This piece was written by Eric Cabrera:
The cover image is a drawing by his daughter.
- Rev Staffer from 2000-2003
- Current leader in education
- Not on Twitter
- Looking for a copy of Rev:33 on Green
“We don’t have to be the toughest kids in the neighborhood”
To know hardcore is to be there. The explanation is in the experience.
One comprehends it after a stage dive. After reading a typo-heavy zine. After hanging out in a record store for hours, digesting opinions and witnessing characters. You grasp it during a sing along, when all the oxygen has been sucked up and over used, in a basement or a small club.
Regardless of the sonic of your hardcore, the essence is in the culture and the attitude. Hardcore is about individuation. How do you grow and fit in with the bizarre outside world? You identify with others that all have been cut off and disregarded. Not an easy task. How do you express emotions when the world didn’t work out like you thought it would?
This is when hardcore becomes a part of one’s curriculum. For me, Farside was one of the bands that dropped a compass in life’s pocket. They became a must in the syllabus of growing up.
What was the draw? Processing the hurt of growing up, the trials of love, and the frustrations with a community. The fixture of achievement and essential competition becomes a couple when you grow up in Orange County. This band really didn’t need any of it. That lense made sense to me and many others.
I’m here to argue that Farside is the most emotionally intelligent hardcore band to ever form. This intelligence is defined as “the ability to understand, use, and manage your own emotions in positive ways to relieve stress, communicate effectively, empathize with others, overcome challenges and defuse conflict.”
It takes a lifetime to carry this out and it must be understood that it is something that isn’t mastered. But Farside used their lyrics, music and expression to take a solid try at finding relief and leading, without a need for notoriety, with their records.
Among all their Revelation Records releases, they gave a sound that was something beyond, and everything that was, their Southern California trappings.
The Orange County bands of the late 1970’s, like the Crowd, Agent Orange, The Adolescents and Social Distortion all had a darkness. They were almost hopeless, fed up. No intention to bring progress as a point of discussion to the table.
Farside was never going to be that fatalistic. These were only some kids tucked somewhere between the 405 Freeway and UC Irvine. Somewhere between Culver Drive and Campus Drive. The Lower East Side this is not. But they still had songs to sing.
Photo: Dave Cabrera
In the transition from the mid-1980’s through 1990 hardcore took a turn in Orange County. The blistering of Uniform Choice, Unity, and No For An Answer gave a reaction to the half-decade before with the D.C. statements of Minor Threat, Dag Nasty, and Government Issue. Aneheim’s Insted contributed to the rising east coast Youth Crew movement of Youth of Today, Gorilla Biscuits and Bold.
But, Farside was never going to have crew cuts and letterman jackets. Right?
Yes, they would record with Don Fury for their first 7”, Keep My Soul Awake (1990). But they were never going to be Judge; that would be insincere.
Neither would they be fully influenced by the other Southern California sounds. They were the kind of guys that would have waited in line for the harmonies and speed of Bad Religion and The Descendents, but say ‘We don’t want to do exactly that’. They were the kind of guys that would order the chug and groove of Black Flag, or the Circle Jerks, but say, ‘ please hold all that pessemison’.
Location Makes Everything
Farside expressed the experience of growing up in the Southland. Better understanding of them comes from knowing the history of Orange County. The area found just below the LA County line boomed in the 1960’s. The county had always served the region with farming and oil. Yet, the postwar growth of electronics, higher education institutions and a blooming aerospace industry (remember, JFK said we’d be on the moon by the end of the decade). It delivered my own grandfather to Huntington Beach after the Korean War. A housing boom resulted in a growth of 76% from the prior decade. You had tract homes multiplying all over, from the beaches to the outer county line of foothills.
This boom and promise of a problem free life was faulty and insincere. The band knew this. The tract homes were convenient and simple. But, the lack of uniqueness and ingenuity can do some psychological tricks on the inhabitant. Not everyone wants to grow up in the Wonder Years.
