Family Values

by Dan Haugen

As their 7th St. Entry set comes to a close, B.J. Lother, Angry Atom’s oldest and seemingly most business-minded member, reminds the crowd at new band night to buy a CD and sign-up on their mailing list.

“Because we need more 21 and older fans-I mean family,” jokes his younger brother and bandmate Micah Lother, glancing down at his parents standing just a few feet from the stage.

The siblings have already shared multiple I love you‘s with their front row fans(-I mean family), and, unashamed of their gushy stage banter, the brothers, along with drummer Phil Pearson, begin to stand out as not-your-stereotypical-punk-rockers.

Thundering through their final number, “My Way,” B.J. belts out the rabid chorus: “Don’t try to run over me/with your lies/Don’t try to silence me/with your pride,” as Micah’s hyperactive pogo has his shoulder-length, bleach blonde hair flirting with the Seventh Street’s ceiling. The anthem seems to embody every ounce of punk’s middle-finger-to-the-Man discourse.

But after getting to know the band, “My Way” takes on a whole new potential meaning. By the end of our interview at Perkins last Friday, it was clear that those lyrics could have been written just as easily about rejection of traditional punk rock expectations, as well as mainstream values.

“I think a lot of people think that being punk rock is about being a prick or doing stupid things,” said B.J., “but for me, I think the most punk rock thing you can do is to just be true to yourself. Just do whatever it is you’re comfortable with.”

Moments earlier, B.J. and his bandmates struggled to come up with a story about their most “punk rock” experience as a band, before telling a rather tame tour story about how they once fit seven people into “the smallest hotel room you’d ever seen.” They collectively sport a few piercings and tattoos, however their criminal histories offer nothing juicier than a speeding violation and some overdue tabs, and not a single word of profanity was muttered throughout our entire interview.

But with their self-released, debut full-length, Four Years to Nowhere, the three home-schooled, church-going suburbanites (B.J. Lother, 22, on guitar, Micah Lother, 18, on bass, and Phil Pearson, 20, on drums) have found surprising comfort in Southern California-style pop-punk. In fact, the album is easily one of the year’s best local punk records.

With songs about God, girls and little green men, the only things that really characterize Four Years is its polished vocals, its fast, melodic guitar and its driving percussion. The formula should be nothing new to MxPx fans. All three members of Angry Atom cite MxPx as their entry point into the world of punk.

“MxPx was definitely a life-changing band,” B.J. said.

“I was around 11, and it was probably the first time I’d ever made a connection with a single band. [B.J. and I] lived at our grandparents house at the time and we used to turn on MxPx and play air guitar in their basement,” Micah added, before getting a what-did-you-tell-him-that-for nudge and glare from his older brother.

Micah and Phil have actually been playing music together the longest, about ten years. Before his older brother became interested in music, Micah met up with Phil at a home-school co-op filled with instruments and recording equipment.

“We’d find ourselves stuck at this church for ten hours a day,” said Phil, who played guitar at the time.

“We’d get done with school at noon and just play music until like four or five,” Micah explained.

Amazingly, Phil only started playing drums two years ago when Angry Atom formed. That’s when Micah’s brother B.J. joined the jammers on guitar.

“It’s just like a big family,” Phil said of the band. “It’s sort of like having brothers.”

“It is more like family than just people playing in a band,” B.J. said. “With brothers, you’re so close, and while Phillip is not actually my brother, we’re as close as brothers.”

“It gives our band that same close connection,” Micah said.

With that connection, Angry Atom has set out to “take over the world.”

“I don’t think people leave our shows depressed,” Micah said. “I think a lot of people get an uplift from our music. We want to do that for as many people as possible.”

Angry Atom plays at The Lab (201 E. 4th St., St. Paul. 651-298-1917). Spin Cycle and Ignition also play. 4 p.m. All-Ages.