Full disclosure: I am writing this while simultaneously checking my phone for updates on the merciless firestorm that is laying waste to my hometown of Santa Rosa, California. I am constantly looking up at the trees for changes in wind, texting and calling friends and family, and refreshing Facebook for available updates.
I imagine the guys in Sciatic Nerve are doing the same thing.
Santa Rosa is home for all four of the members. The tattered corners of flyers for their first shows still linger on streetlights in Rincon Valley outside Oliver’s Market. Since graduation, Chris Matulich, Tony Texeira, Luke Ray, and Kyle Lindauer have explored the world, pursued different careers, and relocated all over the Bay Area. They’ve toured almost every continent with too many bands to list here (Western Addiction, Swingin’ Utters, Nothington, Cobra Skulls, just to name a few.) And 15 years later, their still the same four friends who wanted to get on a stage and make some noise. They could have easily left it as a goofy side project, but the songs just kept coming.
Just to reiterate in case there’s any lingering confusion: This band is called Sciatic Nerve. The record is called Sciatic Nerve. The first song on the record is titled “Sciatic Nerve.” And the only lyrics in the song are “Sciatic. Nerve.” You still with me? Good. The track begins with a haze radio static and feedback (after all, this is a punk record) with Matulich’s scream eventually searing its way through the mix. Fans of Nothington have never heard Matulich like this before. Less Billie Joe Armstrong, and more like what I’d imagine Edward Norton felt in Fight Club when Brad Pitt tosses acid on his hand.
“I guess it’s little over the top,” confesses bassist Lindauer. “It’s kind of an ’80s throwback I guess, having your band name in the song. We set on the name Sciatic Nerve because it’s hilarious and I guess it sounds kind of hardcore, too. But we’re all goofballs, so I hope the impression people get is that we’re a serious band, but we’re not serious people.” The second single off the record, “Buy a Horse,” gives a nod to the 90’s comedy Dirty Work, starring Norm Macdonald. It’s probably unintentional, but this is probably the most perfect comparison I could make for this record. Like MacDonald himself, Sciatic Nerve operates on a level of absurdity that is unflinching. The songs are funny, but the band is never in on the joke.
Within 10 songs clocking under 20 minutes, the band covers a ton of ground musically. It’s like they took all the fun elements of punk and hardcore — dissonant riffs, blistering vocals, pogo breakdowns, double-time verses, unrelenting feedback — and boiled them down to just the good stuff, like a box of Lucky Charms with just the marshmallows. And even though there is 60 years of music experience between the four members, you can still hear those four kids who grew up hearing punk for the first time. The burning CDs for each other, the learning of Photoshop so they could make flyers, the strumming along to Green Day, Nine Inch Nails, Smashing Pumpkins, Tom Petty, and everything in between.
To be honest, I don’t really know how to end this. It’s hard to be eloquent when your community has been living in a fiery nightmare the last four days. So much destruction. Lives lost. Livelihoods gone. The anxiety felt by those still under threat of the devastation (myself included) is almost unbearable, and I don’t want to undermine any of that. If anything, it’s just been cathartic to listen to this record and know there’s still good things happening. To be reminded that the memories we create and share with each other — those are what make a community. And they can never be touched by flames. Stay safe, Northern California.