THE SIDE EYES: KIDS GOING CRAZY
In the spirit of classic SoCal punks like Black Flag, The Adolescents and the Bags, The Side Eyes serve up high energy spunky punk on their debut album soon to be released on the indispensable In The Red label. With songs like “I Hate Dates” and “Dead End Boys,” singer Astrid McDonald echoes the frustrations of modern dating and the modern dead end boy. (The title says it all.) They happen to be one of the hardest working bands I’ve come across in recent years—if you follow them on social media, you’ll see they consistently play shows every week. I sat down with Astrid, Kevin, Chris and Sam and chatted about their shows, favorite bands and their guilty pop culture pleasures. They play Sunday at the Echoplex with Redd Kross, J.F.A. and more for the “Punk Is Dad” show. This interview by Tiffany Anders.
I want you all to go around and say your astrological sign.
Chris Devine (bass): I’m a Taurus.
Astrid McDonald (vocals): I’m a Pisces.
Kevin Devine (guitar): I’m also a Pisces.
Sam Mankinen (drums): And I’m a Leo!
Let’s start with the hardest working band in Los Angeles right now—I’m very impressed by the amount of shows you play. How many shows within a month?
Sam Mankinen: This month—it’s been three weeks of playing shows and we’ve already played three shows before even counting this Saturday.
Astrid McDonald: But it used to be a lot more. Before we started we pretty much took everything and anything no matter what so we were like playing a bunch.
Chris Devine: At one point—you wouldn’t have a weekend off. Playing for days in a row.
Astrid McDonald: Some worth it, some not.
Chris Devine: All worth it!
Astrid McDonald: Well we learn something from every show, good or bad!
Sam Mankinen: We played a double header and the second show was in a backyard in Fontana and there is this picture of Chris over here crowd-surfing and like he’s dangling his hair over everyone, it was all long. And we found out a month later he had lice that night! And he probably spread it over everybody!
Astrid McDonald: It was a long time ago—the lice is gone!
Chris Devine: We played with Redd Kross, in San Francisco and I had to sleep on the floor of the hotel so I think I got it from that—or I tried on a bunch of hats in Chinatown.
Astrid McDonald: I think it was the hats.
Chris Devine: And that was about three weeks later, that show, and the day after was when I found out my head was radiating lice.
Sam Mankinen: And the picture comes out, and his hair is like intertwined—
Chris Devine: —literally in people’s faces—and I’m like oh man, I’m sorry! If anyone got lice. It was a long time ago.
Kevin Devine: For me, the craziest show so far—because I’m new—was last Friday, we played in San Bernardino. At this crappy, sketchy Elks lodge.
Astrid McDonald: The toilets were overflowing.
Kevin Devine: It smelled bad, there were a ton of people but it smelled horrible, the room was sweating—
easily a sauna. Outside there was just dirt and a tent so kids would circle pit and the dirt would stay in it. We played last and it was so loud and crazy. We were all caked in dust. I had a white shirt on and it was brown by the end of the night. But it was so fun.
Who is the audience? Who are the crazy Side Eyes fans?
Astrid McDonald: There’s a range!
Kevin Devine: There’s a lot of young kids.
Chris Devine: We’ve gotten ten years old in the past.
I was thinking ten year old little punks. I think I would have really liked it as a little kid—and as I do now.
Astrid McDonald: The range is twelve or thirteen to like seventy. There’s a big variety.
Sam Mankinen: It’s crazy. My favorite is when they all intertwine. You’ll look out and you’ll see like a bunch of kids going crazy. I forget where it was but we covered a Bad Brains song and this guy went to the front and he was singing every word to us.
What’s your most favorite—or most influential—albums of all time?
Sam Mankinen: It doesn’t make sense with the music that I play cuz it’s so different. I really like Blink 182’s self-titled. That’s like one of my favorite records ever. But also every Bleeding Through record ever.
