It’s no secret that Death By Stereo is one of my all-time favourite punk bands. DBS’s Efrem is one of the nicest, raddest dudes I know. As well as being frontman for DBS, he co-owns an awesome skate shop in Fullerton, California, called Programme Skate & Sound. They’re always doing super cool collabs with brands like Slurpcult and Learn To Forget; they have bands play instore; they have an impressive vinyl section; and always support, and raise awareness of, worthwhile causes in their community. I chatted with Efrem for my Conversations With Punx project (more details here). Here’s an excerpt from the forth coming book. More book sneak peeks to come too, next up will be Mark from The Unseen.
BIANCA: I know you love bands like Bad Brains and Bad Religion…
EFREM SCHULZ: Hell yeah!
B: For you was it the message or energy or both?
ES: The message, the energy and the fearlessness. They weren’t afraid to be individuals and to be themselves. The one thing growing up that I always felt was that I wasn’t like everyone else. I didn’t fit in and I didn’t want to be like everyone else. I never felt I belonged anywhere, I never felt like I could relate to anyone or could talk to anyone.
My mom told me when I went to preschool—as a child you have to learn to socialise—a week in the teacher called her and said, “You know, there are special schools for kids like your son.” She’s like, “Special schools? What’s wrong with my son?” She said, “He’s deaf.” My mom said, “My kid’s not deaf!” The teacher said, “Well, he hasn’t said one word in a week.” I never talked. My mom said I never spoke when I was outside of our house at all. It took me a little bit to start doing that. The entire time I grew up I didn’t feel normal. When I got older that definitely changed. [Laughs] I became very able to speak my mind and say whatever the fuck I wanted. I really looked at people in the Bad Brains and Bad Religion and loved they all had their own views and own opinions.
The Bad Brains are an extremely spiritual band. I may not agree with some of those philosophies, but fuck those guys don’t give a fuck and that’s awesome! They were fucking fearless individuals. It always made me think, “Me too!” I can be who the fuck I want to be and not explain myself to anyone. I love it!
B: What does music mean to you?
ES: Music is like the beginning and the end. It represents the thing that saves me and it represents the thing that destroys me—it’s everything. It’s everything good and everything evil at the same time. It’s amazing, it’s power. Music lets you be who you are, who you wish you could be, who you don’t want to be. The whole idea of punk rock was to believe in yourself and not crutch it on anything else. You’ve got to learn to stand on your own two feet.
B: I know exactly how you feel. If I didn’t have music I don’t know where I’d be.
ES: I know, exactly! Like when I was in Australia and I was thinking, music is the whole reason I’m here! I never would have gone there if I wasn’t in a fucking band. I would have just been somewhere being a loser (not that I’m not a loser now!), but I get to travel. I’m a loser that gets to travel. I’m a lucky asshole pretty much! [laughs].
B: …When I listen to Death By Stereo’s music, there is a sadness and a dark part to it, but I also feel there is a light. Personally I feel there is a definite positivity, that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
ES: Oh yeah, exactly! That’s what I wanted to say! Here’s the thing: there’s all these shitty things going on, but we persist, we smile and we have fun. Yeah, everything is fucked. There is so much bullshit, there is conspiracy and I’m going crazy—raaaaahhhh! But the other side of the coin is that things are fucking beautiful, things are amazing! People and places are so amazing. When I went to Australia I had some of the most beautiful moments there ever; the shared experiences and things you see are gorgeous. There are a series of moments where it’s like, fuck, the world is so beautiful. There is a light at the end of the tunnel.
Each one of our songs is maybe an expression of a certain angst. It’s like, here is what I’m trying to sing about: how do I get out of here? How do I lay it all on the table and let everyone know how I feel? What’s my solution to this? How do I find my happiness? We go through this dark time but we survive it and go through it. There’s a weird sense of happiness at the end of that. Release it, get it out.
B: I look at a lot of your lyrics and I feel like I could have written that, that’s totally how I feel. They really resonate.
ES: Wow! That’s awesome! I do always try and say: try to stay positive. Positivity is going to get us a lot further. I’d be a liar to say I’m always positive though. There’s nothing wrong with me encouraging everyone else to stay positive in every song. We have to make the most of our time here.
For more DEATH BY STEREO. Check out and support PROGRAMME SKATE & SOUND. Buy DBS’s latest single, Neverending (with their cover of the DK jam, Too Drunk To Fuck) here.
Death For Life!
*All photos courtesy of DBS’s IG & Programme’s IG / if you took any of these pix let me know so I can credit you!