The Eisenhower and Barry Golderwater’s of the world affected the grown ups of Orange County. Then came Ronald Reagan. Before you know it a bubble of ‘gee wiz’ and naivete cutting all the way up and down the 405 freeway.
Overall the conservatism of Orange County gave the insightful residents a built in phrase into their lexicon: The Orange Curtain. Living here was milling around under a canopy of late night cable access rantings from Wally George. There were ancestors of Civil War Confederates that relocated to California. The conspiratory echoes The John Birch Society brought extremist thinking. The aggression of Neo Nazis launched violence. The barrios packed into Santa Ana. The Mexican day laborers found from Fullerton to Laguna Niguel gave a contraindication. The safe haven community of Little Saigon in Westminster made Orange County an even more complex environment.
Farside was not a political band. That torch would be carried by the cryptic of Fugazi and the outspokenness of 4Walls Falling. Rob Hayworth separated to bring that voice to State of the Nation. Kevin Murphy had some slight insight into nations and governments. It was best said in one of his 1992 European Tour journals, which Revelation published online in February 2000; via The Kid Will Have His Say blog. On December 12,1992 he wrote, “I’m American, which means I’m lazy. How could I even begin to feel like I’m working or singing about any kind of change when all I can see is my own rose colored neighborhood? 90% of the world is a shithhole and I’m part of the lucky 10% who never have to look at it. I should do something. I’m dumbfounded by American pride. We fight to expand and we enrich no one but that 10% who already live in the locked-door world.”
Their music would only express the hurt and discomfort about the contradictions of growing up in the intolerant 1990’s. Maybe they would say: ‘This is what it feels like when you grow up in the shadows of Disneyland and the Trinity Broadcasting Network. The home of a Nixon library.’ Farside was about the happy and sunny common misconceptions of Southern California: ‘Guess what! Life here is not an episode of Baywatch or Beverly Hills 90210’.
Let Personalities Build the Songs
Hardcore does this amazing thing of attracting the traumatized. The common denominator: Those who’ve been through rough times, or found indifference.
But sometimes hardcore gets programmed. The bands will write music and lyrics to fit the fast aggressive nature and to carry on the personal narrative of: ‘You don’t get me and I am against the world. Let’s go!’ The fight against tradition can become ritual.
Photo: Dave Cabrera
Vulnerability has never been the first adjective when we talk about this music. Farside’s approach was never built around gang vocals, breakdowns, and monosyllabic choruses. Did it mean they weren’t tough enough for the scene? You have to look to a 1994 Revelation Records Mail Order catalog where the band was touted as “May not be NYC hardcore, but they still kick ass!” This is literally 10 releases after Bringin’ It Down on the catalog page.
In 1999 I sat down to talk with Kevin Murphy, guitarist, and he said this, “I’ve always looked at our music as an extension of ourselves. We write stuff we get pretty emotional about. And to take that music that is emotionally driven and have some diatribe, about whatever, over it seems easier. For us, to put lyrics over it that we relate to and feel makes more sense.”
He went on to explain the comedy and antics on-stage presence and record presentation is due to, “I was that kid that was picked on and beat up in school. Which would probably explain why I’m so cynical: Don’t trust anybody. It’s why I’m not nice to people.” In our sit down he admitted to a serious battle with depression and how his close friends take it as a joke “like, what can we say today to piss Kevin off”. At that time he was as blunt as anyone. When asked about the aggression of ‘Teach Me How to Die’ (The Monroe Doctrine, 1999) he gave a quick synopsis of an ex-girlfriend that used him to get back at her old boyfriend, “There’s not much to say expect... fuckin’...I hate her. Yep, I fuckin’ hate her.” Yes, blunt as a brick.
The songs had stories and life behind them. Absurdity, fear, honesty, pathos and joy. One track could be about the betrayal on Kevin. Popeye would write about relationships too, “I said everything to change your mind. It’s in your hands now” (Worlds, 1992). Now this is a break up song, but one with independence and self-worth , matched with an uplifting transcended appeal. “Don’t let the world outside you control the world inside of you. It’s your life to live.” Go back and listen to it, without a couple lines you would think this is a song about taking on a society, but it's not.
