“A room full of people with minds that speak/ can do so much more than a music scene,” belts Rob Bruce, also known as his anxiety shield/stage persona, Thomas Gun, on the song Smiling Faces from 78 Revolutions Per-Minute’s debut EP Here Lies A Mouthy Kid. Bruce is probably most known for his vocal and guitar work in touring bands Murder Party!, The Westside Rebellion, The Hubies, and literally so many more that I’ve given up on keeping track. He even played Warped Tour one time! But his newest venture is a Grand Rapids based pop-punk band with a name so long, I’m just going to shorten it to 78RPM to save my fingers the trouble of typing it out every time. You get the idea. Rounding out the lineup is Dan Smith on bass and vocals, Don Carlisle on drums, and the recent addition of Derek Blossom on guitar all of whom also play as fellow Grand Rapids folk-punk mainstays Bet On Rats.
It was at Carlisle’s own recording studio, Knavish Audio, where Bruce was recording his latest solo album, that the idea for 78RPM was born. He’d grown tired of playing those songs solo. He was literally tired as there were too many words to spit out. He needed a partner to sing with as a duet. Carlisle fell in love with the songs and showed them to some of his Bet On Rats bandmates and they decided to be something of a backing band during live performances. With two shows together under their belts, the chemistry between them demanded the transformation into a full, real band with a name and all. That was about a year ago. Countless gigs locally and across Michigan later, including Vehicle City Fest with Direct Hit!, 78RPM has finally released music for fans to jam along to in their cars and at home.
Enough about the background of the band; let’s get into the meat of the awesome project they recently put out. Released on Put Out Your Own Records, Here Lies A Mouthy Kid is primarily a collection of reworked versions of those aforementioned songs Bruce recorded with Carlisle, but also includes a few team effort originals as well. For the most part, the band sticks to your classic pop-punk song structures. There are plenty of “la-la-la” sing-alongs and catchy choruses, especially on songs like “100 Bodies,” but they carve out moments that stand out from any that I’ve heard in this genre too.
Take the entire track, “Police Boat,” for example. A 78RPM exclusive, they supposedly improvised most of the lyrics on the first and only take. Inspired by a literal police boat sighting on the Grand River outside the window of their practice space, the words are mostly just “police” and “boat” spelled out with each letter standing for something Smith thought up on the spot. But “I is for ice cream always.” There’s a skit halfway through that finds Bruce pulling Smith over as if he were a cop and giving a lecture. It’s meant to be a snarky but also somewhat serious middle finger at power hungry authority figures. The whole thing is so over the top, it feels like a scene out of Fear And Loathing in Las Vegas. It’s a shouted call-and-response acid trip of a song that’s become an inside joke for much of the Grand Rapids punk scene.
This record isn’t all jokes though. Bruce says that he had to rip himself apart when putting these songs together and that is more than clear to see. There is a lot of heart to be found beneath the sarcasm and that’s where the real message lies. Many of the lyrics focus on improving oneself. There’s a painfully relatable self-awareness to the way they’re written, especially on the heckler-inspired intro “Hey Man, Nice Set” and counterculture-worshipping closer “Broken Records.” They apologize to those just seeking mindless fun for unabashedly preaching progressive social politics, but promise to never stop fighting for growth within.
I began this review with a quote from what I think is the clear high point of this EP, the gem “Smiling Faces.” Go read that again. I feel like those words alone fully portray the message 78RPM is trying to promote. Yes, if you’re reading anything on our site or if you frequent DIY shows, you probably love punk rock and are probably part of a scene full of friends. It’s fun, but when we use that platform, unified together, we can make real things happen. Good, big, powerful things. And that’s really important.
The coolest part about this EP is the authentic feeling of unity and caring. A huge group of people came together during the process of making these songs. Even the band’s youngest fan, 11 year old Alexis, was included in the gang vocal sections throughout the 16 minute runtime. A community as tight knit as that should never be underestimated. Not only can we can make songs, but we can change the world or at least make a lasting impact in our corner of it.
So if you like good old fashioned playful pop-punk songs with a unique message, I’d say check out Here Lies A Mouthy Kid by 78 Revolutions Per-Minute. At the very least, listen for Smith’s bravado. That dude has some serious pipes. All in all, this debut shows huge potential for the how well the band members work together. In the words of that one The Hard Times article, this pop-punk side project may be more lucrative than the original bands themselves.