On the surface, Saints and Rebels may seem like a typical punk band—but if you dig a little deeper, you’ll find that the group combines various subgenres under the punk umbrella, including comedy punk, hardcore and even ska.
The band is made up of Austin Lawrence on vocals and bass; Cristian Alvarez on vocals and drums; Sam Codero on “screams”; Chris Hernandez on lead guitar; and Benji Gallardo on rhythm guitar. From January up until the closure of bars, the band played almost every Saturday at local haunts, sometimes pulling double or triple duty within a weekend. The group just released its debut self-titled EP, available on SoundCloud and BandCamp—and it is three tracks of fine punk fusion with a lo-fi mix.
I spoke to the band over the phone recently, and I learned the history behind the name.
“I had been wanting to start a band for a year,” Gallardo said. “I tried in 2018 with a buddy, and it just didn’t happen. Then one day, Cristian messaged me out of the blue; I didn’t even know him at the time. He asked me if I wanted to jam out, and we really clicked. Weeks went by, and the other guys joined.
“The name came from my grandparents, when they told me a story about the ‘Cristeros.’ When they were growing up, the government wanted to restrict religion, and they started off by closing churches and removing statues that represented any saint or holy trinity. After a while, the people started to protest peacefully, which caused the government to become furious and issue an order to execute protesters—hence the ‘Rebels.’ Later, the people had had enough of that and started rising up and taking matters into their own hands and protecting those who couldn’t protect themselves, later to be viewed as ‘Saints.’ We wanted a name that had that same energy of living like a saint but fighting like a rebel.”
A sense of comedic intent is noticeable throughout the band’s music; take “Budlight Chelada,” for example, which offers an overly expressive vocal delivery from Lawrence.
“That just comes from us being goofs,” Lawrence said. “All we really do is just goof around. Growing up, I listened to a lot of Weird Al and Richard Cheese parody music, so I enjoy adding that to our music.”
Added Alvarez added, half-jokingly: “I just mess up a lot, so that’s why it sounds funny. We all have a great time playing music, so that adds an element of fun to it. We don’t treat it like it’s a job; we just go out and have fun.”
Given the band’s happy-go-lucky attitude, I figured the guys would have some interesting performance stories.
“We played a spot in Joshua Tree with local band Daytime Moon, and the energy we brought, combined with the crowd that actually enjoyed our music, made us have a lot of fun,” Alvarez said. “We did play horribly, though, and by the end of the night, we were all drunk and exhausted.”
Hernandez said the band played one of the last pre-shutdown shows in the valley back in March.
“It was St. Patrick’s Day at Plan B Live Entertainment and Cocktails in Thousand Palms, right before the mandated closing,” he said. “It was the last hurrah, and it was jam-packed with people just wanting to party hard. We had to do three different sets, because the other bands for the night had cancelled. We only had about 10 songs that were performance-ready at the time. It was a super-fun and memorable experience.”
The three-track EP is a solid debut—even if the recording process was less than refined.
“We recorded this EP with Nick Mund from the local band Blue Sun,” Alvarez said. “We did it at his house, and he was very new to the program we used to record. It was such a good time, and we had so much fun shooting some skits and goofing off while we tracked the songs. No one knew what they were doing, but we’re still proud of the finished product.”
Hernandez added: “On top of the inexperience, I actually went in with a broken hand. I had to record all of my solos on a broken hand, and if you listen to the recording, you’ll hear me struggling to keep up with all of the songs.”
The band members talked a bit about their writing sessions—and it’s apparent they bring the same free-spirited energy from their performances to their song-crafting.
“The titles and lyrics are inside jokes within the band, or based on some funny events that happen,” Alvarez said. “We add the layers to the song one at a time—drums, bass, guitar—and leave the lyrics for last. We’re always drinking Bud Light cheladas, so there’s that title, or we’ll say something stupid, and that will end up as a song name.”
Lawrence added: “I’ll usually come up with a line or two to start the song vocally, and then Cristian will come up with the rest on the spot or the next day. He’s been doing all the lyrics for our newest songs. We are completely open to anything anyone in the band wants to add, however. Usually, Cristian and I lead the songs, but we’re very democratic in our decision-making. We all work together.”
Alvarez said most of the stuff he’s been writing involves breakups, skateboarding or having fun.
“It’s been a tough challenge, but I feel that I’ve been getting better at it,” Alvarez said. “Austin has also been helping me in terms of vocal melodies and how to sing. I’m comfortable just being behind the drums, but now I am starting to feel better about singing and leading songs.”
As the pandemic rages on, Saints and Rebels continues to create.
“We’re making new songs right now, and looking toward the end of the year to think about recording them,” Lawrence said. “Hopefully, in the near future, we can play some shows and truly showcase them. There’s nothing else to do right now, so we’re practicing and writing as much as we can.”