Kevin Devine: I’m going to say the first Adolescents album cuz me and Chris discovered it in a weird way. Since we didn’t grow up here, we would play the Tony Hawk video games on PS2 when we lived in New Jersey, and they had so many early Adolescents songs, like ‘Amoeba.’ I got hooked on it from there.
Astrid McDonald: I have so many for different reasons. When I was a kid, the most influential album for me to get me into music was the Who’s Sell Out album. My dad would like brainwash me and put it on when I was a baby. I love every single Dinosaur Jr album—every single one, old and new. I’m a mega fan. You introduced me to J [Mascis] at FYF and I was such a fan—I must have been sixteen, I couldn’t even speak!
Kevin Devine: Our dad isn’t into the same music as us. I remember he liked the Ramones a lot.
Sam Mankinen: My parents were into like 80s hair metal, like Poison and Cinderella. And I like all that stuff too but where I went with music—
Chris Devine: My dad is the son of an Irish immigrant. Allman Brothers, Lynyrd Skynrd … it’s like ‘where did this come from?
Sam Mankinen: That’s the best part about music—you can like whatever you want! It’s just so influential in different ways.
You guys are from New Jersey. How did you all meet and start this thing up?
Kevin Devine: Me and Chris, we started playing guitar when I was ten, and I got a guitar, and Chris was like, ‘I want to get a guitar, I need to get a guitar,’ and then he got a guitar and I taught him. We came out here on vacation and Chris was playing at Knott’s Berry Farm—he played some game and he won a bass. And then we didn’t know what to do with it so we had to ship it home.
Chris Devine: And then I had a bass! And the band was born essentially right then and there at Knott’s Berry Farm. Me playing bass, Kevin playing guitar.
I love that it was in California!
Kevin Devine: Yeah, it was! It did start in California. And then we moved out here four years later and then me and Astrid met online.
Astrid McDonald: We met on Tinder! That’s how we met! I would never have met any of these people if it wasn’t for Tinder. It changed my life.
I was going to ask you about online dating! Only cuz of the song ‘I Hate Dates.’
Astrid McDonald: It was like cosmic. I cannot believe I met him on Tinder.
Kevin Devine: I’m going to interrupt before Astrid says, ‘I liked Kevin at first.’ She told me early on, ‘I almost swiped left on you.’
Astrid McDonald: I was just going really fast! I saw him and I was like ‘Oh he’s cute!’ but I was like on auto-pilot and like I dragged my finger back really fast.
Kevin Devine: It’s OK. She let me down easy.
It was meant to be!
Astrid McDonald: I was in the groove! Denying, denying, denying. And then I saw Kevin and we literally—we hung out like a week later—
Kevin Devine: I was like, ‘I can pick you up, I can drive.’ ‘No, I’ll meet you at the show!’ And at the show I was like … OK, I sent my address. Like ‘The show is on Saturday, you have four days … if you think I’m going to be creepy, here’s my address, you can come stop me first!’
Astrid McDonald: We met at a Garden show. And we started playing music together like a week later. And then we forced Chris to be in the band—we didn’t even ask him.
Chris Devine: It’s OK. At first I didn’t want to do it—
Kevin Devine: Chris was like, ‘I don’t like when Kevin touches my hands and tells me what to play!’
Astrid McDonald: I don’t think we asked him. We literally made a post because we were looking for a drummer. And we edited a picture of me, Kevin and Chris—we didn’t even ask him! And we had another drummer, Nick, for two years, and then he left and Sam came in.
Kevin Devine: We met Sam through playing shows. Me and Astrid were always big fans of Melted. We went to one of their shows where they had Sam playing drums. I remember specifically Sam was sitting super high on his drum seat and he goes … his face goes all over the place, and [I was thinking] ‘That is a kick-ass drummer!’
Sam Mankinen: We played a show together in Santa Ana and it was a free show and you had a show that night so it was like a three-person lineup. That was the first time I met you guys.
Astrid McDonald: We played as a three piece!
Sam Mankinen: I had work—
Astrid McDonald: You were stuck at work.
Sam Mankinen: A crane broke down and I was stuck there until like really late at night.
What’s your day job?