Stiff Little Fingers’ “Alternative Ulster,” and that sealed it.
Tell me about Lessons of Mass Destruction.
Damiano: For this [new] album we took two of the songs from our first album and rerecorded them — two of our favorite songs. We thought, “We love these songs. We play them at almost every single show. Let’s put these on at the end of the album as a nice bonus for folks who have followed us.”
Our sound has changed. The quality of our recording and equipment has changed. We’re a lot tighter. In terms of the energy and the speed at which we play, [the music] has gotten faster and heavier. Where some bands might switch gears and slow down, we’re pushing the pedal to the floor at this point.
Badger: For instance, [the song] “Hell to Pay” might be a little bit slower but it’s darker. The lyrics on that one are like, “Hey, you screwed up in your life. You’re going to pay for it now.” It’s where Lessons of Mass Destruction comes from. The hero is saying if you keep doing what you’re doing, it’s going to cause [hell] to happen in your life.
These sound like adult concerns. Are you an adult punk band?
Badger: The lyrics are definitely adult-oriented because we’ve obviously gained a lot of wisdom over time. But the presentation is still that of a young punk. The message is stronger now because I have more wisdom behind it.
Erickson: The message we send is oriented to the face-to-face level. It’s at the ground level in our personal relationships.
Ehlers: I’ve been playing drums in bands for well over 30 years and I don’t want to stop. I see a lot of my grown up friends, who used to play, and they don’t play anymore. For me being an adult means I’m able to still enjoy all the things I did when I was a kid but not make the same mistakes.
Damiano: I’m really happy to be making music that I want to hear. To be in a band today that’s still playing relevant music is awesome.