California’s Ill Communication started as a few friends from the Oxnard and Tehachapi hardcore scenes who had talked about making music together for over 15 years. After playing and touring North America and Europe in bands such as The Warriors, Diehard Youth, No Motiv, Retaliate and Gravemaker, they named the band, wrote some music and started playing out. Soon after they recorded two EPs that where released online as well as a one sided 12” on Another City Records. All their releases have been and will be written, recorded, and engineered by a core group of friends. Musically pulling from classic hardcore bands such as Beyond, Turning Point and Inside Out, as well as well as a mix of other music styles. Lyrically addressing a variety of topics covering the state of the world to chillin out with friends. In Effect found out about the Ill Crew last year while flipping through the pages of a DIY fanzine which led to looking up their online catalog which led to us reaching out to their singer Andy Franchere which led to him sending us an advance of their upcoming “Doomsday Brigade” LP (out March 31st on Safe Inside/Heroes & Martyrs Records). The hope here is to keep the ball rolling as “Doomsday Brigade” is a really fucking great record and we hope you see or read something within this interview that makes you want to make that same trip. Interview conducted February 2023, lead photo by Matt Welch & graphics by Paul Turano.
IE: Hey Andy, I found out about your band through reading issue 1 of Today Forever fanzine a few months back. What made me want to check out your band was your response to a particular question where you said you asked your bandmates to write songs that mixed Beyond and 7 Seconds and then went on to say that your new record sounds more like if Retaliate and Praise made a baby and it was born feet first wearing slip on vans. Being a fan of all the bands you mentioned I went to check out your music right away and was not disappointed one bit and your new album has been on constant rotation here for a while now. Can you talk more about your initial description you gave Today Forever?
Andy: I’m psyched you checked out Today Forever Zine. Nikki and Matt are awesome and that zine turned out so slick. Great interviews and a quality physical product. That quote just came to me. I love hardcore and I try to keep it as fun or ill as possible. Like every band over the age of 25 we all have different tastes in hardcore and in music in general. When we wrote the LP everyone got to contribute. The vibe we were going for is an updated old school or youth crew style. We had a calculated formula to the type and length of songs to write and how to sequence the record. The inspiration was drawn from Carry On, In Control and Over My Dead Body when we outlined the way the record should flow song wise. Those are great West Coast bands and their LP’s had a mix of urgency, some melody, lots of angst, a dose of mosh, a short banger or two and some big sing-a-longs. The mission was to do an album and not a collection of songs thrown together. I feel like we nailed that and made a record that we want to get down to on wax and live.
PHOTO BY: VICTOR D PHOTO
IE: “Doomsday Brigade” is your debut full length. Can you tell us more about the making of the album?
Andy: Well it’s been a long time coming. We started writing and recording during the Covid lockdown. We had our buddies Donny Phillips (The Warriors) and Vinnie Caruana (The Movielife) come in and help produce the record and play dice. It was ill times, writing, recording and chilling. We ended up demoing 17 songs. A few of those did not fit the LP blueprint, and we used 2 for our Safe Inside Records promo and 11 on the record. With our first 2 releases we were just messing around making a few songs and playing a few shows while the dudes where on hiatus from The Warriors. When we decided to write an album it went from being a wanna be Alone In A Crowd type thing to a “professional” band. I think when people drop the needle and sit with the LP they will feel the sonic evolution. If you get the deluxe CD version of “Doomsday Brigade” Heroes And Martyrs Records is putting it out (due out mid-late April) you can take the demo to LP journey. We took our time with this record. The big delay on it hitting the streets was the pressing plant having to repress the Turnstile record 27 times. But after 14 months of circle putting in the living room we can finally set the stage.
IE: Seven out of the eleven new tracks have guest vocals on them. Can you give us a rundown of who you brought in on this new album and any random facts about some of them?
