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Van Huskins Continues Blending Punk and Metal at The Milestone

Van Huskins rock out at the packed Freeman’s Pub in Gastonia. (Photo by Chris Cook)

They’re too punk rock for the metal-heads and too metal for the punk rock kids, while the indie rockers won’t touch ‘em.

Gastonia-based punk rock/metal band, Van Huskins is actually an ideal blend of both genres, toeing the line between ’80s punk and metal.

Take a closer listen, and you can find the influences of their favorites, such as AC/DC, melding into hard, high-energy guitar riffs and crashing cymbals.

Van Huskins’ most recent EP, Thray, released on BandCamp in 2017, has four tracks. The opening “I’m a Nice Girl Goddammit,” sounds like the love child of a threesome between Masked Intruder, Teenage Bottlerocket and Motörhead — with Black Flag watching from the closet. The EP ends with “Goddamn I Love You” exuuding more of the hard rock and metal melodies from influences like KISS and AC/DC.

“[Our music has] a punk rock edge to it. [But] it’s very AC/DC at times,” bassist Mike Phillips pointed out.

Phillips and guitarist Eric Huskins have played in various bands together around Gastonia and Charlotte for 25 years. After their previous band played its last show in 2007, seven years went by before the two teamed up with Eric’s brother, drummer Ben Huskins, to form Van Huskins.

The name is a play off famed rock ‘n’ roll outfit Van Halen,  which also consisted of two brothers, Eddie and Alex Van Halen.

“We were kids, somebody said we should start a band called Van Huskins, like Van Halen,” Eric said. “And we just decided to do that one day.”

Van Huskins plays The Milestone on Feb. 1 alongside Something Went Wrong, The Flight Risks and Vortex of Old Men. Since the members of Van Huskins have been playing in and around Charlotte’s hard rock scene for 25 years, playing The Milestone is like a homecoming.

“It’s always fun to play The Milestone,” Phillips stated. “When I first started going to punk rock shows as a kid, that’s the first place I went. It’s always been home and we’re playing with some good bands, some people we haven’t played with in quite a while.”

Eric agreed, adding, “It means a lot more to us than just a club.”

In addition to the upcoming Milestone gig, the band is slated to play at another of the band’s favorite venues, Freeman’s Pub in Gastonia on Feb. 16.

Van Huskins (left to right): Mike Phillips, Eric Huskins and Ben Huskins (Photo Courtesy of Van Huskins)

“It’s the only place in Gastonia that accepts music like us and gives us a platform and lets us play,” Phillips said about the band’s relationship with Freeman’s Pub. “A lot of people from Charlotte don’t know about it. I’ve tried to get some bands in Charlotte to come and they all love it.”

The humble venue places the band in a corner and fans of the group flock to the pub, packing the place with Van Huskins enthusiasts and lovers of the punk rock/metal genre who don’t like crossing the Catawba into Charlotte.

There’s a lot of good talent in Gastonia, according to Phillips, its only downfall being that the town doesn’t have the amount of venues that Charlotte does supporting local music. But that doesn’t stop them from packing out the pub. 

On the horizon, Van Huskins is planning its fourth EP, with recording scheduled for the end of March and a release in late spring.

The EP release will present a more mature version of Van Huskins, since the band has found depth in its music, shying away from its beginning days of garage punk.

“I think our music has a lot more depth to it. When everybody started off we were just Stooges-sounding punk rock,” Phillips explained. “We’ve embraced our more pretentious influences and we’re playing music that we like now.”

Eric added that the EP will be fun and silly, but should still be taken seriously.

“To me, it’s very important — it’s not a joke,” he stated. “It’s very important to me. I think it’ll be a good representation of our sound.”

Something Went Wrong w/ Van Huskins, The Flight Risks & Vortex Of Old Men; Feb. 1, 8 p.m.; $7; 18 and up; The Milestone, 3400 Tuckaseegee Road

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