Someone once told me, “As long as there’s a pissed-off kid in a garage with a guitar, punk rock will never die.” Personally, I think we’re much better as a society for that simple fact. Punk music reminds us to refocus our priorities away from celebrity gossip, material possessions and the distractions society feeds us, and focus on helping our fellow human, enjoying the simple things in life and navigating the world as our most authentic selves, all with crunchy guitars and singable choruses.
Armed with this criteria, local newcomers to the Santa Cruz punk scene Street Freak are shredding the pavement, taking no prisoners—and audiences can’t get enough.
“We’re blown away that we’ve got as much attention as we have,” says guitarist and vocalist Marco Chavez.
Bassist Holly Boyd agrees.
“They say when you join a band you’ll only ever play to four people,” she explains. “Then I joined this band and it’s like, ‘Oh, that’s not only four people.’”
That’s because Street Freak has already performed for big crowds, opening for legendary acts like Agent Orange, popular underground hardcore acts such as TØRSÖ, and local favorites like Dark Ride and Give You Nothing.
And their oldest member is only 21.
“We’re still a younger, newer band,” says guitarist and vocalist Shane Bauleke. “But everyone in the scene has been welcoming and supportive. We love to be a part of it.”
Street Freak–which takes its name from the 1960s and ‘70s muscle cars with big engines and even bigger tires (think of the Rat Fink cartoon car by Ed “Big Daddy” Roth)—started in December 2019 when brothers Shane Bauleke and drummer Kai “Vanilla Gorilla” Bauleke were introduced to Chavez through a mutual friend. They formed a quick bond over their love of punk rock and skateboarding, and were joined by original bassist David Schulman.
Soon after they started playing, the world shut down. But that didn’t stop Street Freak from kicking it into high gear.
“It gave us a lot of time to practice,” Chavez remembers.
All that practice resulted in their debut demo, Bandemic, a five-song study in classic punk rock. One part Ramones, one part Descendents, with dashes of Fat Wreck Chords and hardcore style bands sprinkled throughout, the demo takes influence from the breadth of punk rock history. Each song sounds familiar, but you just can’t quite place it, in the best of ways. It’s like rediscovering your favorite music for the first time.
“We’re not trying to stick to one genre of punk, we’re just playing punk,” Shane says. “We come out as more hardcore in some and more melodic in others.”
It’s a representation of the band’s ethos: don’t pretend to be something you’re not.
“Punk is about being unapologetically yourself,” states Boyd, who joined the band in February.
Chavez agrees. “The Descendents write about not being the coolest guy, and I’m not the coolest guy,” he explains. “We want to write songs that are relatable.”
True to their word, the first song off Bandemic—”Cool Like You”—is an anti-popularity song written from the perspective of the outsiders looking in and rejecting what they see.
Their catchy melodies, fast chords and addictive choruses—as well as their status as the youngest punk band currently carrying the banner in the Santa Cruz scene—have made Street Freak a favorite among their older peers. Members from Scowl, Give You Nothing and Dark Ride have all expressed their love for the newcomers, putting them on shows whenever they can.
Their show on June 25 at Urbani Cellar will be the last time audiences will be able to see Street Freak before they take a break to record their upcoming full-length, which they say will be faster and tighter than Bandemic.
“It will be different from our demo, with some new songs and a lot from our live set,” describes Kai Bauleke.
“We’re hoping to stretch this one out a little more, and not do it all in a single day,” says Shane with a laugh. “That was a bit rough.”
Street Freak opens for Give You Nothing on Saturday, June 25, 7pm at Urbani Cellar, 140 Encinal St., Santa Cruz. Also performing are Generation Hopeless, Failing Up and Last Point. 831-515-3213.