Deviated State of Mind
Catching up with the guys from the band over dinner as they break down their album.
By KARI HAMANAKA
Ramen. Tacos. Real tacos... Ice cream? We’re sitting in Deviated State bassist Johnny Ramirez’s truck brainstorming where to eat. That last idea didn’t win over drummer Caveman.
“I came for dinner,” he reminds everyone in an even keel.
Funny enough, the last time Deviated State appeared in Paradigm was over three years ago. It was summer and we were shooting the breeze outside a Cold Stone Creamery in Carson, talking about the album they planned on releasing the following year. Fast-forward to today and we’re at a Wingstop in Torrance talking about that album (released this year), police abuse of power, ideal camera angles that avoid the dreaded double chin and where exactly everyone fancies themselves and the band in the future.
Little has changed. They’re still the same affable, super genuine guys that make an outsider feel right at home. No pretension. No egos. Joey T. Banks, on vocals, is a curious guy with a talent for good songwriting; Caveman is Mr. Suave, always with the friendly grin except when pounding away on the drums; guitarist Sean is the straight-shooter, quiet but deep and funny once you get him going; and Johnny – the newest member – is the stoic, no bullshit bassist.
They’ve been keeping busy playing shows and have several splits planned, including one with fellow Harbor Area band Alter Boys and another with Gardena’s Los Brigands. There’s also a raft of merch coming at fans.
“We’re going to become a streetwear brand called DV8,” Banks said.
That’s a joke, by the way.
With three more years under their belt, they’ve only refined their sound, offering the scene an album they hand out for free to anyone willing to listen. They’re like the boys next door, kind of.
What follows is a look at this band, in their own words, as they talk about the impetus for some of their songs and what they’re all working towards.
Pull up a chair. Come join the crew.
Sean Palce: You followed up perfectly.
Joey T. Banks: We released the album [referenced in 2015] in the summer.
Palce: We went through a few different bassists to find one that was reliable and one that could actually play. So we found Johnny. We’re just trying to be active, not be stagnant and just play shows.
Johnny Ramirez: I ran into Joe at a backyard show in Hawaiian Gardens. It was Catacomb Rockers, Deviated State. I think Street Threat played. It was a long time ago. I ran into him; he was just shit-faced drunk. I was drunk too. And that was it.
SOMEWHERE IN THE MIDDLE: LAYING OUT THE ALBUM
Caveman: The way I see it is we’re doing different styles so you want to be able to tell the difference between our songs. You don’t want to have all the fast songs together. You want an even flow. Catch them off guard like a live show
Palce: Yeah, you don’t want to have all the bangers the first five songs, because then the rest of the album’s slow.
Banks: We say they’re all love songs, but they’re not.
Caveman: When you first see the lyrics you’re like ‘Oh this is kind of cheesy.’ I mean that’s what I thought. I just like – I never heard the lyrics. In my mind, I’m playing it hard as hell because I’m thinking I’m trying to put in the work.... I didn’t mind. Push comes to shove, it was real
Palce: Push comes to hug.
[laughter as Caveman simultaneously starts coughing]
Caveman: Fool, chill. I’m about to choke, though.
Palce: Breathe. Positive vibes.
Caveman: Caught me mid-bite, you know.
SHOW NOT TELL: STORIES SERVED IN SECONDS
Banks: [The album “No Way Out”] It’s pretty much about being stuck and not going anywhere in your life. That first song, when I say “I’m stagnant,” I’m stuck. If you’re not improving, you’re pretty much sinking, I guess.
The song “Strung Out,” that’s just pretty much the power of meth. Watching your family and your friends succumb to drugs and watching them with the potential they had and you realize they’re not the same anymore. That was our straight edge song, but I didn’t want to get preachy. “Numb” is about someone dieing.
I don’t want to say exactly what it’s about because it ruins the content. To me that’s basic life. It’s that whole don’t tell me how you feel, show me how you feel type of thing.
It makes for a better story. It’s more intriguing. And someone could make this whole new meaning from it.
[The songs] were written probably from ’15 to ’18. [Singing] it doesn’t take me back. The love songs kind of do. If the show’s boring, it’s just like “Let’s get the fuck out of here and go do something.” I’m not going to say I feel [the lyrics] every time and I’m seeing flashbacks.
