When it was founded 1977 by John Doe, Exene Cervenka, Billy Zoom and DJ Bonebreak, X established West Coast punk rock. Their sound wasn’t snotty like the Ramones on the East Coast or the Sex Pistols in the U.K. X’s co-songwriter, Cervenka, was a poet before joining the band. Fringed by rockabilly, vocals steeped in two-part harmony and messages reflecting issues of alienation, date rape and estranged family, X laid the foundation for thought-provoking anti-establishment music.
John Doe: “X and I think punk rock in general … was taking rock and roll back from long solos and extravagance … just throwing money around and all this un-rock and roll crap."
37 years later, the band’s influence is still felt in punk and rock musicians. Dog Party formed in 2007 by Gwen and Lucy Giles. While on the surface you can easily hear them fitting in with average pop-punk bands, Dog Party’s sound is deeper and heavily influenced by X.
Gwen Giles: “Excene, her voice is really unique and really influenced how I sing. Just everything about them, like every element. All of them are extremely good musicians … it’s pretty amazing."
You can even hear the country/rockabilly influence prominent in some of X’s later works, on “Mixed Up Lovers” from Dog Party’s 2011 album P.A.R.T.Y.
The teen punk duo covers “Los Angeles” on its latest record Lost Control. It’s arguably the most recognizable song in the X catalog and resonates with Dog Party’s audience. Sometimes at shows they break it out when the energy in the crowd is flagging.
Gwen: “Whenever we play Los Angeles live, there’s a few people that just go insane, because a lot of people know X and…a lot of people recognize the song.”
Lucy Giles: “I think there’s only been like two sets in the past, I dunno, like four years where we haven’t played that song. It’s always if the crowd needs a little bit of motivation we’ll play it because they need to get hyped up.”
When told about the teenage Sac punk duo is on tour in Europe, covering his music, Doe’s tone perks.
“To say that you had a positive effect on somebody’s life is the highest compliment that I think anybody can get,” he said.
Nearly everything changes in four decades and the punk landscape established by X is no different. It gave way to myriad permutations of the genre but the foundation remains and will continue to change as bands like Dog Party to refine their sound. Doe believes this is crucial.
Even X themselves won’t be 100% true to their own music this week when they play an all-acoustic set in Grass Valley at the Center for the Arts.