As the saying goes, you have your whole life to write your first record, and only a few years to write your second one. SoCal punk quartet The Bombpops are still caught up in the first part of that saying, though: Formed in 2007 by co-frontwomen Jen Razavi and Poli van Dam, The Bombpops are just now getting their debut full-length, Fear Of Missing Out, out into the world. However, according to Razavi, there are a lot of very valid reasons for the delay.
First off, the intervening decade found The Bombpops endure an absurd amount of lineup changes. “We’ve had three drummers and six bass players,” Razavi says with a sigh. “Each time felt like starting over.” Adding to that was an opportunity to work with No Use For A Name frontman Tony Sly, who expressed interest in producing the band before his sudden death in 2012. “I had one of the best conversations in my life with Tony at Punk Rock Bowling in May, and then he passed away in July,” Razavi laments.
The band, hot off of two well-received EPs on Red Scare Industries, re-focused with yet another new lineup (this one, featuring bassist Neil Wayne and drummer Josh Lewis, having the magic touch ”we finally have the best rhythm section we could ever ask for,” Razavi gushes), but then found themselves sidelined again—this time due to some positive news: van Dam was pregnant with her first child. The experience helped bring the band members closer together, even though it meant the band itself had to take a hiatus.
“We learned a lot about each other through that,” Razavi says. “We took a break, and we’ve come back harder than we ever have. People literally told us, ‘You can’t tour, Poli can’t be in a band.’ Who are you to say that? It’s situational for every single person.”
That motivation manifests itself into equal parts intensity and poppiness on Fear Of Missing Out, from the grungy “Jerk” to the sticky-sweet pop-punk of “CA In July” and the hard-edged slammers “I Can’t” and “Brake Lights.” Razavi credits producer Chris Fogal, also of Colorado pop-punk lifers The Gamits, of elevating their songs to new heights. “The Gamits are a band favorite, and we just love Chris’ songwriting so much,” she says. “We had songs we felt were finished, and we had songs that weren’t finished, and we knew each of those things could be a little bit better in some ways. We vibed really well with Chris.”
The Bombpops recorded in Fogal’s Colorado studio, Black In Bluhm, for two weeks in April 2016, eventually delivering 12 catchy punk songs that are as sonically diverse as they are high energy. It may have taken them a decade to get there, but the album is an outstanding document of resilience coupled with a healthy dose of cynicism to keep things balanced.
“It’s taken our whole band’s life to make this record, but we’re lucky we waited this long to do it,” she says. “It was the right time. I’m a big fan of the shiny, polished-sounding record, and we got to make that for our first record. It’s so cliché and cheesy to say, but it’s more mature, especially the vocals. We learned how to sing. We learned how to have more movement in our melodies. We learned a lifelong lesson of how to be in a band and get along together and make things happen.”
Fear Of Missing Out effectively communicates The Bombpops’ influences, both from their childhood and their touring years. For example, “Sweet For Sorrow” and “Marry. Fuck. Kill.” each date back to 2008, when the band was still heavily influenced by California skatepunk titans. “We are basically a product of Southern California, born and raised here,” Razavi says.
“We absolutely grew up on Bad Religion, Pennywise, No Use For A Name and Strung Out.”
But it’s “Be Sweet” that shows the deeper side of The Bombpops: The music is original, but the song’s lyrics were actually written by an all-around rad dude who sadly is no longer with us.
Razavi’s voice perks up as she tells the incredible story. “Back in 2009, we were partying in a hotel room with Ray and Brandon Carlisle from Teenage Bottlerocket,” she begins. “There was a guitar there, and Brandon was showing ideas for songs. He wrote all the lyrics to ‘Be Sweet’ on four sheets of hotel paper, and I held onto it.” After Brandon’s untimely passing in 2015, The Bombpops reached out to Ray to seek permission to record the song, which he granted; it was then named “Be Sweet” in tribute to the late drummer, as a nod to his catchphrase. “We didn’t leave one lyric out,” Razavi says. “Those are, word for word, Brandon Carlisle’s lyrics.”
The Bombpops’ career has been littered with false starts, flakey rhythm sections and life getting in the way, but now, The Bombpops are laser-focused, thanks in part to their new home.
“It’s so crazy,” Razavi admits. “Since I was 15, all I wanted to do was be on Fat Wreck Chords. It’s the same with my bandmates. It literally is a dream come true. I used to look up to bands on Fat, but now, my best friend Rosie in toyGuitar is signed to Fat Wreck Chords. Bad Cop/Bad Cop, those girls are our girls. We love them. We feel like we’re part of the family.”