Lustkill: Reinventing Pop-Punk for Grown-Up Millennials
Back in March, I was chilling with my husband before the Cryptics show at our favorite local brewery, Sideswipe. We were playing some Godzilla pinball, eating Ayy Karamba, and discussing the Prime Directive LP release show when out of the corner of my eye, I spot my best friend coming through the door. Now, this wouldn't seem unusual to most, but Lizz typically works late on Thursdays, so it was my natural instinct to make sure everything was okay when I saw her in full work attire ordering a beer.
Turns out that her schedule had been altered because she recently started as a trainer at her job and was meeting some new coworkers after work for beer and pinball. As her new coworkers filed in, small talk began. Soon the question of what I do for a living popped up as it naturally does.
"I'm a writer," I replied and then immediately wished I had answered with a profession that doesn't inspire follow-up questions because I was hoping to save what was left of my nearly empty social battery for the show that night. Like magic, the follow-up questions started coming, and I explained that I am a senior copywriter by day and a music journalist by night.
One of Lizz's more introverted coworkers chimed in, "So will you be covering the symphony tonight?"
I chuckled, "No, I focus most of my efforts on covering Columbus' underground punk scene. I actually have a show tonight."
And then the same stranger responded with a wry, knowing smile of recognition, "Oooh, I see! So, you must be going to see Lustkill then?"
This is the story of how Lustkill is responsible for me reexamining how I review bands. It's also the story of why you shouldn't throw out your old notebooks filled with song lyrics from high school. And it might be the story of how Joey Yates could be the darling yet daring game-changer that the Columbus punk scene has been waiting for...I dunno yet...I haven't decided. But I do know that this story has something to do with the fact that Lustkill and Yates' other project, Methmatics, are the first bands that I have heard mentioned by non-punks in conversations out in the wild. This indicates that whether you love him or hate him, Yates is doing something right. He's appealing to audiences outside of our somewhat insularly Columbus scene.
The first two times I saw Lustkill, I was lucky enough to see them twice in one week. I was so impressed with their second performance that I planned on catching them again for a third time within the span of just a month. I even invited my best friend and my former college roommate to the Lustkill, Mummula, and The Putz show for what we like to call an "Otterbitch Adventure," our more inclusive alternative to a girls' night out. I knew Lizz and Kylene would love all of Lustkill's not-so-subtle sexual innuendos within their catchy pop-punk hooks. Unfortunately, I began losing my voice at the Richie Ramone show, and by Friday morning, it was gone entirely.
Thus began my six-week battle with a sinus infection, but fate is funny sometimes. While being treated with multiple rounds of antibiotics and steroids, I was still attending shows despite feeling like a wet pile of hot garbage. However, it didn't matter how incredible a band's performance was; nothing could make me feel better. I knew I wanted to recover before the Lustkill show featuring Jerk and Phantom Grins, primarily because Joey Yates has been a huge supporter of me, not just Bands in the Bus, since the start, and I owed it to him to finish this review.
So, I did the unthinkable: I called out of work for a few days and actually prioritized my wellbeing and healing. This whole ordeal started with me missing a Lustkill show, and it would end with me seeing Lustkill and enjoying a show for the first time in weeks. I didn't care what I had to do to get there. I was not missing this particular show.
Now, if you read my Prime Directive review, you might be wondering when I started holding Lustkill in such high regard. I honestly didn't expect Lustkill to become one of my favorite bands in the scene. Their performance at Summit Music Hall wasn't bad by any stretch of the imagination. I don't think Kurt Gordon, Byron Weaver, and Joey Yates are capable of having a bad show because each plays like a well-oiled machine, and that is before you factor in the band’s chemistry. The musicians in this trio are so dynamically different in terms of personality (at least on stage). Yet, they manage to perfectly triangulate their egos as they each become foils to their creative counterparts.
Lustkill's performance at the Summit was enough to land the band on my radar. It was clean, well balanced, and definitely elicited feelings of adolescent nostalgia. I also think that is why I struggled with the band initially, especially when I was seeing Lustkill for the first time and didn't know what to expect. To put it lightly, my adolescence was extremely traumatic, and because of that, I don't remember most of it. Despite Lustkill's music bringing up more innocuous recollections, the triggering of phantom memories, no matter how fun or innocent, is still something I am learning to cope with at this particular phase of my adulthood. I put in my notes that listening to Lustkill was like reliving the thrilling sensation of riding in a car with boys for the first time with your best friend. I also noted that Lustkill is the closest thing to Blink 182 playing your junior prom that most millennials will ever experience.
