Twenty years ago, Deviates were considered “the future of punk rock.” The South Bay band encapsulated everything that was right about Southern California’s late ’90s/early 2000s punk scene, and they seemed poised to explode after consecutive summers on the Warped Tour and the success of Time is the Distance, their sophomore effort.
A year later, they weren’t even a band anymore.
“At the time, it seemed like being a part of the future of punk rock required devotion to being in a touring band for life, which wasn’t really what I think we had intended or what we thought it was gonna be,” says lead singer Brian Barbara. “When we started the band in 1994, we didn’t think that it would be anything. We were just kids playing the music we listened to, and punk rock was the soundtrack to our lives. By the time it evolved and grew to where we were putting out records, life had changed and we were ready to lay it down, and we didn’t know if that would be forever or when we’d pick it back up again.”
As it turns out, 2021 would be the year Deviates picked up their instruments again — and now they’re back with a renewed fire inside of them.
The band’s third album, Holding Out, is a seven-song blast of SoCal punk rock new and old. A combination of recently written tunes alongside tracks created in the early 2000s for Deviates’ ill-fated original attempt at a third album, the South Bay punks’ latest work fuses every bit of melodic aggression that put the band on the cusp of stardom their first go-around with the more intelligent and mature approach that only decades of life experience can provide.
But while Barbara and the band may look and sound a little different now than they did in their early 20s, they’re still fueled by the same rage that fired them up before their 2002 breakup. They’re jumping right back into the spotlight this fall with shows featuring the likes of Pennywise and Dead Kennedys, and they’re more appreciative than ever of the friends, fans, and overall scene that continued to support them through their multi-decade hiatus.
This time around, they’ve got the added blessings of no longer being dumb kids and not having stratospheric expectations or external pressures on the band. As full-grown adults with other careers and families, Deviates is only reuniting because they want to — both for themselves and for everyone who’s been waiting for this moment. It’s a level of freedom the band never knew in their first run, and it has them more excited to perform and create than ever before. Much like how punk rock has continued to persist and reach generation after generation of disgruntled youths regardless of what’s popular on the radio, the group carries a renewed passion for both the music and the people around them — regardless of if they’re old fans or ones that discovered them in the interim.
“Twenty years later, you think you’ll never do it again, but I honestly never stopped writing and never stopped documenting music — and it always ended up going back to punk rock,”Barbara says. “I was 16 when we started this and I’m 42 now, but there’s always been this common thread for Deviates, which is that we’ve always been representative of the crowd that we play in front of. Twenty years later the heart behind this hasn’t changed.”