The Rezillos’ First Album in Nearly 40 Years is Scientific Proof that Punk Doesn’t Ever Die
Listen to a new song from the Edinburgh punk legends and Ramones tourmates.
Try taking a 37-year break from any creative endeavor, returning to it, and not sucking royally. Most people would fail miserably. The Rezillos are not most people. The Edinburgh punk band’s new album Zero shines right alongside their previous release, 1978’s cult classic Can't Stand the Rezillos. They’ve always taken the road less traveled and emerged victorious. While the Sex Pistols became the U.K. punk prototype—spikes, black leather, scathing music—the Rezillos dressed like Day-Glo greasers and go-go dancers from Mars and performed hyperkinetic garage-pop.
Their sound earned them a tour with the Ramones in 1977 and a deal with Sire, but after only two years and one album, they broke up. Guitarist/songwriter Jo Callis found success with the Human League, while co-singers Eugene Reynolds and Fay Fife formed the Revillos, a sort of continuation of the Rezillos, but with a bigger 60s pop sound. After the Revillos disbanded in the mid-80s, Reynolds and Fife fronted a handful of reunions in the 90s, and officially returned as the Rezillos in the 2000s. After all that, there’s finally a new album of expertly bonkers bug-out music.
Reynolds and Fife talked to Noisey about staying young, growing up, and creativity versus ability.
Noisey: My first inclination after hearing these songs is to tell you that after almost 40 years, you haven’t aged a bit! What’s your secret?
Eugene Reynolds: Part of it is, we haven’t had to make this into a job. When you play in a band, if you play in it all the time, it can become your job. In our case it isn’t. We do it because we love it. When we started out, we exploded kind of prematurely. We’ve got a chance to have a second coming because we didn’t do anything for so long. We haven’t worn out our enthusiasm or our lust for life.
As artists, what has sustained you creatively through the years?
Eugene Reynolds: I think, for me, it’s been that we never finished what we were doing in the first place. It was a burning urge to continue what we started. I said to someone recently, “It’s a big ask, isn’t it, to come back?” People want you to come back and be the same, but they want you to be different. Where do you stand in that? Everybody said [the new album] is identifiably the Rezillos, which is great because some bands come back and you don’t really recognize them. Luckily the sound is [recognizable], but the songs are broader, deeper, and darker. One would hope that would be the case after having had a life and reflecting.
What are the similarities and differences between what you set out to do as a band now compared to when you first began?
Fay Fife: There’s a certain core of our identity, and the aims are the same. But other things are different, certainly from my point of view. We all came from a similar place and we met somewhere that set us in a similar direction, which was to do something that was very rock ‘n’ roll-y and drawn from lots of arty things that had to do with pop culture and very rooted in garage rock. People didn’t really like that then, but we liked it. In terms of the differences between now, we’re on different things now. And it’s not that any of us have turned into musos—I don’t know if you use that expression in America, it means like self-consciously good about things—none of us are like that because we still do carry quite a punk ethos in that creativity is much more important than how good you are at it. But we’ve been doing it so long that we have actually built up a lot of musical knowledge. Basically the creativity is coming from where we are now as people, but it’s still crossed with our interests in different aspects of pop culture. Everything we do references key points, at least from my perspective—I would be hard pressed to get through a recording session without mentioning the Shangri-Las or Dusty Springfield—but the songs draw on our experience. I guess they’re still based in reality, but they’re still off-kilter at the same time.
What themes kept popping up when you were making Zero?
Fay Fife: The band has always been interested in how pop culture looks at outer space. Also some of the album directly relates to things that are about life now and things that we don’t like. The song “Life’s a Bitch” is like that. In somebody else’s hands, you’d say it’s a political song. It is a political song for us, but we do it in a very off-kilter way. It’s genuine, but it sounds quite obscure, almost cartoony. We’ve always had that dynamic, but our songs are slightly more grounded in real things now.
That’s the result of growing up, I guess.
Fay Fife: We’ve much growing up to do, but we’re getting there.
The punk rock that you grew out of has been assimilated by the mainstream, causing some people to declare that punk is dead. What do you think?
Fay Fife: I don’t think so at all. Punk rock is more of an attitude than a sort of music. The punk rock ethos is a do-it-yourself thing, and creativity comes first. But it’s also about a love of racket, and I still think you can see lots of music like that. Racket is there to be had if you want it, and it’s essentially punk for the people who don’t really know how to play but have got something to say. So I don’t think it’s dead. In this present day, you just have lots of different sorts of music that seems to reference different things historically—I’ve never seen such a mish mash of music—and that’s interesting. But I don’t think punk is dead. Thinking back about when punk rock came out, people look upon that period as the most incredible explosion of creative energy and a real change in culture, and having been there, I can tell you that that’s right. It was like that. It was quite extraordinary what happened. There’s still energy coming off that.
Can we look forward to more new music in the future?
Fay Fife: You can look forward to another album. I’m very determined about that. In saying that, though, we’ve got a lot on for this year. We’re touring in the U.K. soon; we’re touring the West Coast of America in May; and we’re touring the East Coast of America in either late summer or early autumn. But in between that time, writing will get done. I can’t put it on a schedule because this year looks really crazy, but I can tell you one thing: It’s gonna come a lot quicker than this past album!
Jeanne Fury is keeping the faith on Twitter.