A SONG FOR THE COPS: THE STORIES BEHIND ‘ACAB’
Banks: I was like, what, 7 years old. The cops raided my house. Had the full SWAT come in and I was just getting out of the shower. A cop breaks in and points one of those M16s at me. Straight to my face. I was [thinking] like “Yo, what the fuck?” He was like “Freeze.” That was experience one.
Experience two. I was actually skating around. A cop pulls me over and he’s like “Put your hand on the [car].” I was like “Why? What did I do?” He throws me on the [car] and says “You want to get smart with me?” I was like “You can’t pull me over. I’m a minor.” He was searching me and said “I can do whatever the fuck I want to.” And then he handcuffed me, puts me in the backseat. Then he’s looking around and asks, “Hey, are you a lawyer?” I was like “No.” And he was like “Good. Then why the fuck are you questioning me?” I was 14 or 15. He said “If I see you driving around when you’re older I’m going to fuck you up. I’ll take you to jail for any reason I want to. Don’t you ever question – you say ‘Yes sir’ or ‘No sir’ whenever you see us or talk to us.” This was in Carson.
Palce: Me and [Caveman] were in the car – he ran a stop sign. We get pulled over. He has a samurai sword in his car. In the back seat completely visible to the cops. Completely visible. They look at it like “What’s that for?” So they take me out of the car and they said “Do you have anything I should know about?” And I said “Yeah, I have a knife right here that I use for work opening boxes.” OK, so they searched the car. The commanding officer, he grabs the knife and there’s a little hole in the bottom of the blade. So, basically, you could use that as brass knuckles. So I was arrested and incarcerated because of that and they let [Caveman] go with the samurai sword completely unsheathed.
Caveman: Sorry, Sean.
Banks: It’s [the song ACAB] one of those drunk punk songs.
Caveman: It’s like drunken minds, sober shit. You know?
GROWN UP TIME: THE MORE THINGS CHANGE...
Banks: The thing with the punk scene is there’s a lot of turnover. When I was 15, 16, I’d go to a show. Everyone there was my friend. Then you see the next generation and they have their whole lives, their whole spot. You still have it, but it’s not like before.
Caveman: I see it [the song “Fade Away”] as some people have their homies die and it’s like, oh shit. Some people can never get that back so you only live with the memories that you have. That’s how it goes.
NOT FOR NOTHING:
Palce: Right now, it’s cool. No band’s ever going to shoot up to the top [immediately], so it’s about the journey not the destination
Banks: You don’t want to waste your time. If no one’s listening to us, it’s a waste of time.
Caveman: When we play shows I want it to be worth it. I don’t want to be playing consistent shows, if they’re not worth it. You don’t want to go to a show where it’s going to be apathy.
Banks: When we see someone singing [along], that makes it all worth it. That makes all the bullshit, the practice, all the money wasted... that’s why you play.
LOOKING AHEAD: HOME IS WHERE THE...
Johnny: I see myself moving away for sure I live in Hawaiian Gardens. I want to move out of SoCal. It’s too expensive. I want something a little less fast paced, away from the city. Eventually, maybe Seattle or somewhere in Oregon. Somewhere green and clean. Maybe like in 10 years or so.
Palce: I can’t really say where I’ll be 10 years from now. I haven’t really thought that far ahead. I haven’t even thought about tomorrow. I’m kind of just living in the moment. All my friends are here. I don’t want to meet new people. I’d rather just stay in my ecosystem. If I need to move, I will. But I’m not looking forward to it.
Caveman: I mean, I like Cali obviously. I would like to stay here, but if things change I probably would move. I’ve thought about going back to Mexico or some shit. I was born in Mexico. you know. Obviously, this is my home out here. But just [depending on] how things turn out I’d rather be out there.
Banks: I do not plan on leaving L.A. at all. I love living in LA. I live in the South Bay. Carson, to me, that’s perfect. I’ve been riding trains since I was younger. I used to take the train and shit. We [my mom and I] used to have lunch in MacArthur Park. It was the early 2000s. Echo Park before it got gentrified.
I just love the area. It’s home. And it’s not just one particular city. It’s everywhere.