Cartoon Junkies

Punk band Battle Born incorporates dark humor, heavy metal and ’80s TV nostalgia into a promising new EP

Battle Born is practically synonymous with “Vegas punk rock.” The group has such an established local following that it’s consistently tapped to open for major acts such as Bad Brains, Unwritten Law and the Dead Kennedys. However, given the band’s name (Nevada’s state motto), I half-expected co-frontman/guitarist John Brown to be a tinfoil-hatted, Ron Paul-loving libertarian with a bad case of Silver State pride.

He’s not. What comes across first and foremost is a dark sense of humor mixed with pop-culture nostalgia.

Battle Born’s new EP, Gadget Rangers of Deth, revels in these qualities. Comprising four originals and three covers, the disc—only available at the band’s shows—is a throwback to the old-school melodic punk made popular by legendary acts such as NOFX. But there’s also a distinct heavy-metal vibe in there, too.

Brown and his bass player Ben Hernandez come from the ’90s Fat Wreck Chords school of punk, Brown reveals during an interview at Camel Hump, a recording studio he co-owns with a few other local musicians. But drummer Nick Hagstrom and guitarist Chad Crowder are metalheads and huge Pantera fans. This fusion of genres creates an ideal blend of aggression, speed, technique and tunefulness. The guitar solos shred and the vocal hooks always stick to the brain, even in the jokey and as-short-as-its-title-suggests “40 Second Song.” Here, the lyrics center on a drunken, coked-up waste of humanity who attempts to, um, sodomize a sleeping girlfriend. As a result, the loser gets ejected from her apartment.

“We’re not a pretentious band,” Brown says. “And we’re not above writing a song like that. Besides, it’s based on a true story.”

Oh God. … To be fair to Battle Born, though, the many women in attendance at a recent Bunkhouse show sang along with the lyrics, too.

The band isn’t above taking a stab at the ’80s cartoon themes that warped their generation’s minds—Go Go Power Rangers, Inspector Gadget. The latter theme song nearly collapses under its own comedic weight as band members curse into their microphones when the song’s surprising musical complexity and rapid chord changes get the upper hand. Live, the band plays it with the same level of frivolity, and their fans eat it up.

“We recorded those songs to try to get them out of our system,” Brown says. “We love advertising and commercial songs. Every practice it seems the band wants to play the Glen Lerner jingle.”

By the very end of the year, Battle Born hopes to put out a 14-song full-length. It will be their first proper album since 2009.

This brings us to Camel Hump. In addition to working on the album there, the band will use the space to celebrate its sixth year of existence with a promotional video shoot, keg party and barbecue that’s open to the public.

Brown is rightfully proud of Camel Hump. Isolation rooms, CD duplication, video production and live streaming are some of the amenities offered. It’s evident that Battle Born hopes to open (or at least test out) a new front in the local live music scene with this week’s show.

“I’m also putting together a compilation of local punk bands [such as Guilty by Association, The People’s Whiskey and Surrounded by Thieves] that should be out later this summer,” Brown says. “We brought in bands to record a bunch of one-off tracks. It’s already been fun.”

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