Some songs were about parents. 'Silver Anniversary' is about the effects of divorce on a household and the children in it. “An angry glance is all I get in the morning. It wasn’t like this twenty years ago. And it’s getting worse. And I don’t think I care.” This is too somber for someone going to a show wanting to finger point about unity, but these songs stand the test of time.
In 1994, when Popey was asked by Norm Brannon (anti-matter Fanzine no.5) about a traumatic experience that shaped him he opened up about his parents divorce. The lack of an involved father and the responsibilities, and a new world view, pushed upon him at the age of twelve.
In early 1998, I conducted an interview with Popey. In his truck, during his lunch hour as an editor for a catalog company, he discussed possibly their most gripping song. From 1995’s Self-Titled EP, ‘12/24/91’. “That’s about my father. My parents are divorced. That’s probably the hardest song I ever had to write, because that’s when I really came to grips with the relationships I had with my father and who he is. The significance of the title is that’s the date when I found out a lot of truths about my father that I didn’t know before. It was Christmas Eve. I was talking to my sister and we got into a long conversation about our father. My parents had been divorced for several years at that point. Basically, I found out that my father had been lying to me for several years about the reasons behind the divorce, involving his new wife. It was a hard thing for me to hear. It completely changed the view I have of my father, and it will probably always be that way. Regardless of how detached I am from him, it still hurts to know all this stuff. And the fact that we are not close brings me to tears sometimes”.
Betrayal. Rising above it all. Isn’t this what Chain of Strength was always singing about?
Hardcore is often about ‘the struggle’. Popeye told me the origin and development behind ‘Moral Straight Jacket’ (The Monroe Doctrine, 1999/Anti-Matter Comp.,1996).
“That song took over a year before it was completed musically and lyrically. It was one I would work on and then drop it. And then come back to, two or three months later. Musically, they don’t take that long. It was something we’d start learning at practice and then we’d say, ‘forget it’. Months later someone would say, ‘What ever happened to that one song?’. Lyrically, that was about someone I knew and she was attracted to me. I was somewhat attracted to her but not that much. And...it was a personal dilemma. Basically, I knew she would go out with me and that meant I would get to make out with her, or go to bed with her. And, I just didn’t feel right about it. It was a matter of guilt. She was a nice person and I didn’t know if I wanted to go out with and have sex with her. That was the moral straight jacket.”
Personal choices. A hard stance against promiscuity. Isn’t this what Minor Threat sang about?
From 1994’s Rigged there is the track ‘Someday Too Soon’. In it Popeye sings about the human condition. With lines like, “It’s just uncertainty. Too big for my mother’s arms to hold...I never realized just how many people I know. They’ll be gone someday. And I don’t want to lose them. But they’re going”. The truth of mortality can be a bummer, and really hard to windmill and pick-up-change to on the dance floor. Sorry, Farside was not Earth Crisis in the mid-90's. The band's existentialism was not going to start a revolution.
The opener to Rigged, 'Square One', blasts out of the gates. It’s a riffy jam about reorganization of priorities and what’s next in life. The beauty of the track is in the ending. Popeye gives his throating croon, “I said I sometimes wonder if there’s a past to build a future on.” It’s a song about a life still on hold and maybe a girl has something to do with it. But the majesty of this band is in the ending of the song.
'Square One' doesn’t break down. It reassembles.
Listen to it! After the traditional ‘breakdown’ there is a pause and four separate whole seconds of deep silence, as each member instrumentally chimes in. Popeye and Murphy give separate riffs. Bryan crushes his bass with a palm mute. Last, Bob has his drum fill. The song’s now rebuilt and it ends with the first chorus, “Feel like I set myself up.”
Reconfiguring and making a statement about where the band is now. If this isn’t hardcore. Please show us what is!
