Swapping beats for burritos, drummer Warren Oakes quit US punk rockers Against Me! to open a Mexican restaurant in Florida in 2009. The band went on to notable success with album White Crosses and became the talk of town when singer Thomas Gabel underwent a gender change and reappeared as Laura Jane Grace. In the meantime Oakes built his Boca Fiesta eatery into an all-round party den with free-form jam sessions and wild tequila-laced nights.
One ‘band roulette’ event at the venue saw local musicians drawing names out of hat and randomly forming groups to perform for the evening. After the hangovers cleared, the impromptu jams continued and the Sunshine State were eventually formed by Oakes (drums), Kyle Fick (guitar), Troy Perlman (vocals, bass) and Matt Magarelli (guitar) and signed to legendary indie label No Idea.
Often overlooked as a snotty younger sibling of Washington DC’s hardcore scene or Seattle’s grunge movement, the Gainesville Punk sound of the 80s and 90s was just as vital to the delinquent kids who put on DIY shows and filled the Florida house parties. Under No Idea’s guidance, a stream of spit and sawdust, sweat and thunder basement rock acts helped make the independent scene thrive and pave the way for the likes of Hot Water Music, Less Than Jake and Against Me!. That unabashed, raucous, belligerent spirit lives on in Sunshine State’s debut Pour – though there is also nods to new wave acts like The Cure and Psychedelic Furs and the frantic, brattish angst of Rancid and Jimmy Eat World.
Roared on by the “1-2-3-4” rush of backbeat and bluster, opener Sour Mash snarls with bitterness and regret under Perlman’s strained vocals, before Lunchblood distorts Smashing Pumpkins into a stadium rock pantomime fit for an emo version of Glee. Concrete World is a disdainful Anti-Flag chest-pump and growl at life’s isolation, Friends of Deceased a pained and sincere funeral march through The Horrors’ outsider synth-pop into a rousing Killers-go-goth bounce along and Takeover bashes out a discordant post-Fugazi chug that captures the band at their most world-weary and resigned. It’s not the soundtrack you usually hear at your local Mexican restaurant.
The pumping ambition of We Discussed It, We Disgusted and the racing, bursting rage of Peace and Rain are fitting sendoffs, and a sign that the band have grander designs beyond the punk-by-numbers template that they started out with. It’ll be interesting to hear what Sunshine State add to the menu in the future…