Politically charged and vinyl-inspired, Grand Rapids punk group 78 Revolutions Per-Minute might have been a long time coming, but the band is now quickly accelerating the local music scene, despite these divisive times.
Made up of Rob Bruce, a.k.a. Tommy Gun, on guitar/vocals, Don Carlisle on drums/vocals and Dan Smith on bass/vocals, 78 Revolutions Per-Minute — or 78 RPM as it has quickly become known to fans — officially came together in late 2016.
The trio, however, has a long history in the GR punk scene, going back more than seven years.
Before joining forces, many knew Bruce as the frontman for GR punk band Murder Party, and before that, his previous band was 40 oz. of Spite. He’s been a fixture in the local punk scene for more than decade, going back even before he moved to Grand Rapids from Alpena in 2006.
Meanwhile, Smith and Carlisle are equally mainstays of the local music scene, playing in several bands over the past decade, most recently their folk-punk outfit Bet On Rats.
Carlisle has also made a name for himself offstage with his independent studio Knavish Audio (240 Front Ave. SW, Grand Rapids), where he has helped record countless local DIY bands.
It was there, at Knavish Audio, that 78 RPM revved up to speed. Bruce was recording a quick solo acoustic EP called You Probably Won’t Listen To This, and it immediately captured the attention of Carlisle, who played it for Smith later that same night. When neither could get it out of their heads, they all decided to collaborate.
“After a period of playing those songs out I wanted to do them with a full band,” Bruce said. “Dan and Don were all about it. … The first show was me playing about six songs solo acoustic and having them join me at the end on bass and drums. Still acoustic. The second show we did the same, except I went electric with the full-band portion. By the third show, we adopted the name 78 Revolutions Per-Minute and the entire set was full-band.”
“I’ve written a lot of music, but Tommy Gun punk is a new frontier for me,” Smith said of the band’s beginning. “When Rob asked me to play bass for his project, my head was filled with images of our stage presence. Rob is a great songwriter, and I can’t wait to see what we can write together. It’ll get a couple of heads banging and more than a few feet tapping, for certain.”
The band’s first official show under its own name was also a benefit to get a wheelchair-accessible van for their friend, Tyler Dykema, founder of the local DIY Skitchin’ Music Zine.
“(We) actually made him enough to get that van,” Bruce said. “Now he comes to more GR shows and can actually leave the city to attend anything he dang wants. The whole community came together to accomplish a goal.”
Dykema and Skitchin’ released 78 RPM’s first two official songs on A Hella Skitchin’ Compilation last May, and will also help launch the band’s debut EP, Here Lies a Mouthy Kid, Feb. 7 at The Pyramid Scheme.
Although admittedly a bit morbid, the title comes from the EP’s second track where Bruce said he wrote what he wants his gravestone to say when he dies.
“I felt like these songs came from a place of honesty and self-reflection,” he said. “I really tear myself apart so I can figure out who I am while reflecting on how we got here in the first place. I don’t hold back. I’ll live and die by these songs.”
Busy with other bands, 78 RPM took its time recording the seven-track EP over most of last year. But that doesn’t mean the band has a whole lot of patience for other things, particularly the current political climate.
“There’s always a need for a revolution, especially with the corn husk-haired buffoon we have ‘leading’ our nation, and that leads a lot of us to write about the frustrations we have,” Smith said. “Granted, not all the music generated by the GR punks is political, but through our music we find unity, peace and family.”
78 Revolutions Per-Minute
Here Lies A Mouthy Kid EP Release show
Wsg. Daisys, Reggie, Minkus
The Pyramid Scheme
68 Commerce Ave. SW, Grand Rapids
Feb. 7, 7 p.m. doors, $8 advance, $10 day of show
pyramidschemebar.com, (616) 272-3758