At the Drive-In
At the Drive-In
At the Drive-In (ATDI) are among the new breed of punk rockers, combining loud, powerful music with thoughtful, focused, and intelligent lyrics. The music press often likens the group’s sound to Rage Against the Machine, minus the messy politics. “There is no soapbox that they stand on, no political agenda, nor is there any of the ‘guy meets girl’ swarmy love songs,” wrote friend Blaze James for the group’s official web-site. “There is just a glowing realness to them that the majority of rock bands today lack.”
Hailing from El Paso, Texas, At The Drive-Ln—featuring vocalist Cedric Bixler, guitarists Jim Ward and Omar Rodriguez, bassist Paul Hinojos, and drummer Tony Hajjar—brought their brand of punk to audiences across the United States and Europe not by selling millions of records, but by projecting a fan-friendly image and touring almost non-stop. Whereas most groups only dedicate a couple of weeks or a couple of months to performances, At The Drive-In live on the road anywhere from eight to ten months out of the year.
“Arguments for not [touring] are pretty weak,” Bixler said in an interview with Magnet magazine’s Jason Ferguson. “Like, ‘I can’t quit my job.’ If you can’t do that in life—especially when you’re young—you’re gonna miss out on a lot of things. I’ve given up everything. We’ve sacrificed lots of personal relationships. It’s a real struggle, but it’s worth it.” Such a work ethic propelled the band from their own label to the indie labels Flipside and Fearless, and finally, to Grand Royal Records, who issued their 2000 major-label debut Relationship Of Command. At The Drive-In have also toured with big-name bands such as Fugazi and Rage Against The Machine, two of the group’s strongest influences.
At The Drive-In formed in El Paso in 1994 when Ward, a guitarist and keyboardist, met Bixler. At the time, the bands that both men had been a part of had broken up, so they decided to form one of their own. In November of 1994, using Ward’s college savings, the band released their first seven-inch single, “Hell Paso,” on their own Western Breed Records. The following month, ATDI set out on their first tour across the state of Texas. Admittedly, the band’s sound was still in its infancy and in need of refinement. Back then, as Ward told Billboard writer Eric Aiese, “it was just me and Cedric, two worlds colliding—a combination of him being a singer and playing guitar and my pop influences, kind of hardcore with a lot of melody.”
The release of a second single in June of 1995, “Alfaro Vive, Cajaro!,” showed stylistic progress. Afterward, the band hit the road for a 10, 000-mile tour across the United States. “We bought a 1981 Ford Econoline van for $800 and booked our own tour, playing 25 shows in 42 days,” recalled Ward, as quoted by Aiese. During their travels, At The Drive-In gathered fans and record label interest, including that of Flipside Records. They
Members include Cedric Bixler, vocals; Tony Hajjar. drums; Paul Hinojos, bass; Omar Rodriguez, guitar; Jim Ward, guitar.
Formed band in El Paso, TX, 1994; released first single, “Hell Paso,” on own Western Breed Records, 1994; released debut album Acrobatic Tenement, 1997; released In/Casino/Out, 1998; released the EP Vaya, 1999; released major-label debut, Relationship Of Command, 2000.
Addresses: Home— At The Drive-In, P.O. Box 3462, Los Angeles, CA 90028, e-mail:[email protected] Record company —Grand Royal Records, P.O. Box 26689, Los Angeles, CA 90026, phone: (213) 663-3000, fax: (213) 663-5726, e-mail:www.grandroyal.com. Booking —(North America) Don Mueller, Artist Direct, phone: (323)634-4000, e-mail: [email protected] Website —At The Drive-In Official Website: http://www.atthedrive-in.net.
struck out again on another 21-day tour of the South-west, playing their last show in Los Angeles. While there, the band recorded their first full-length album, Acrobatic Tenement, for Flipside at the cost of $600.
Soon thereafter, Hajjar and Hinojos joined the group, allowing Rodriquez to move from bass to left-handed guitar, and the band went out on tour again. This time, they spent 100 days, from February until June of 1997, on a 24, 000-mile national tour that included gigs with Screw 32, JChurch, AFI, Still Life, Mustard Plug, Face To Face, Cosmic Psychos, and others. After a month of rest, At The Drive-ln began rehearsing songs for their next record. El Gran Orgo, an EP for the Offtime label, appeared on September 18, 1997, displaying the group’s more melodic side. Two days later, the band kicked off another tour in Boulder, Colorado. During this 35-day, 11, 000-mile trek, the group played six dates with Karp and the Young Pioneers, and head-lined several shows in the Midwest. By now, ATDI was drawing between 100 to 350 concert-goers each night.
