Latterman’s seminal record No Matter Where We Go...! turns ten years old this week. The album didn’t redefine the wheel, or change the national scene in the way that the bands that came before them did. But for the East Coast punk community that took in Latterman’s influence, from their melodic sing along punk to the radical politics that lay underneath the record’s lyrical themes, to the gigantic tree of remarkable bands that blossomed once they called it quits in 2007, their second album defined a generation.
Latterman’s arrival as a young, high speed, politically aware band came at sort of an awkward time in punk; if they had formed ten years earlier, they might have occupied a similar spot in the scene as legendary political punk bands like Propagandhi, Bikini Kill, and Fifteen. If they had started around four or five years ago, they might be seeing a level of success similar to any of the bands that they formed afterwards, like RVIVR or Iron Chic.
Although other bands like Against Me! and Strike Anywhere were starting to build an audience around this time, the early 2000s were decidedly not an era where socially conscious punk thrived. The second-wave emo explosion plastered the broken hearts of young men all over MTV and the VFW halls of America, and, in an effort to defeat George W. Bush in 2004, punk became a Democrat.
So when Latterman released their debut, 2002’s Turn Up the Punk, We’ll Be Singing, the band wore the influence of their feminist politics on their sleeve. With a melodic punk sound reminiscent of Lifetime and shared vocals between guitarist Phil Douglas (later of Iron Chic) and bassist Mattie Jo Canino (of RVIVR), Latterman laid out their mission statement in the most abrasive way possible on the very first song on that record: “So next time I see someone call someone a fag, or a guy call a girl a bitch, I’m gonna fucking scream!”
In between their first and second records, the band added Mike Campbell (a Noisey contributor who also plays in Laura Stevenson’s band) on second guitar as well as drummer Pat Schramm (later of Bridge & Tunnel fame), and the progression between records was palpable. While the band lost some of the speed and raw energy that fueled their first record, it made up for every bit of it with lyrical nuance and targeted aggression, as well as an impeccable knack for melody and shoutable choruses, that improved on their sound.
The optimism in the record is the most readily apparent aspect of it. On the almost inspirational first track “Doom! Doom! Doom!”, where Canino and Douglas trade verses about persistence in pushing for positive change and “new mindsets” in punk communities. With the ode to their home, “Fear and Loathing On Long Island”, they sing of destroying the myth that “self-destruction is oh so romantic.” Unfortunately, that thread of hopefulness was often mistaken for positivity, something Canino addressed when the band would call it quits two years later following the release of their final record, …We Are Still Alive.
This view of the band, that they were about “how important friendships are,” as Canino interpreted it, severely undercut what the band was best at: calling bullshit. “Dear Boys,” situated in the middle of the album, is a call to arms against the different ways sexism manifests in the punk community—an issue that is pervasive in the scene to this day. The closing track, “My Bedroom Is Like For Artists,” sums up Latterman’s worldview and confronts the bands who represented the brand of pop punk that Long Island was known for at the time:
"Streets gentrified like it's no problem.
Boys in bands still singing about killing their girlfriends.
People leave communities while they’re still struggling.
Come on everybody sing along we're to blame.
Punks start dealing with their own white privilege.
We tell all the boys to stop being so aggressive.
Actually giving a shit about the place we live in.
Come on everybody sing along let's fix this.
I see life alive in many people’s eyes."
While the band was only marginally successful around this time, their influence spread rapidly throughout the Northeast in the wake of their end. Bands like Pennsylvania’s Spraynard, the Lehigh Valley’s Yo Man Go!, New York’s Timeshares, and Brooklyn’s Get Bent, intentional or not, built on a sound and ethos that Latterman made accessible in a way that it hadn’t been for years. The website If You Make It (which, as an aside, is a national treasure) routinely featured bands from the mid-Atlantic region who had taken obvious influence from Latterman, either in sound or politics.
At the height of their post-breakup popularity, the band briefly reunited for four shows in December 2011 and an appearance at The Fest in Florida the following year. And more recently, three members of the No Matter We Go...! lineup—Canino, Douglas, and Schramm—started a new band, Tender Defender, with an EP forthcoming from Long Island label Dead Broke.
Latterman’s influence isn’t as obvious anymore; most of those early If You Make It bands have long since broken up and the ones that do remain have branched off into completely different directions. You could also make a case that the music its members have made after the band called it quits—Iron Chic, RVIVR, Shorebirds, Bridge & Tunnel, and several other notable bands—has since surpassed Latterman in terms of quality.
No Matter Where We Go...!, though, cemented Latterman as antagonists to the punk scene when it didn’t have many, and laid the groundwork for their excellent third record …We Are Still Alive! as well as bands that succeeded them after they broke up. And so No Matter Where We Go...! remains an essential record. Latterman may not have reinvented the wheel, but they did something more important: They made the wheel turn in a different direction.
Paul Blest is on Twitter.