I usually don't reflect too deeply on my notes, especially while the band is still on stage. However, the second note had me slightly confounded. My husband kept comparing Lustkill to Screeching Weasel and The Queers, bands whose former members formed the Methadones...and you probably see where I am going this...As Lustkill played, the lyrics of Getting Older/Losing Touch by the Methadones began swirling in my head and permeating my thoughts...particularly that one line about third-generation Blink 182 rip-offs. I was exhausted from a week of booked solid with five separate shows, and I knew my negativity was more a reflection of my burnout than Lustkill's performance. I recognized that on that particular evening, Lustkill and I just weren't compatible and that two entities can be incompatible without anything being inherently wrong with either of them. So, I made a conscious decision to not publish a full review on Lustkill until I had seen them perform live at least three times.
Less than a week later, and only an hour after my encounter with one of Yates' acquaintances at Sideswipe, we found ourselves at The Stoop for the Cryptics show. The Plan B's opened, and this was technically Scott Marks last official show with the crew. Despite it being a farewell performance in a lot of ways, it was still far from being somber as the band did a more than adequate job warming up the crowd for the show. We mingled with the usual suspects before Lustkill's set, and to be perfectly honest, we weren't expecting a radically different showing than we received at the Summit Music Hall. However, as soon as Lustkill took the stage, it became clear that this performance would be wildly different from the one we saw just five days earlier, which begs the question:
If you haven't seen Lustkill at The Stoop, have you even seen Lustkill?
I have yet to find a genuinely avant-garde act within the Columbus punk scene. However, Yates, along with Chris Price of Methmatics, and Phoenix Radtastic of ASMR, are leading the vanguard in terms of pushing the envelope. That being said, Yates scales his on-stage shenanigans to the venue he is playing. When Lustkill plays The Stoop, Yates is notoriously known for…letting it all hang out…for lack of more appropriate phrasing, and this has earned him plenty of criticism within the scene. Some haters have even gone as far as crediting Yates stripped-down showmanship or over-the-top stunts, like jumping off a stack of amplifiers onto a skateboard for Lustkill's, and even Methmatics', popularity within the scene, which I find to be off base. That argument just doesn't seem to hold water in a scene dominated mostly by heterosexual/flexible men and overtly queer women.
The truth of the matter is that Yates, regardless of whether he is playing with Lustkill or Methmatics, can always be seen loading in and setting up equipment for other bands. Whether it's a touring band from out of state or a local band opening for his band, I have only ever seen Yates treat other musicians like rock stars. He is always right upfront by the stage, singing along, and I have never heard him say a negative word about other acts in the scene. I think the best example of Yates' dedication to the scene actually occurred toward the end of the Cryptics' set.
Unfortunately, due to myriad factors, the Cryptics played in front of a relatively small crowd. However, it was clear to most of us in the crowd that we were watching a once-in-a-lifetime performance. (Seriously, both my husband and I shed a few tears on the way home from that show. It was more than just magical. It was transcendental.) Yate's recognized what we were lucky enough to be experiencing and sprang into action. He gathered Johnny Dredd, bandmate Kurt Gordon, and the co-owners of The Stoop and quickly conveyed his plan. Then the five of them approached the stage, where Yates politely grabbed Tino Valpa's arm and said, "You're coming with us!" Soon Valpa was airborne and floating on his back, supported by only ten perfectly placed hands. Because of Yates, Tino Valpa got to have the rockstar experience he deserved, and having befriended Valpa since that show, I am eternally grateful for his efforts.
Ultimately, as I discovered at their latest show, the thing I enjoy most about Lustkill is actually their lyrics. If you have never heard a Lustkill song in your life but happened to catch them live one night, you could easily find yourself singing along to their simple yet catchy choruses. For instance, the chorus to Jet Jaguar features a whopping total of three unique words, which is why Lustkill can achieve unprecedented levels of audience participation with the vast majority of the crowd chanting along at their live performances.
The rate at which Lustkill's songs permeate their way into your long-term memory and become earworms is quite frankly astonishing. This is especially true considering that by my haphazard estimation, fewer than half the songs on Lustkill's setlist are currently available on streaming services. This isn't uncommon among local acts, as live performances are great opportunities to test new material to see if it goes over well with your audience. I have also confirmed that Lustkill has already been to the studio to record their first LP, which means new singles will be available to stream online soon. However, due to numerous supply chain issues, the current wait times for a pressing are insanely long.