But despite a growing reputation, At The Drive-in’s future appeared uncertain as Flipside was no longer releasing records and Offtime lacked the funds to support another project. As a result, the band approached every independent record label that came to mind, but unfortunately, no one expressed an interest. Finally, while opening for the group Supernova at Club Mesa, the members of ATDI met Bob and Michelle Becker of Fearless Records, who offered the band a new record deal.
Joined by producer Alex Newport, At The Drive-ln began work on their second album, In/Casino/Out, on June 3, 1998. Spending the next four days recording and two days mixing, the group arrived with a record that not only displayed a more mature songwriting style, but captured their live energy as well. In order to achieve this, the entire album was recorded straight to tape, with only a few vocal and guitar overdubs added later on.
After the release of In/Casino/Out in July of 1998, At The Drive-ln immediately went out on the road. The tour lasted until December and included a date with Fugazi in Des Moines, Iowa, and one with the Archers of Loaf in Austin, Texas. At the onset of the new year, ATDI took a few months off to rest before commencing another tour in March of 1999, which included two weeks of playing with Jimmy Eat World throughout the South and East. Next up, after only three days off, the band boarded a plane for their first European tour. The group spent six weeks in eleven different countries, opening for the likes of Good Riddance and the Promise Ring.
Upon their return, At The Drive-ln didn’t break for rest. A five-day trip to Southern California in May and a performance at the “This Ain’t No Picnic” Fourth of July festival in Irvine Canyon, California (where ATDI joined groups like Sonic Youth, Get Up Kids, Sunny Day Real Estate, and more), followed that summer. Then, on July 13, 1999, the group released a new EP titled Vaya, which illustrated At The Drive-in’s knack for writing explosive, yet delicate songs. The seven-track set “documents a young band in a glorious state of flux,” wrote Colin Helms for CMJ, “its frustrations and energies turning its performance into a dramatic tug-of-war.”
Riding on favorable reviews, At The Drive-ln toured yet again, beginning on July 28 in Austin. From there, the band toured for three weeks, headlining sold-out shows in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego. In addition to critics and fans, Gary Gersh and John Silva, who were starting a record label called DEN, also took notice and offered to release ATDI’s next album.
While preparing material for a new record, At The Drive-ln accepted an invitation from the Get Up Kids to tour for three weeks in the Midwest, the Northeast, and Eastern Canada. While in New York, the group took a few days to record a song with producer Ross Robinson. Impressed by his methods, the band asked him to produce their forthcoming LP. However, the album was put on hold once again when Rage Against The Machine invited ATDI to join them for six dates. Although At The Drive-In admittedly felt a little uncomfortable playing in huge arenas, all agreed it was a great experience.
Finally, on July 17, 2000, At The Drive-In joined Robinson to record at a cabin in Malibu, California, known as Indigo Ranch. After Andy Wallace mixed the new album, the band learned the good news DEN was to merge with Grand Royal Records. Prior to its release, ATDI traveled overseas for shows in Japan, the United Kingdom, and Europe. Then, on September 12, 2000, Grand Royal released Relationship Of Command to rave reviews. Mark Jenkins of the Washington Post dubbed it “mercurial and explosive, with enough high-speed turns for a Hollywood car-chase scene,” while Jay DeFoore of Billboard concluded, “Few bands capture the riffing of Black Sabbath and the punk energy of Fugazi with such enthusiasm.”
However, mainstream attention—complete with performances on Late Night With Conan O’Brien and The Late Show With David Letterman—did little to slow down At The Drive-in’s frenetic pace. In support of the album, the group hit the road again, touring nationally as well as overseas.
“Hell Paso” (7-inch single), Western Breed/Offtime, 1994.
“Alfaro Vive, Carajo!” (7-inch single), Western Breed/Offtime, June 1995.
Acrobatic Tenement (includes “Initiation,” “Embroglio,” and “Porfirio Diaz”), Flipside, 1997.
El Gran Orgo (EP; includes “Farenheit” and “Picket Fence Cartel”), One Foot/Offtime, 1997.
In/Casino/Out (includes “Hulahoop Wounds,” “Lopsided,” and “Napoleon Solo”), Fearless, 1998.
Vaya (EP; includes “Rascuache, Metronome Arthritis,” and “198D”), Fearless, 1999.
“One Armed Scissor,” Grand Royal, 2000.
Relationship Of Command (includes “One Armed Scissor”), Grand Royal, 2000.
Billboard, September 2, 2000.
Los Angeles Times, December 10, 2000.
Magnet, November/December 2000.
Rolling Stone, September 28, 2000.
Washington Post, October 13, 2000; October 21, 2000.
All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (January 18, 2001).
At The Drive-In Official Website, http://www.atthedrive-in.net (January 18, 2001).
Yahoo! Music, http://www.musicfinder.yahoo.com (January 18, 2001).
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