Seven years after the breakup of British punk rock vanguards the Clash, the United States may have found its own equivalent in Social Distortion.
All four current members of the West Coast-based band were inspired by the British punk pioneers, though they draw from different influences than the Clash, lyricist and lead singer Mike Ness said."Where the Clash drew on reggae and ska influences, we're more of a western band. We even draw somewhat on country-western and traditional American rock 'n' roll."
However, Social Distortion considers its sound to be exactly that - its sound and no one else's, drummer Chris Reece said.
"Sure we all listened to and were influenced by the Clash, but we don't try to copy their sound. There may be things of ours that sound a little like the Clash, but that's not intentional."
The band will make its third Utah appearance Wednesday, June 13, at the Speedway Cafe, 505 W. 500 South, and for Reece that means a sort of homecoming.
Reece, who graduated from Payson High School in 1977, still has relatives living in the Utah County city and said each time the band comes to Utah, his family shows up there in droves.
"I always look forward to coming home. My whole family comes up there (to Salt Lake City's Speedway Cafe, where the band has played during each subsequent tour) and it's a lot of fun for me and for them."
Reece said in a telephone interview that Payson may not seem to be the likely starting point for a punk rock drummer, but that to him, it's just carrying on a family tradition.
His grandfather, Dub Reece, played drums for the Nighthawks, a "sort of country swing band," according to Reece, and his great-grandfather drummed for one of Payson's earliest marching bands.
"No one had to tell me to do it (being the drummer in a rock band). It just came natural to me. No one ever told me I'd be carrying on a tradition."
After his graduation, Reece said, he moved to San Francisco, where he played with the Lewds, another West Coast-based punk band, and got to know the members of Social Distortion.
"We played gigs where they were and vice versa. I got to know them quite well. When our band finally broke up, it also happened that they (Social Distortion) were undergoing a lineup change."
Reece said he "just sort of fit in," and the band's current lineup has been playing together since 1983. At the same time, the band's spiritual leader, Ness, was starting to rebuild his life.
"He was going through a really rough time with chemical dependency (both drugs and alcohol)," Reece said. "It was really scary, since we'd never know if he was going to be there for shows or whether he would turn up in jail."
Ness himself calls the period "a maturing experience," and said he considers himself to still be a recovering drug addict.
"Once you've started there's always the chance that you could slip back into your old ways. Hopefully, that won't happen, but that's something I have to live with every day."
The group is touring in support of its self-titled LP, its first in a three-record deal with Epic Records. Though the band is now signed to a major label, Ness said he hopes its older fans won't consider that as a sellout.
"We're definitely not selling out. Though we worked with a big-time producer (Dave Jerden, who has also worked with the Rolling Stones) and in a big studio, this album may have more edge than our last few."
Both Reece and Ness said they are proud of the current effort and are only mildly surprised that the single "Ball and Chain" has managed to get mainstream radio play.
"It was bound to happen eventually, when you work for something this hard," Ness said. "This album was a really rewarding project."
Opening for Social Distortion will be another veteran punk rock band, Gang Green, and the show starts at 8 p.m. Tickets for the show are $8.