Navigating the treacherous darkness of the Ruby Room is a scary task, and to prove it, a pint of Sierra Nevada almost gets knocked over in the process. Whoops.
I'm waiting for the singer of One Time Angels, Doug Sangalang, to arrive. In the movies, when people meet for the very first time, they usually decorate themselves with a colorful boutonniere or, at the very least, a handkerchief placed strategically in a lapel. It would have been nice if we'd agreed on something similar beforehand, like a Holly Hobby apron for him and a pair of fishing waders for me.
Released on Oakland's very own Adeline label (yup, that's the label cofounded by that guy in Green Day, but we'll get to that later), One Time Angels' Sound of a Restless City is a solidly built piece of punk rock. For starters, the ghost of Hüsker Dü rattles its loud and restless chain throughout the entire album. Other bands also make their presence known, like Soul Asylum back when they were good -- if you can imagine such a crazy thing. Singer Doug Sangalang's voice on the song "Side Tracked (Only Human)" sounds remarkably like Jawbreaker's Blake Schwarzenbach, and the song "Rose Carnation" sounds so mid-'80s Minneapolis that it would be fun to convince gullible (and perhaps inebriated) folks that the Replacements had miraculously gotten back together again. Talk about ghosts.
Doug arrives and, somehow, we find each other in the shadows. Slight with short, dark hair, he looks like someone who would manage the Ruby Room, and in fact, he does. While watching for the other Angels, the only thing to do is to bombard poor Doug with nosy Gladys Kravitz-like questions, and real juicy stuff reveals itself, like that he went to high school in Martinez.
"Do you remember that movie The Day After?" he asks. "Right after that movie aired, the Shell refinery in Martinez blew up. We were playing touch football in the street. It was after school and there was this huge fire. We just sat around waiting to get blown up." We were knee-deep in a discussion of minitrucks, acid-wash jeans, mullets, and mustaches when bass player Mickey Dunegan and the drummer, Eric Alexander, showed up.
"We all come from a punk-rock background, but the band is more influenced by pop and rock 'n' roll," Doug explains. One Time Angels are also fans of punk bands like Faith and Void that recorded on DC's Dischord label. "Our last bands had a more DC-meets LA punk sound -- East Coast vs. West Coast. It was a stripped-down, almost '80s-style punk rock. Now, I think this band is drawing more from artistic influences and more from straight rock 'n' roll like Led Zeppelin and the Beatles."
Mickey came from a band in Santa Cruz called Fury 66, and Doug is from Oakland's Screw 32. Eric came down on vacation from Seattle about five years ago and "got trapped and ended up playing with a bunch of bands," he says. "Doug just called me out of the blue and said that he needed a drummer." So One Time Angels was born, taking its name from an old Screw 32 song title that implies "a chance for greatness in a single moment."
But how did they happen to get signed to the Adeline label? Even in the darkness, Doug looks a bit wary and annoyed, like, Oh God, here come the predictable Green Day questions.
"In the beginning," he says, "I was really active with Adeline. Jim [Thiebaud] and Billy [Joe Armstrong] and I kind of started together." Doug helped with distro and production. "I was touring with another band at the time, and it got to the point where the label was going [well] and I felt like I couldn't really focus on it, and I kind of stepped out. We've always been good friends and I knew I could always come back there and do something with 'em."
Like almost all recording projects, it wouldn't have happened without the help of many others. After all, it takes a village to put out a punk-rock CD.
"Adeline is really like a family-run thing," he continues. "All of the bands are on the label because they're friends with the people that run the label, with the exception of the Thumbs who got signed when they sent in a demo from Baltimore." But the band is quick to note that favoritism ain't the word of the day. "It's really a friendship thing, but at the same time [our signing] wasn't a shoe-in. They first have to like you. It's really a small, grassroots label."
The Angels may have come from different areas of the West Coast, but they fit in perfectly to the East Bay's unique punk order. "I think there's kind of a renaissance that's happening [in the East Bay]," adds Doug. "Bands like American Steel, the Enemies, Pitch Black, the Pattern -- they're all very, very different, but they're all unique in their own way."
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