Photo: Dave Mandel
The opener of The Monroe Doctrineis 'Better than Crying'. It may be the ultimate anthem on taking on adulthood. The grips of accountability. Seeing the options of giving in to the “adult crash”. The contradiction of wanting to go it alone but having to admit you may not be strong enough, “Another battle I’m losing. But I haven’t lost the war”. And the chorus says it all about true emotional intelligence, “Better than crying to be numb. I’ve heard”. This emotion gauging, self check, is what epitomized the band. Not only does this track rage and blast (as a complete opposite of the romance lullabies amongst the rest of this release) but sends a statement. It does everything hardcore is supposed to do: Let me get this out of my system because I might not get a second chance.
The essence of this song was hinted at by Popeye in my 1998 interview with him for Coldpress Fanzine. “It represents the worst period of my life-the last couple of years. I was in a depressive state and about as self destructive as I can get. Where I was in my life took a toll on me; being in school for so long and working so much and trying to survive. It had all caught up to me. Had a bit of a break down. There was an emotional overload from a long term relationship I was getting out of, trying to graduate college, eating Top Ramen and Jack in the Box every night because it’s all I could afford. I just never wanted to be at home because I’d cry constantly and was always tired. Fortunately, I was able to pull out of it in the last year. Things have gotten incredibly good”.
I was able to see this shift first hand. During this time I worked as cashier at the Ralphs Grocery on Beach Blvd/Garfield (no longer there) in Huntington Beach. Popeye would shop there often during his tough life phase, with his apartment a few blocks up the street. He would pick up cheap groceries and pedal his bike home. The ultimate day for him was when he changed his life pattern by moving out of that apartment. He was overjoyed the day he rented a steam cleaner to shampoo his carpets.
A Parallel Universe
In May 2020, Murphy and Popey joked on Episode 18 of the Songs From the Farside podcast about the unfulfilled potential of the band. At one point they agree that they goofed around too much in practice, played unneeded death metal riffs and did not follow through with the major label flirting made with the band.
In 1999 Kevin discussed the band's potential and the misaligned notoriety. “We’re fucking lazy. We don’t do anything. I ask myself every day and I ask the other guys, you know like, ‘I think we are awesome! We could tour, make money. Make this our job. What are we waiting for?’ Then, for whatever reason there are various excuses like: I have to work to pay bills”.
Knowing this now, it needs to be said that Farside adds more to Emotional Intelligence with Motivation. One of the greatest skills is to hone intrinsic motivation where recognition, acclaim, celebrity and monetary gain is irrelevant.
The only motivation was the joy of the music. It was not reaching for KROQ status or TRL hall of fame. Joining No Doubt and the Offspring didn’t meet any inner needs.
To Laugh: Preciousness vs. Mindfulness
Humor is a large component of Emotional Intelligence. It’s noted as being a mode of strategy when facing adversity.
These were/are funny guys. Cohort band, Gameface, played a live set on University of California Irvine’s radio station KUCI 88.9 FM on January 28, 1998 (on Into the Unknown with Thang & Dave) to share new material for what would become the Every Last Time record. To introduce the band that night was Popey. He nearly stole the show doing a bit playing/impersonating Chris Farley’s motivational speaker Matt Foley (In A Van, Down By the River guy). This is the stuff he did. And why not? There was a mic and maybe there were some people listening at 10PM on a Tuesday night.
When it came to the albums and the artwork there was an attitude. No sense of preciousness but certain mindfulness to not take everything so serious.
Look at Scrap(1994), the demos compilation. It is a playful photo of multicolored rainbow-like bubble gum strewn across carpet. The record insert is a DIY mini-zine of live performances shot. Popeye gets goofy and wraps up the song ‘Future Days' with the chorus, “Ma ma sa, ma ma coo sa- Ma Ma she, ma ma sa-Ma ma coo sa”, from Micheal Jackson’s ‘You Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’. Why? Probably because it was fun in the studio. The transitions between songs are all left on the record. All the consistent comments and quips add to the nature of the band.
