By Nicholas Jason Lopez
Racism, social status, gentrification, death and self-awareness are probably the last things you’d think about in an upbeat ska song, but it’s all a part of Rundown Kreeps’ magic that makes it work.
Focused on the paranoia that Chicanos faced while in Los Angeles during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, “Held Down” served as the first glimpse of what “ska-ficionados” can expect when the LA ska/punk trio eventually drop their full-length via Wiretap Records’ “My Grito” imprint label in the near-future.
The track was recorded with Jonathan Mireles – audio engineer for Travis Barker and Machine Gun Kelly’s ‘Tickets To My Downfall’ album – and mastered by Roger Lima (Less Than Jake). It went on to be featured on Spotify’s official “Essential Ska” playlist and added in the rotation on Sirius XM Radio’s “Faction Punk” station.
No strangers to the stage since their 2009 formation, they’ve played among names like The Toasters, Reel Big Fish, Nekromantix, Buck-O-Nine, The Weirdos, The Phenomenauts, Mustard Plug and others.
The Music Bugle had the chance to talk with singer/guitarist Richard Lamas about what they’ve been up to lately and more.
Music Bugle – How would you describe SoCal to someone who has never been there before?
Richard Lamas – I’m not so sure. I think the best way to describe it is 40 minutes from everything. Well, that’s how I’d at least describe Los Angeles. We’re honestly a sitcom length drive away from the beach, snow, desert and city, all at once. That, blended with one of the largest melting pots of art, food and culture make up Southern California to me.
Music Bugle – What makes you the most proud about your heritage?
Richard Lamas – My family, along with the overall understanding of where my blood originates from. Although, I do think that “pride” can sometimes be a tricky word, because to some, it implies a “better than you” mentality. I would prefer to say that my pride stems from my love for my heritage. It’s a difficult question to answer without namedropping cultural highlights, but I hope that makes sense.
Music Bugle – What excites you the most about your style of music?
Richard Lamas – I take excitement in the fact that it’s a liberating genre with hardly any boundaries. We’re free to be as experimental as we want. Truthfully, I’ve never mentally boxed the band into punk, ska, psychobilly or indie. Even though the influence is undeniably there, I’ve always considered us a Swiss Army knife for an LA crowd. We’ve played everything from community events with abuelas in the audience to parties in the forest for a partially naked crowd. The freedom is artistically thrilling.
Music Bugle – What made you want to release “Held Down” as the first single after you signed with My Grito?
Richard Lamas – We’d been working on a new album for a while now and it felt right to share a little bit of it with the world. We have a lot more coming up through our partnership with My Grito Industries and we’re ecstatic to showcase more singles leading up to the records’ full release.
Music Bugle – What is the biggest challenge in being a musical trio?
Richard Lamas – I honestly don’t see any specific challenges that we face as a three-piece, that larger bands don’t have to deal with. I like to imagine that band life is easier for us as a trio than it would be if we had five-plus members.
Music Bugle – Did the video for “Held Down” come out the way you hoped?
Richard Lamas – It did. Our film team at this moment consists of us three band members and our photographer/road dawg Andy Ho. The video was completely DIY and was in our opinion, better in quality than our previous. We have been filming, directing and editing our own music videos since the release of our single “Yellow Truck” in an effort to keep our artistry as true to ourselves as possible. Life is all about striving to be a better version of yourself than you were yesterday and I believe that we accomplished that with the “Held Down” video.
Music Bugle – Who are you listening to right now, music-wise?
Richard Lamas – Some of my favorite artists right now are Hollie Cook, Iyamah, The Odd Advantage, Bad Operation, Snow Tha Product, Matamoska, Joystick, Kendrick Lamar, The Skints and The Big News, just to list a few, but of course, I have the greats playing in between that. Musicians like Toy Dolls, Less Than Jake, MF Doom, Chalino Sanchez, Squirrel Nut Zippers, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Streetlight Manifesto, Calle 13, Rakim, The Toasters, Black Sabbath and so much more. I try to be the best student of the game that I can be.
Music Bugle – How would you describe your upcoming music?
Richard Lamas – It sounds like an evolved version of our previous work. Pushing the boundaries of what our music means to us is a real appealing goal. It has been since our inception and I believe that our upcoming music reflects that. Like the great Miles Davis said, “Sometimes, it takes a long time to sound like yourself.” The process is never-ending work and we’re truly excited for what’s to come.
Music Bugle – How have you been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic?
Richard Lamas – The only real hurt we felt during Covid as a band was the loss of live performances. Before all else, we’re a live band, so it was disappointing having to cancel our live dates, but with that said, we one-hundred percent understood the gravity of the situation and the necessity to refrain from group gatherings. It was shitty circumstances, but we were able to acknowledge its weight early on and shifted our time and focus towards being as constructive as possible from home. It ultimately presented us with more time for writing, demoing and video work. At the end of it all, we didn’t want to come out of this ordeal wondering what we could’ve accomplished. To live each day striving to be as productive as possible seemed like the better alternative. Whether it be in music, our work life, or in school. We all have a pretty decent-sized workload on our plates both on and off the stage.
Music Bugle – Of the shows you’ve played, which ones stand out the most?
Richard Lamas – It’s hard to say exactly which shows stand out the most. When the vibe is good, the show is good. You got to make the best out of what each opportunity brings with it. A few months back, we had played our first livestream show that was put together by our badass label My Grito Industries and that was pretty fun! The thing was sponsored by Blaze Mota & BorderXBrewery, so it was a guaranteed non-stop party! This was the first time that we had done something of that nature and hopefully not the last. The full show is live on YouTube, as well as our website, if anyone wants to check it out.