Saturday, December 22, 2012

Fiction Reform

The most relevent question in punk-rock that no one asks is, “Why?” 

Why punk-rock as opposed to some other subculture? Why this aesthetic and set of ideologies? Many of core components that make punk-rock engaging, maybe even magical, are evident in almost all subcultures and modes of expression. So why punk-rock, and why does no one wonder why?

When they decided to start the band, the members of Orange County’s Fiction Reform didn’t wonder why either; punk-rock simply seemed natural. “I think we really wanted to go back to play the music we all grew up on,” guitarist Aaron Chabak says. “We started jamming Descendents songs and stuff like that. We just did what we liked to do for fun, and it evolved into chemistry.”

Chabak started Fiction Reform with drummer Danny Baeza in 2009. Together, they wrote a record’s worth of songs, but needed a singer to do draw them to fruition, so Chabak reached out to Brenna Red, whom he had seen play in other bands. “We ended meeting up with her at a Starbucks,” he recalls, “and Brenna auditioned in her own car singing over our demo tracks. She was probably the second person we auditioned, and we knew right away that we were going to move forward with her.”

Red provided vocals and guitars for Fiction Reform’s first full-length, Revelations in the Palms of the Weak, released by Basement Records in 2010. On tracks like “Whites of Their Eyes,” Red’s voice stabs like a serrated knife into Baeza’s galloping, bucking beats and Chabak’s snarling guitar; others, like “Small Silhouette”, swagger with anxious confidence behind Red’s rising, searing howl. 

If Revelations in the Palms of the Weak showcased Fiction Reform’s power and potential, then Take Your Truth displays a refined, disciplined ferocity. Released in 2012, the follow-up full-length was written as a full band, with Red and bassist Danielle Lehman contributing their own character to each track. “From scratch, we’ve all been a part of it and really made it our own,” Red states. “They knew who I was as a singer and where I’d find a pocket, and I knew when Danny wanted to [move the song] up-beat and when I needed to be a little more aggressive, and Aaron knew exactly what riff to put in and what key to sing in. This one has really been more about us because we’ve all created it together.”

When Red wrote the lyrics for Take Your Truth, she found inspiration in the conflicts that occurred throughout 2011 and 2012. Only later did she realize that almost all of these conflicts, both internal and external, involved relationships with the people around her. The emotive, mid-tempo song “(Don’t) Keep At Your Distance” is about the terrifying moment when one recognizes love. “It’s a story about me and someone very close to me, very special,” Red tells. “It was in the first stages of a relationship when you’re questioning everything. I went to his studio apartment in Long Beach and his power went out. So his whole place was lit up by candles, and he was playing some of his songs on guitar when it just hit me. Like, ‘Oh crap! I’m in love with this person. I could get in some pretty big trouble if I go forward with this. My heart could get broken, or I could be totally ruined, and there’s nothing I can do about it.’” 

“Hi-Fi Violence”, Take Your Truth’s closing track, features a similar conflict, but a more turbulent emotion. The song starts with a stuttering riff before exploding with the frantic, reeling energy of a brawl outside of a bar. Lehman’s bass warbles back and forth in time to Red and Chabak’s groaning, gritting guitars. “‘Hi-Fi Violence’ is about a girl who I have absolutely have no respect for,” Red explains. “I’d never really get super-violent on somebody, but it’s like A Clockwork Orange, apathetic, ‘I’ll fuck you up’ kind of song.”

It’s angry songs like “Hi-Fi Violence” (or the pushy, shovey “Shellac and Vinyl”) that allowsTake Your Truth to fit so seamlessly into punk-rock’s furious framework; add to that band’s tattooed arms, pierced lips, and band tee-shirts, and suddenly Fiction Reform seems to epitomize punk-rock. But, according to the band, this is how they naturally express themselves. “It’s what comes out of us,” Chabak says. “We don’t directly try to do it.”

“Yeah, it’s not manufactured at all,” Lehman adds.

“We never really sit down and go, ‘Well, hey, that song’s not fast enough. We shouldn’t do that.’” Chabak says.

“This has five chords, we only do four,” Lehman laughs.

“But we all have it in common,” Chabak concludes. “So if we stray too far away from it, somebody will naturally bring something back that ropes us all in.”

Maybe this is why no one asks, “Why punk-rock?” Maybe it’s because those who find it are meant to. Maybe it’s because punk-rock is the only outlet for what already exists within its participants. On Take Your Truth, Fiction Reform show that punk-rock is an aesthetic and an ideology, but that it is also more effect than cause.

Chabak, Red, and Lehman recorded these songs from Chabak's parents house in Stanton, CA on a weeknight in the winter. Red sang and played acoustic guitar, Chabak played an electric guitar, and Lehman played bass.

"One Minute More" and "Shellac and Vinyl" appears on Fiction Reform's 2012 record titled Take Your Truth; "Whites of Their Eyes" appears on the band's 2012 record titled Revelations in the Palms of the Weak. "Cool This Madness Down" is a Common Rider cover; the song originally appeared on the 2002 album This Is Unity Music.

Visit the band's website for more music.

Sorry, but these songs were taken down due to space constraints. Please download The Switchboard Sessions, Volume Three for a track from this and other sessions recorded in 2012. If you're desperate for a copy of these tracks, please see the "About the Switchboard Sessions" page for info on how to contact the author.

To download these tracks, click on the song titles and download them from the player at

Read more articles.