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TEST is not a project. TEST is a band. A Los Angeles-based trio of young men who have bonded like brothers over brisk, gritty rock with punk abandon.
Two thirds of the members, Blake Stokes (vocals, guitar) and Wayne Meza (bass), have known each other for over a third of their lives after meeting at a dirty dive bar in their hometown of Houston. Week after week, their respective bands performed at the bar and the duo routinely closed the joint down while drinking underage. And in between cheap tequila shots and pitchers of Shiner Bock, they struck an artistic accord.
Years later, Stokes graduated from college in Los Angeles and soon after Meza drove out to join him. Together, they clandestinely moved into a windowless, lockout rehearsal space in Vernon (a corrupt, autonomous city of industry within L.A.). Surrounded by colossal warehouses, garment factories, and meatpacking plants, it was in this smelly, industrial urbanscape that they collectively forged their intense tone along with drummer Morgan Ponder while sustaining on generic instant noodles and only taking showers at truck stops.
The band moved out of their practice space and are now scattered throughout the city with apartment leases, steady employment, and committed relationships. Their debut album, BRAIN IN / BRAIN OUT, aptly links their grimy genesis to their contemporary life with lyrics coming from the mindset of dirty street dudes battling inner demons, hating their day jobs, and living in a concrete wasteland, while other perspectives allude to a sense of maturity and growth. Frontman Stokes recently became a father and has since curbed his alcohol consumption. And after reading the oral history book Meet Me in the Bathroom –which chronicles New York City’s burgeoning rock scene of the aughts— he found himself in a revived state of fertile creativity. The result is a solid balance of tracks that can be blatantly optimistic due to catchy choruses (“Entertainment Tonight,” “Ripoff Boss”) or intentionally abrasive due to dance-punk rhythms (“Isolation Ritual,” “Know Your Servant”). There’s even a sedated ballad (“Bleached Hands”). Overall, it’s an amalgam of late ‘70s punk (The Clash, Sex Pistols), mid ‘90s Britpop (Blur, Oasis), and early ‘00s garage rock (The Libertines, The Hives).
The trio may no longer be dwelling downtown, but their music still bleeds with raw, authentic intensity. But as some tracks attest, life changes can inevitably open up to a natural evolution. “This album reflects our outlook on life by bridging two formative periods of our lives,” says Stokes. “Our past is all over this record, but our future is too and that feels good.”
BRAIN IN / BRAIN OUT will be released on November 10th via the band’s imprint LATEX Records.


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