Andy: Getting friends involved in the IC project has been a must since day one. Joe and Roger of IC play in The Warriors who are a Tehachapi hardcore band so we had to have Marshal on the record. I love that band and dudes and Marsh has a killer voice. He is actually on 2 tracks. We did a Tehachapi hardcore love song and him and 2 of our other homies that sang in local bands (Gregg and Bernie) are on “Well Represented”. Funny thing about that song is Zack Nelson of Retaliate and 185 Miles South Podcast wrote it. He also had a guest spot with a signature line. Eva (Power Alone and No Plan) has been a friend since the Diehard Youth days and I love her voice. I really wanted to get her on “World War Ill” and she laid it down. Andrew (Vendetta) and John Crerar (Stalag 13) are 2 Oxnard legends. Dan Sant (Over My Dead Body) is a long time homie and his lyrics where an inspiration to “Neanderthal Nation” so I had to hit him up. Vinnie (The Movielife) came out to help when we recorded the vocals. His knowledge and direction where huge, and it’s a no brainer to have Vinnie kick it on a track (“Flip The Switch”). The last guest spot is Donny Phillips. He is the behind the scenes mastermind for IC and The Warriors. He has played in both bands and is the artist for both bands. Donny has a cool flow to him and came out perfectly on “Search for AC”. I should also mention that Danny Phillips (The Warriors) busted out a few guitar leads for us from the “War is Hell” era.
IE: The cover art on the new album has a wrecked Air Force plane with some Ill Communication graffiti photo shopped on to it. What is the backstory behind the original photo?
Andy: Edward Air Force Base is 40 miles from Tehachapi. The base is huge and covers a crazy amount of the desert. There is a plane graveyard on the outskirts. We walked in a few miles to it. I’m not sure how Joe found it but it’s pretty rad. Our dude Matt came out and snapped a bunch of photos for the layout. There is like 5 or six planes or jets out there in different phases of decay. A few weeks later some people we know went out to do a modeling type shoot and got arrested by military police. Guess we got lucky or we just too slick for them.
IE: With new and previous song titles like “Doomsday Brigade”, “Forever War”, “World War III” and “Rhythm And Rhymes For The End Times” there is a definite bleak element in some of your songs. What usually inspires you to write lyrics and what are some other topics that you have touched on within your lyrics that you feel comfortable writing about?
Andy: I’m still a “posi-guy” but as I’ve grown older my outlook on society and humanity have gotten more realistic. I still hope for the best but I know a lot of humans suck. I’d like to think I have little bit different take on life due to my age, my job, and life experiences. I won’t front and write about being tough or the streets. That’s not me. I just let my world inspire me.
The song title “World War Ill” (is a play on Roman numerals and the word ill) has the “Doomsday Brigade” lyric in it. That song is about calling people out who use their position or status to take advantage of others. It’s a call for people to speak up or for others to speak up for the victims who are unable. Uniting to bring the doom to serial offenders.
There is also the song “Flip The Switch” which hits on how technology and social media is ruining some people’s lives. On the LP we wanted an anti-racist song cause you can never have enough of those. I’m not a judgmental dude and I know I won’t change the world with my lyrics. My writing style is aimed at the social sphere I can impact and if my lyrics reach ears outside of that and people vibe on them that is awesome.
IE: Within the hardcore punk genre who would you list as your top 3 lyric writers?
Andy: Dang top 3 is tough. I’m pretty sentimental so when I experience a band in person it means a lot more. So I can’t pick Jules Massey (Side By Side) or Kevin Egan (Beyond) even though they got me hooked on hardcore. I’m going with Zack Nelson who wrote the lyrics for In Control and now Retaliate. Those are two of my favorite bands and I know he lives what he writes and everyone knows he’s da best. Dave Weinberg of No Reply and Suicide File is great. Dude is mad smart and has a quick sense of humor that really comes through in his lyrics and stage banter. My last pick is Aram Arslaian from Betrayed and Change. He has a positive outlook and a lot insight into people’s pain and working through that to make a change or just live another day.
IE: Who would you list as your top 3 hardcore punk frontman/woman?
Andy: Dave Byrd is top tier. Striking Distance still gets me fired up. Dave always goes insane and has great banter. Marshal Lichtenwald of The Warriors has great stage presence. I’m a fan of YoLo mosh calls and he is the king. And my last pick has to be Jay from Mindforce. Never met the dude but I’d love to kick it with him. He has one of the best voices ever in my opinion and his swagger on stage is ill.
IE: The band is obviously named after the great Beastie Boys album of the same name. Can you give us your top 5 Beastie tracks and how important were they in your musical path?
Andy: Off the top of my head my top B Boys songs would be “So What’Cha Want”, “Time To Get Ill”, “Shake Your Rump”, “Sure Shot” and “Pass The Mic” but they have sooo many dope tracks. “License To Ill” was one of the first tapes we got that felt counter culture to everything other kids our age where into. We would all pick a B Boy and lip sync the songs between sk8 sessions. I def try to mimic some of their vocal stylings on a line or 2. They are also the inspiration to sample from other artists. So there are a lot of shout outs in the lyrics.
