Everything changed on St. Patrick’s Day in Albuquerque, N.M., two years ago.
Vegas punks Surrounded by Thieves were on tour, scheduled to play a block party downtown with two other bands.
They show up to the venue, only to learn from the doorman that the other two groups had canceled.
The place was empty, like a Morbid Angel gig at the Vatican.
Nobody knew who the band was nor seemed to care.
And then they started playing.
Before long, singer Brandon Buck was swinging from the rafters, channeling his inner chimp, dangling over a steadily growing crowd that soon numbered in the hundreds.
When it was all said and done, the group played three sets, running on adrenaline and shots of Jameson whiskey provided to them by the bar.
“By the end of the night, we were unbelievably gassed,” Buck recalls from a couch in the foyer of Camel Hump Recording Studios on a recent Wednesday night, clad in a ball cap and a Bad Religion T-shirt. “And they were still calling for an encore. We turned things around, and we knocked the living crap out of that place.”
The show ended up being a turning point for the group.
“I think that was our first really tough trip,” says guitarist Andy Harrison. “We played that show, and when we got home, we were just like, ‘All right, we can do it.’ We knew, ‘We’re onto something here.’ ”
They were right, as the band recently signed a deal with Vegas’ SquidHat Records, the fourth local act to do so this year. Its contract was arduously earned, with the band gigging relentlessly since its formation in 2010, continually road testing its class-conscious, proletariat punk rock, which is largely posited on blue-collar concerns.
“We’re not just a super-far-left or super-far-right punk band,” says bassist Eric Laux, a sinewy dude in black-framed glasses. “We’re working-class. We deal with everything, and so that’s what the songs reflect. I think more people can identify with that.”
The band, rounded out by drummer Rich Castro, has released a couple of hard-charging, subtly melodic albums, a full-length and an EP, but it’s live where Surrounded By Thieves has really earned its rep up to this point with Buck, in particular, spending almost as much time offstage as on it, getting in peoples’ faces, earning himself plenty of fat lips in the process.
His comfort zone, and that of the band in general, revolves around pushing you out of yours.
“If you get something that lights a fire under your ass,” Buck smiles knowingly, “that’s when the real stuff happens.”
Contact reporter Jason Bracelin at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0476.