One of the essential bands to come out of California's 1990s punk scene, Santa Barbara combo Lagwagon rose to prominence alongside West Coast peers like Green Day, Rancid, and the Offspring.
The first group ever to sign with Fat Wreck Chords, Lagwagon's star was eclipsed somewhat by the aforementioned bands, all of whom found subsequent mainstream success via major-label contracts; in spite of several offers, Lagwagon has remained staunchly independent both in spirit and approach, staying with Fat Wreck for the duration of their career. After releasing a series of influential albums that include 1994's Trashed and 1995's breakthrough Hoss, the band began the 2000s on hiatus, returning with a vengeance to release the career highlight Blaze in 2003. Although the group remained together, the decade that followed was marked by more extensive breaks peppered with occasional shows and just one additional album. After a nine-year gap, the band reunited for 2014's Hang, then again in 2019 for their ninth studio LP, Railer.
Lagwagon was founded in 1990 in the town of Goleta, just outside of Santa Barbara. The initial lineup of frontman Joey Cape, guitarists Chris Flippin and Shawn Dewey, bassist Jesse Buglione, and drummer Derrick Plourde signed on as the flagship act of the then-fledgling Fat Wreck Chords label, run by NOFX's Michael Burkett, aka Fat Mike. Blending the relentless energy of hardcore punk with pop melodicism and plenty of humor, Lagwagon released their debut album, Duh, in 1992. It won them a following on the West Coast and set the table for 1994's standout Trashed. During a watershed year for California punk, the excellent Trashed was praised by critics and vied for the limelight alongside bigger commercial successes like Green Day's Dookie and the Offspring's Smash.
A year later, Lagwagon's Hoss LP earned them additional praise and yet more fans, and they toured hard, hitting international markets like Europe, Japan, and Australia. Around this time, the original lineup began to fracture with guitarist Dewey and drummer Plourde leaving the group. Released in 1997, Double Plaidinum marked the first outing for new drummer Dave Raun and the only appearance of interim guitarist and Posies member Ken Stringfellow, whose brief tenure soon made way for newcomer Chris Rest. 1998's Let's Talk About Feelings made some commercial inroads, hitting Billboard's Heatseekers chart and yielding one of Lagwagon's best-known songs, "May 16," which would later gain traction via the video game Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2.
By 2000, the group had essentially become inactive, with Cape focusing on other projects like Bad Astronaut and Me First and the Gimme Gimmes. Fat Wreck filled the gap by issuing the 2000 rarities compilation Let's Talk About Leftovers. When Lagwagon resurfaced two years later, they entered the studio with renewed vigor and produced the creative and commercial highlight Blaze. Released in 2003, it was the band's first album to crack the Billboard Top 200, topping out at number 172. In March 2005, tragedy struck when founding drummer Derrick Plourde took his own life. Although he hadn't been a member since the late-'90s, his spirit loomed large on Lagwagon's seventh album, Resolve, which they released later that November and dedicated to their fallen friend. During the second half of the decade, frontman Cape began devoting more of his time to solo efforts and, following a 2008 EP called I Think My Older Brother Used to Listen to Lagwagon, the band entered another hiatus.
In 2010, founding bassist Jesse Buglione officially departed, and when Lagwagon hit the road for a tour that summer, Joey Raposo became his replacement. In 2011, Fat Wreck celebrated the band's legacy with a deluxe box set of Lagwagon reissues called Putting Music in Its Place. After several headlining tours, the band finally reentered the studio to record their first new studio album since 2005. Released in 2014, Hang made it to number 95 on the Billboard 200, giving the band their highest-ever chart position. Lagwagon returned in October 2019 with their ninth long-player, Railer. ~ Timothy Monger, Rovi