Still, there is more to their deceptively simple lyrics than meets the eye. For instance, Drive-Thru, which Yates wrote while still in high school, is both witty and whimsical in the way it describes an almost universal adolescent experience. Most of us remember being naive teenagers frequenting a fast-food establishment or shop just so you or one of your friends could flirt with an attractive employee of a similar age. Meanwhile, Lustkill's more current material is full of sexual innuendo and double entendres that somehow leave so little and yet so much to the imagination—aligning perfectly with the vocalist/guitarist's on-stage persona.
Millennials, as a generation, are a sentimental bunch, and we are such suckers for nostalgia. Unfortunately, as we grow older with each passing year, the songs that defined our youth while still eliciting almost tangible recollections are becoming less relatable lyrically. Lustkill manages to capture the carefree vibrancy of the early 2000s pop-punk movement while still offering an experience that scales into adulthood with songs that are open to interpretation. Is that song a happy-go-lucky take on navigating the complexities of ethical non-monogamy? Or alternatively, is it about thoroughly enjoying the thrill of hookup culture while occasionally allowing no strings attached encounters to evolve into friendships that offer the most gratifying benefits? The answer can easily be both, but unlike the songs of our youth, Lustkill lyrics are more sex-positive, and some might even say empowering.
As of right now, Joey Yates is only the second musician on the Columbus scene to be officially recognized as a #locallegend by Bands in the Bus. However, Lustkill is three-piece. Despite being less loquacious than Yates, the band's bassist, Kurt Gordon, and drummer, Byron Weaver, deserve just as much credit and equal recognition for Lustkill being the #HottestBandInTheBus right now. Somehow the rhythm section of Lustkill manages to be the perfect counterbalance to Yate's larger-than-life flamboyance.
Despite appearing so stoic on stage, Gordon is simply a force of nature. Like a summer thunderstorm personified in the flesh, this man looks like a total badass. He ultimately embodies the yin to Yates' yang, creating a desperately needed balance within their dynamic. His carefully crafted basslines are so driving that you can literally feel your heart pounding to their rhythm. Yet, they have a warm quality that encourages you to dance, which pairs perfectly with Yates' melodies to further emphasize their delicate duality.
Meanwhile, Byron Weaver ties all the unique elements within Lustkill together while making drumming look effortless. His fills might not be the flashiest or the most dramatic, but they make for silky smooth transitions within each song. Weaver can play exceptionally fast despite appearing almost motionless at times, and while his technique is understated, he should never be underestimated. His style features a jazzy quality that is deceptively more difficult to master than most people realize. That subtle yet significant element is what ultimately makes Lustkill feel like such a well-balanced trio. It echoes Gordon's moody bass lines while perfectly complimenting Yates' lyrical patterns, which are heavily inspired by the doo-wop melodies that the Ramones played with breakneck speed. Somehow, all of these elements combine to create pop-punk songs that are so youthful yet so adult.
In closing, Lustkill is a band that should not be missed because, despite Yate's over-the-top persona on stage, they play an immaculately clean show and are remarkably well-balanced. Their lyrics are sure to get stuck in your head, so much so that I now find myself singing Jet Jaguar every time I unlock the extra ball while playing my favorite Godzilla pinball machine. I currently only have two stickers on my bass because I will not besmirch my precious Tullulah Belle with subpar stickers from mediocre bands that don't inspire me. One sticker is a Bad Cop/Bad Cop sticker, and the other is a holographic Lustkill sticker.
Ultimately, Lustkill didn't need to be the best musicians on the scene to be the first band to achieve the honor of being named the #HottestBandInTheBus. Lustkill is the first band to earn this recognition because they're fun, captivating to watch, and make the scene more vibrant and accessible. We live in such uncertain times, and when things feel this unstable and gloomy, it's nice to have a little reprieve every once in a while. Lustkill isn't only providing us with entertainment and escapism; they're attracting other bands from across the country to provide us with more. They're loading in and setting up equipment for these other bands to provide us with the best show possible. And they're making sure these out-of-state bands also have positive experiences—like when Jerk put on an acoustic set because their drummer was too ill to play. Lustkill is a certifiable #localgem, and they're redefining what it means to be successful within the scene. They are living proof that you need to have more than just talent—you gotta have heart.
Want to see what all the hype is about? Well...you can see for yourself. Make sure to catch Lustkill on July 2nd when they open for the Huntingtons at Rumba Cafe.
Until next time, stay safe in the pit.
P.S. You can help keep Bands in the Bus free for everyone and prevent the use of pay walls by donating when, how, and what you can to our cause. Your local music scene thanks you for your support.