D.C. punkers set their sights on America for 2023.
By James Rundle
Few bands see the kind of success that Celebration Summer is riding at the moment. Even fewer get there in the space of three years and almost none when those years include a global pandemic.
The Washington, D.C.-based punk band shipped their debut EP, ‘Against The Gun,’ (not counting the aptly named ‘Basement Demos’ two-tracker) on the Dutch label Shield Recordings in November 2020. It was an immediate hit, both in Europe and on the East Coast, with lashings of Leatherface, Jawbreaker, Fugazi and other familiar progenitors of the type of melodic punk and orgcore that dominates the scene south of New York City.
Their first full-length record, ‘Patience in Presence,’ released through A-F Records, followed in September 2022. Vocalist and guitarist Nathan Falger’s rough-hewn voice still provides a gruff, beardpunk overlay. Though the record still has its heritage in the aforementioned bands, the speed and aggression have more than a little in common with 80s and 90s D.C. hardcore and even mixes in a healthy dollop of U.K. ‘82. Yet other songs, such as the title track, tilt towards the melodic, recalling Hot Water Music and Samiam.
That fusion gives it a character of its own. And while the name ‘Celebration Summer’ might conjure images of Midwest emo, math rock and high-pitched crooning that laments the coming of autumn, Celebration Summer is decidedly not that. Their sound echoes the origins of their name, a conjugation of Hüsker Dü’s ‘Celebrated Summer’ and DC’s Revolution Summer movement of 1985.
It all began when bassist Greg Raelson, a former U.S. Navy officer, came back from The Fest in 2018 determined to start a band. As with many other punk-rock origin stories, he put up a Craigslist ad in 2019 looking for musicians who wanted to play music in the vein of those previously mentioned influences. Drummer Glenn Boysko answered, and guitarist Dan Hauser was quickly recruited, with Falger rounding out the lineup a few months later.
Much of their early material came together quickly, and even several of the songs on their most recent record were written around the time of ‘Against The Gun,’ Raelson said. ‘I Don’t Want To Be A Burden,’ the first track from that EP, was something Hauser had been working on for 10 years.
The coronavirus pandemic put a crimp in plans to an extent, as it did for everyone. Raelson said the band have been disciplined since in practicing weekly, which has helped them find their own direction.
“When we first started, it was like, ‘I want to play music like these bands,’ but when you start playing, you realize that even though you have influences, you’re not going to sound like those bands because you’re going to develop your own sound and that’s what we’re finding now,” Raelson said.
The band started hitting its stride musically with its last record, Falger said, noting that they basically had half of the record in hand already, but began writing more and more songs that came together in an increasingly organic way, until they decided to pull the trigger and print the LP.
“Some songs on ‘Patience in Presence’ really were, here’s a song that sounds like this band, insert this kind of genre, whereas I think some of the other songs we’d started writing as Celebration Summer songs, the riffs just kind of wrote themselves,” he said.
Part of that emerging sound, and the band’s drive that has seen them shoot from a Craigslist ad in 2019 to an A-F Records band in 2023, is due to Celebration Summer’s unique composition, Raelson said. At 28, Falger is the youngest member of the band, and at 59, Boysko is the eldest.
“There’s a 30-year spread between the youngest member and our oldest member, we have just a whole breadth of different influences, but a lot of shared commonalities. I think that really influences our sound in a unique way, and it’s different from a lot of other bands that are out there,” he said.
The band is now deep in the songwriting weeds, working on teasing out the next iteration of that sound, Falger said, having just spent time recording with producer J. Robbins at Magpie Cage Studios in Baltimore. After playing Music Fests Here on April 30 in New York, they’re embarking on a six-day run from D.C. to Chicago with Denver’s SPELLS.
“We’re trying to get more on the road play, more across the United States, play bigger audiences, stuff like that. We’re just trying to live the punk-rock dream for the next couple months,” Falger said.
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