The Five Best Gravity Records Tracks
Nathan Aguilar of Cults and Census found the Gravity records scene as a teenage punk and talks about five Gravity songs that define the label, the San Diego scene, and his childhood.
Growing up in San Diego’s North County in the early 2000s, there wasn’t much going on musically. Emo and pop punk was hugely popular at the time, but my small group of friends and I were more into the emerging street punk scene. We frequented all-age venues such as Club Xanth, Che Café, and the Scene to see bands like the Casualties and the Adicts. As it should, sewing patches into my pants and spiking my hair got old so I began looking for something else.
It wasn’t until my sophomore year of high school that I met a teacher who would forever alter my ear’s course. On the first day of school, I walked into his classroom and saw the lyrics to “Merchandise” by Fugazi scribbled across the white board and a massive Sunny Day Real Estate poster above his desk.
We became good friends and he would give me mix CDs featuring everything from Unwound to the Icarus Line. One CD he passed along contained mostly San Diego bands from the 90s, all of which were on Gravity Records. The anxiety-inducing psychedelic sounds were more aggressive and heartfelt than anything I had heard up to that point.
Here are five tracks that define the Gravity sound:
Antioch Arrow – “Angel’s Lawn”
If the zombies from 28 Days Later started a hardcore band, it would sound like Antioch Arrow. Clocking in at only 1:22, "Angel’s Lawn" pummels you into the ground without any regard for you or your hearing. I definitely experienced fear, anxiety, and helplessness the first time I heard this song. I can only imagine what their live shows must have been like.
Clikatat Ikatowi – “Desert Oasis”
I used to get really stoned and listen to Clikatat Ikatowi’s Orchestrated and Conducted By… LP in high school. The surrealism of the lyrics fused with snippets of distorted radio, discordant guitars, and the occasional harmonica provided the perfect soundtrack for my after-school snack. A few years ago, I flew into Austin, Texas with Cults for Fun Fun Fun Fest. We shared a van from the airport to the festival with Off!. Mario Rubalcaba, who played drums in Clikatat, was sitting next to me in the van and I decided to ask him if his old band would ever get back together. He informed me that their bassist Ryan had passed away. Needless to say, I felt like a total asshole. RIP Ryan.
Heroin – “Indecision”
Before Antioch Arrow and Clikatat Ikatowi, there was Heroin—infinitely heavy, yet never macho like a lot of hardcore bands from that era. In high school, my mom found my Heroin CD in my car. To say the least, she was very concerned. Matt Anderson, founder of Gravity Records, fronted Heroin. Scott Bartiloni from Heroin went on to play guitar in Clikatat Ikatowi and Spacehorse. Aaron Montaigne sang in Antioch Arrow and now plays in Dangerous Boys Club. Hardcore was built on in-breeding, San Diego included.
Evergreen – “Prainer the Viii”
Evergreen wasn’t technically from San Diego but were still one of my favorite bands on Gravity. One thing that stood out to me when I first heard this song was how the lyrics were nearly indiscernible, making the vocals more of a texture hovering above the blown-out instruments. I also loved how high up on the neck bassist Andy Ward would play. Andy also played bass in Antioch Arrow and drummer Jason Boesel went on to play in Rilo Kiley. The singer is in a band called Winfred E Eye.
Vicious Ginks – Cat Call
Vicious Ginks were from a suburb in North County called Rancho Penasquitos. Rancho Penasquitos, where I grew up, made headlines recently when it was discovered that Batman shooter James Holmes grew up there. RPQ is a seemingly quiet suburb with a history of mental illness, murders, and suicides that not many people outside of San Diego know about. Some say it was built on top of an old Native American burial ground, but as far as I know, there is no proof of this. Vicious Ginks leaned towards more of a garage rock/postpunk sound than the other bands on Gravity at the time. They were also notorious for leaving a trail of destruction in their wake. There are rumors that they stuffed a dead dog into one of the lockers at Mt. Carmel High School.
Nathan Aguilar plays in Cults and fronts Census, a Brooklyn-based modern psych band. You can download their new EP here for free and catch them live with Shiner at the Gramercy Theatre on Saturday, August 11 in New York City