IE: Who are the other members of Ill Communication and can you give us an interesting fact about each?
Andy: Roger Camero is the Swiss Army knife of the band. He plays guitar and drums depending on what we need. He writes, records and mixes the tracks and also plays in The Warriors, Retaliate, and No Motiv. Matt Battaglia plays guitar, makes guitars for a living and is also a studio wizard. Joe Martin plays bass, owns Bright Mountain Studios and is also in The Warriors. Chad Walker is our sonic engineer. He was crucial to getting all the takes we needed as well as some production. Much love to him for taking time away from his main gig of touring with Air Supply and being part of the project. When we play live our homies that rip the set are Matt Romero on guitar, Nick Vitirelli on drums and Mike Preisendorfer on bass. The reason for the new live line up is that Roger recently became a father and is making it happen as a rad dad, and Joe is recently engaged and stepped down from live shows to be the family guy. We’ve always had the Wu-Tang approach to this project, having multiple friends helping write, record and play live.
IE: I've seen that your teenaged sons are also into hardcore. How deep into it are they?
Andy: We are kind of a hardcore family. It’s rad for me to take the whole gang to a show. My wife has been going to shows for 20 years now but she picks and chooses. So sometimes it’s just me and the dudes and a friend or 2. My youngest Beckham is 16 and he is not as into hardcore but he digs Rotting Out and Berthold City so he is coming around. Brody is 17 and he is all in. He plays bass in an early 80’s type punk hardcore band called Government Surveillance. We actually played a show together not too long ago and that was a top moment in my life, watching him “get sick”. He also has a band called War Is Hell where he plays guitar and writes the music. It’s a bit of Guns Up and Carry On. I’m hoping my youngest will pick up the mic for that band.
PHOTO BY: VICTOR D PHOTO
IE: Westlane Brewing in your area recently put out an "Ill Pa" beer. Can you tell us more about it?
Andy: I’ve been friends with the owners of Westlane Brewing for years. They recently started doing live music at the brewery. When they decided to do a punk show and hit me up, they also threw out the beer collab idea. Derrick the owner was the brains behind that. We named it The ILL-PA. It’s a tasty beer that hits the spot after a few stage dives.
IE: What was it like growing up in Techachapi and what was your introduction to hardcore like for you and your friends?
Andy: Tehachapi is a small town in the mountains. I was lucky to have the 3 Kingsbury brothers live across the street. We have literally been friends since the day we were born, and still are. We played Star Wars, skated, got into mischief, and found punk rock together. Our first introduction was from older kids with boom boxes blasting Misfits and Suicidal Tendencies. In the early 90’s we rediscovered punk through skate videos and zines. We didn’t have record stores so we’d have to bootleg tapes from any kid that was into “extreme” music. As soon as we could drive we were going to shows and falling in love with hardcore.
IE: You are a fire fighter in an area of the country that seems to produce some really big fires at certain times of the year. Can you tell us how you got interested in choosing this profession and what is the job like on a day to day basis?
Andy: Straight up I wanted to be a firefighter cause my dad was a firefighter. We do go on some big forest fires. I’ve seen fire tornados, entire city blocks that have been devastated, and plenty of other gnarly stuff. When I was younger “doing the job” and seeing stuff was a rush of sorts. Nowadays it’s different. I still get the rush but I feel the loss or weight of the situations a lot faster and deeper.
IE: There were a few factors behind this band having only played a handful of shows since you started including a global pandemic and other band commitments being major factors. Now that you have a full length album under your belts and interest outside of your home area can you see bringing the band out more and what are the bands immediate plans here in the early stages of 2023?
Andy: Yeah, we have had some ups and downs. Things are flowing smoothly right now. We have a solid line up for live shows so we’ve got some stuff lined up locally. Once “Doomsday Brigade” drops we will do our best to support it. Heroes and Martyrs Records and Safe Inside Records have both invested a lot in us and we do not take that lightly. People taking part in this thing we love is awesome, whether it’s singing along, buying merch, interviewing us, booking a shows… all of it rulez! So we will be pushing the record. We got eyes on the West and East Coast, Europe is nice in the summer time, I’d like to play some fests, really anything where people want to get ill with us.