The artwork for Rochambeau (1992) is a mock up finger painting of rock-paper-scissor symbols. The back of the record is a photo of Popeye's messy bedroom desk. There is a referential 7” of Keep My Soul Awake; always self-aware and deprecating. What steals the show, to the left of the single is a Micheal Keaton 1989 Batman action figure. With this as the first LP, it sent a message that we are just a group of guys. No tough guy stances in alleyways or arms folded curbside. Just clutter and a reminder list on the wall stating: Do It!...Time’s A Wastin. The record’s insert has the band playfully lounging on bunk beds at the South Coast Plaza Sears.
1994’s Riggedtook the band to another level. With Rob Hayworth out of the band the quartet, with Kevin Murphy now sharing vocals, became solidified. The layout to Rigged is this: A front cover that is a matter-of-fact shot of a bass, gear and a Marshall amp. The insert has a quadrant of similar instruments with glossy development. Yet, the goofiness remains in the back of the record where there is a pile of fortune cookies, with each fortune strip of paper revealing the track list. The real gems are the modified ID cards for the band members; student cards for Long Beach State University and Orange Coast College, as well as California driver’s licenses. Appearantly Bob is over 7 feet tall and born in 1991, and Kevin has 13 eyes, his hair is blu and his sex is classified as X. The bonus track on the cd has Revelation Record’s own Jordan Cooper prank calling a pizzeria to find out if they make vegan pizza. Plant-based comedy was high brow in 1994..
The Self-Titled EP from 1995 is an artifact of humor and originality. The label on the record is a mock up of a Scantron bubble form for test taking. The insert is an 8 page replica of a powder blue examination book. The lyrics are handwritten on college-ruled like booklet; with edits, annotations made in the margins and silly doodles. The front cover is a prophetic representation of The Awkward Family Photo. This would become a trend for coffee table books and office calendars in the early 2010s. Did Farside invent this meme? Yeah, probably. Most of all, this record is a reflection on the suburban generation gathering up at Sears for commemorative photos with the family and having to go to local college because it’s what your parents expect you to do.
The Monroe Doctrine(1999) is titled as a loving tribute to Jim Monroe, whom Popeye always joked “made us sound better than we really are”. The artwork is a conceptualized piece of a bleeding wrist handcuffed to a suitcase. Could it be about being attached to the grown up world? The insert’s lyrics, a digital type set which echo something like the black and green screens of Repo Man’s alien UFO investigators. The photo layout: Each band member laying, slumped and sprawled out with bloody wounds. It calls out a tongue and check message of: This is it. We are over. See you later’.
Maybe the biggest joke of The Monroe Doctrine is that Jordan Cooper saved the Revelation catalog number of 69 just for them (insert giggle).
Some have said the final LP is all over the place, and it is. It is everything the band had left in them. ‘The Lonesome Ballad of El Bobo the Cranky’ is some campfire inside-joke jingle about the drummer. ‘Save It for the Children’ is a wishful hint at wanting to be a dark metal grindcore outfit. ‘Hope Your Unhappy’ is a song with sardonic, woundedness and sarcasm. It is heartbreaking when Popeye says, "I know you children will be beautiful, but I don't want to know that they exist at all". This song is honest, funny and sarcastic. It's what it would sound like if Albert Brooks joined a hardcore band. ‘Teach Me How to Die’ is referential by ending with the Rigged’s ‘Square One’ hooky riff. The record closes with a Graham Parker cover of ‘`’ that has its own life and sincerity, just waiting for Judd Apatow to pick up for a closing credits tune.
Photo: Dave Cabrera
“We’re all from the suburbs and that’s okay”
Emotional intelligence is not always associated with the brawl and antaginization of hardcore. Farside were smart guys. Responsible. Educated. They had a lot of compassion for the world, but knew it would only mean something if it started internally in each of them as individuals. It worked outward to get people through break-ups, dissonance, a couple degrees, dissonance, awful bosses, a marriage and children.
Farside explained hardcore with their experience of never taking themselves seriously. By acknowledging simultaneous bliss and frustration with Southern California.
Future bands take note: Replace postering with humility. Keep your heart lucid. Collaborate and grow. Yes, come for the riffs but stay for the honest emotions. Articulate your trauma, not for the chicks or for the scene fandom, only so others know they are not alone.